Back to Basics

We are up late Sunday at the Liquor and Rubber Balls Sports Tavern and Liposuction Center watching the last-place Phillies kick the crap out of the first place Nationals.  The league is upside down at the moment, so charting the game’s progress is as refreshing as the flow of draughts served up by Don Tequila, presiding behind the bar this evening.

Anchor Steam is unbelievable on draft.

A debate breaks out early in the game when Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels throws inside to teenage phenom Bryce Harper, hitting him solidly in the back.  Sportswriter Lu Senz and I immediately identify the pitch as intentional, and applaud the effort.  That’s the way to welcome the little snot to the big leagues.  That’s the way the you play this game.  We high five as the youngster picks himself up and trots down to first.

We are informed by several other patrons that we are barbarians.  Lu counters that the game would benefit exponentially if more players channeled their inner medieval.  “You probably don’t remember Bob Gibson,” she tells them.  “Or Don Drysdale, or Sal ‘the Barber’ Maglie.  Pitchers are messengers.  A couple high hard ones at opposing batters’ foreheads is very communicative.  That’s what this game is about — communication.”

And I bet you thought it was about scoring runs.

Lu is right, of course.  This is what baseball is supposed to be.  Hamels didn’t try to injure the kid, he just wants him to know that in the major leagues, the level of competition is such that your own personal ass is on the line every time you step in.  Ultimately it’s good not just for the game and the fans, but for the players.

In fact, Harper responds by advancing to third on a base hit, and stealing home, delivering a message right back to Hamels which he reinforces with a steely look from the dugout after scoring the run.  And in the third inning, when Hamels comes to the plate to bunt the runner over, it’s his turn to get hit by a pitch.

That’s how this game is played right.  It’s a pleasure to see.  When the teams meet again, this incident will be prominent in media coverage and players’ consciousness.  The games will gain an edge.  The competition will become palpable.   This ripple can resonate throughout the season, and build to a wave over time: as a relative newcomer to the league, the Nationals need rivalries and back stories to accelerate the enthusiasm of their fan base.

There are reasons baseball has been around for over 150 years and continues to entertain.  Incidents like this one are as integral to the sport’s longevity as the  dirt in the infield and the beer in the bleachers.

My announcement is rewarded by another Anchor Steam.  Thanks, Don.

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6 Responses to Back to Basics

  1. Lu Senz says:

    Fortunately there are still a few players around who get this, but in the course of a season you’ll see ‘way more guys whining loudly about getting pitched inside (let alone hit). The pitcher needs to estabish his strike zone, and if it means brushing some bully trying to intimidate him by crowding the plate, just hurl it high and close and getterdone.

    Look, if he wants to hurt him, that’s another story. We’re not talking bean balls and head hunting. That’s not good for the game, and that’s not what this is. Look how the kid picked himself up and got all ‘way around to score — the first teenager to steal home in 50 years!!!

    Good for Cole. Good for the kid. Good for the game. Good post.

  2. Borkon says:

    There’s the back story, too, about the Nationals owmership group loudly complaining about the way Phillies fans take over their ballpark (which they did again). Phillies fans outnumber National fans in the Nat’s own stadium, and we’re usually louder anyway. It’s easier getting good seats down there with Citizens Bank Park sold out every game for 4 years straight.

    • ya' gotta' guessit says:

      Borkon is one million percent right about this – the Nationals’ organization has been stewing and kvetching about the number of Phillies fans who make the trip south, and all they’ve managed to come up with is some sort of “take back the stadium” bullshit, and tough talk.

      Never mind that these games usually represent the closest thing to a sellout that the Nationals ever see – their GM is now using harsh words toward the Phillies’ franchise and fans.

      “Chickenshit”?? Ha, Ha! Fuck you, Rizzo, and fuck your 127 million-dollar Jayson Werth. He broke his wrist? Fucking great!! We fucked up Strasburg two years ago, and we’ll fuck up Bryce Harper, and his fucking mom, too!

      Enjoy “first place” for now, Nats – you won’t be there when it counts.

  3. rbhexem says:

    This is how life should be played. Oh, wait a minute, it is!

  4. Moose and Squirrel says:

    ‘The general manager of the Washington Nationals has responded to Cole Hamels’ comments on last night’s game with some colorful quotes of his own. In the bottom of the first inning in last night’s series finale, Hamels plunked 19-year-old rookie Bryce Harper in the back with a fastball. After the game, Hamels said he did it on purpose. Nats GM Mike Rizzo has told the Washington Post the move was “gutless chickenshit.” So, at least he’s taking the high road.’ http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/05/07/nationals-gm-calls-hamels-bean-ball-gutless-chickenshit/

    Not everybody is thrilled, I see.

    • Borkon says:

      M&S: I just saw that, too. And now that fucktard Curt Schilling is into it, too.

      CrossingBroad

      Ever think that if Schilling was still on the team, the Phillies would have Schillings and Pence?

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