PNC PARK – The Brewers and Pirates are not going to be friends in 2014.
Not only have the Brewers raised the profile of the rivalry and added to the Pirates’ frustration level by taking six of seven games from the Bucs this April, but I think we are all aware of what happened what in the third-inning of Sunday’s Easter game.
Clint Hurdle was asked afterward if the brawl can be something of a “galvanizing” effect on a team that is now embattled early this season. Hurdle said his team was already “galvanized”
“We don’t live in a perfect world. We play with intensity. We represent.” Hurdle said. “It shows people are ready to protect, to serve and protect.”
Even if the Pirates’ gain some short term energy bump from the fracas, I don’t think it will be meaningful long term. What was telling is there are some players with fire on the club from Gerrit Cole, to Russell Martin and Travis Snider. So perhaps that carries some meaning.
Mostly the brawl was a side show Sunday, masking some of the Pirates’ troubling run prevention issues.
While we’ve talked a lot about small sample sizes here in April, when is early no longer early? When is it time to for the Pirate to be concerned and think about Plan B(s)?
STARTING NINE THOUGHTS
9. So about assigning blame … Who was at fault Sunday?
Start with Carlos Gomez who has provoked brawls before (ask Brian McCann) due to his bat flipping and general lack of on-field decorum. My take: If Gomez wants to flip his bat, fine. But don’t expect the opposition to be OK with it, and silent about it.
And don’t lie.
Innocent bystander Carlos Gomez pic.twitter.com/1tJXahkfOF
— Travis Sawchik (@Travis_Sawchik) April 21, 2014
“I’m not flipping my bat because I thought it was a home run. I thought it was a fly ball out,” Gomez said.
“(Cole) tell me something … he walk to mound, everything is fine. … But some guy (Travis Snider), idiot, come out and do stupid stuff.
“Snider come out like a superhero trying to throw punches.”
Oh boy. When do these teams meet again?
8. I’m not sure if Snider and Gomez have a history. Snider did storm out of the dugout and was barking at Gomez. That didn’t exactly cool the tension. But Gomez threw the first punch, or attempted punch, and really incited the affair by walking toward Cole.
7. Unlike Gomez, Cole was remorseful afterward and took responsibility. He said he wish he would have kept quiet. Russell Martin placed the blame squarely on the Brewers.
“Guys are prideful and stuff,” Martin said. “You are going to exchange words every once in a while. But when you get highly animated sparks are going to fly (re: Gomez). It’s like a band of brothers out there you are going to protect your own guy.
6. Snider did get Gomez on the ground, getting around the right edge of the Brewers’ human wall like a defensive end. Gomez was lucky he was not hurt. Great job by Trib photographer Chris Horner capturing the brawl. Check out the photo gallery if you haven’t. Gomez is a great player, a great talent. You wish that he was known mostly for leading the NL in WAR in 2013.
— Travis Sawchik (@Travis_Sawchik) April 21, 2014
5. While the brawl was a sideshow, there is more important trouble brewing for the Pirates.
4. You don’t want your manager becoming a prisoner to history. And you also don’t want him pulling panic levers too early. Tough line to walk. That said, Jason Grilli doesn’t look right. This isn’t second guessing, many wanted Hurdle to stick with Cole after he had thrown eight mostly dominant innings on Sunday, requiring just 91 pitches.
But Hurdle said afterward he wanted to get Grilli back out there as a soon as possible to remove Saturday’s bad taste. A night after leaving a fastball up to Ryan Braun – say what you will, boo as you will, the man squares up everything – Grilli left a slider up.
Maybe Grilli can return to his first half form of 2013, and perhaps quickly, but he isn’t there now. In the first three weeks of the season he has already blown more saves (3) than all of last year (2).
The strange thing is his fastball velocity – 93.4 mph – is right where it was a year ago prior to his injury. His command is not there. His walk rate is up to 5.1 walks/9 compared to 2.7 walks/9 last season and he made critical location mistakes to Braun on back to back nights. Is this mechanical? Is this injury related? Can Grilli get back to what he was?
“It is the first time in two years plus he had back-to-back bad marks,” Hurdle said. “That’s going to show where everyone else is with Grilli. You jump off Grilli’s boat? Do his teammates, fans, do I? Or do you stick with him?”
3. Wandy Rodriguez‘s performance has to be even more concerning.
We know about the velocity decrease. I had a scout tell me his curveball has also lost shape but it actually has a greater spin rate and movement this year, according to data from TexasLeaguers.com, and the shape doesn’t look noticeably different:
WANDY’S CURVE VISUALIZATION 2014
WANDY’S CURVE VISUALIZATION, 2013
So what gives?
“The fastball sets up the curveball,” Hurdle said. “The curveball has been in play at times but the overall consistency. … he’s not happy with it. We just need to continue to work. I saw some good ones, but not enough good ones. Not enough consistency.”
2. Troubling to hear Luis Heredia dealing with shoulder inflammation and not ready to throw. Jameson Taillon is down, Tyler Glasnow coming back from a sore back, the Pirates put a lot of eggs in the pitching prospect basket and believe they can better the injury-wide attrition rates like the Rays have done. Pitching prospect health is critical for this club.
1. I expect a number of players to be suspended due to Sunday’s fight but, no, I don’t think Gregory Polanco will be called up.
Polanco is ready for the Pirates, the Pirates aren’t ready for Polanco. And this isn’t a case of the Pirates being cheap this is how the vast majority of MLB clubs operate.
CANDIDATE FOR QUOTE OF THE YEAR:
Martin on Martin Maldonado‘s right cross to the face of Snider.
“The fair thing would be for our team to hold down Maldonado so Travis (Snider) can go back and sucker punch him right in the face,” Martin said. “That would be the fair thing to do. … I don’t know if we’ve asked the Brewers if they’re going to be cool with that.
“If I cross the street I’m definitely not going to say ‘Hi’ to the guy.”
STAT OF THE WEEK: 25 percent
Rodriguez’s HR/FB ratio early this season – not good.
WHAT THE BREWERS AND PIRATES ARE NOT GOING TO BE
(Great cover of the White Stripes, imo)
NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK
Go track down Charlie Rose’s interview with David Brooks online. Brooks is one of the most interesting writers and thinkers out there regardless of your political preference.