There’s a difference between a child’s game and childish, so allow me to prove it. First, I want you to imagine a scenario for me. Take a big pull of that coffee and think about this.
It’s mid-summer and the Cardinals lead the Reds 4-3 in the ninth at Busch Stadium. Nicholas Castellanos walks to the plate with a runner on and demolishes a rare Jordan Hicks mistake into the left field bleachers. Earlier in the at-bat, Hicks had thrown an off-speed (96 instead of 106 mph, basically) that almost nicked the outfielder’s jersey. Upon liftoff of said mistake pitch, Castellanos flips the bat passionately and stares down Hicks as he trots to first base. Tempers flare, but I swear the benches don’t even think about clearing. A power hitter defeated a power pitcher at baseball. Fair play. Game over.
That’s not what happened on Saturday though. During the second game of the season, Castellanos was hit by a Jake Woodford pitch in the fourth inning. He would eventually come around to pitch on a wild pitch, and made a point at home plate to flex/pose/whatever over Woodford, which didn’t sit well with Yadier Molina or any other Cardinals player at Great American Ballpark.
First thing, Molina didn’t overreact. Anybody who knows a single thing about the catcher will know he would sacrifice limb and suspension for his teammates. We’ve all seen berserk Yadi at some point on that field. Those rookie pitchers are essentially his children until he retires. Most team leaders and veterans would feel the same way. Someone chest-thumps over them and you will lose your mind too.
Castellanos was suspended for two games for his antics on Monday and he deserved it. I could have seen one game as being enough, but I agree with it. If there’s one thing we don’t need right now, it’s baseball players acting like asshats on day #3 of a long season. Just save it. This wasn’t a bat flip or a celebration. It was one baseball player inciting a bench-clearing brawl because he just had to let Woodford know how he felt about the HBP.
Meanwhile later on Monday during a game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Castellanos hits a pivotal late homer to help the Reds win. Bat flip, celebration, whole nine yards. I can tell you it didn’t happen in the fourth inning!
A pitcher plunks you on your arm, and the hitter should just take first base. Shut your mouth, make it count by scoring (he did!), and just keep playing. Everybody talks about being a role model for fans, and this is where it needs to happen. Act like you’ve been there before instead of an eight-year-old swinging an aluminum bat at tee-ball “practice.” Act like a grown-up. Or more simply, be a professional.
Castellanos wasn’t a professional that day. Molina didn’t start the bullshit; he merely ended it. I’ve never seen a player back so fast away from a bench-clearing incident than Nicky did on Saturday. Molina started coming near him and it took about 4-5 players working incremental 10 second shifts to hold the Cards catcher back. If we’re going to embrace the big dog aspect of baseball, just let those two players have a discussion. But no, the benches clear and the soft brawl occurs. Yawn. Skip. Baseball doesn’t have to be a physical game. It’s all fun and games until a catcher inadvertently catches a cleat to the face.
All of this could have been prevented if Castellanos just takes his base like a big boy and walks away from home plate after scoring. Pump your fist or say something before you get in the dugout, or maybe even the next at-bat. Be a professional or at least try to be. Baseball needs emotion and thrills, but it doesn’t need this crap.
Give him the two games. And understand that I am a big fan of the Reds outfielder. I campaigned for the Cards to sign or trade for him over the past three seasons. He can just hit for extra bases. This isn’t a personal vendetta piece against a ballplayer for no reason or some previously-conceived and recycled reason. Just one of the many takes you will read today.
Here’s the thing. If you’re going to show up a pitcher, do it at the right time. That particular time doesn’t happen during a 6-2 game on the third day of the season after a HBP. A walk-off blast! A big strikeout late in the game. Otherwise, do what Bill Burr would do, and push that anger down. Push it down, Nicholas. Act like you have answers.
If baseball cares about image and trying to reach a bigger audience, they will hand the next player who does something stupid and unnecessary a two-game suspension. I’m all in favor of that. There’s a difference between playing a child’s game and playing it childishly.
P.S. For the people who think this only applies to the Cardinals and not the Blue Jays for example, I would be in favor of this suspension no matter where it happened.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)