Among the many charms of major league baseball, one of the foremost is it’s adherence to tradition. But one baseball tradition that has outlived it’s relevance is the idea that teams and players need to exact retribution for a perceived lack of respect from the opposing team.
The latest manifestation of this ridiculous notion occurred in a spring training game this last Thursday when pitcher Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants beaned Milwaukee Brewers’ first baseman Prince Fielder in retaliation for a post game celebration in a game last September in Milwaukee. By way of recap for those few who may not remember, Fielder hit a walk-off home run to defeat the Giants and, as he concluded his HR trot, jumped on home plate as teammates who had gathered around fell over in the manner of bowling pins.
While Zito didn’t have the stones to own up to his target practice, it’s no secret that the Giants were chagrined by the display and there has been much speculation recently they had something in mind for the Brewers when they met them again. Apparently, the feeling is so pervasive in San Francisco that a local columnist felt compelled to take Fielder to task in print after the game, even though Fielder made no fuss over the plunking.
I admit that I’m a Brewers and Fielder fan, but that has no bearing on my opinion in this matter. For a better perspective than I can provide, I include the following words from my friend and PD colleague Chris, who was in attendance at the game last September:
As far as I am concerned, as someone who
as that game, sitting on the field level right behind the plate, it
was a great moment, a terrific end to an outstanding game. It seemed
fitting, too — Prince put a capper on a contest that included a
triple play and several late inning defensive gems. For the local
fans, the taut game and the team’s reaction showed that the Brewers
hadn’t given up on the season despite their all-but-out-of-it status
at the time. In that context, I actually laughed at the display, seeing
it as playful in the same way that The Fun Bunch (from the old Washington Redskins) was a joyous
celebration among teammates. It was a sign that the team was still
loose, having fun and enjoying the game regardless of where the season
That perspective makes it hard for me to see why SF was so pissed,
irked to the point of needing to drill a guy in a spring training game.
I think MKE was not so much showing the Giants up as they were
celebrating their success. It’s not like they did that stunt in SF or
during the post-season. Really, I am not sure why they can’t let go of
Lest anyone think that’s a parochial view, I have a couple of friends who are die hard St. Louis Cardinals fans and they viewed the incident in much the same way.
I understand that the Giants were involved in a playoff race at the time and were probably frustrated that they had just lost a key game. But for them to focus on an ultimately harmless act through the winter is simply childish. The Brewers were just trying to provide themselves and their fans a light-hearted moment toward the end of a long and disappointing season. It clearly wasn’t intended as a taunt against the Giants and it likely never even occurred to them that the other team might be offended.
The fact of the matter is that if you’re a pitcher that’s been taken deep or a team that has lost a game, you’ve already been ‘shown up’ in the most effective way possible. For anything that happens after that, you have no one but yourself to blame. The purists in San Francisco may also want to come down off their high horse long enough to remember that they were the ones who coddled and cheered “Bar-roid” Bonds for fifteen seasons.
In the end, the best retaliation is defeating the team you’re playing against. And that is something I sincerely hope Fielder and the Brewers will remember each time they face the Giants this season.