Cutch’s Injury and Holding Gibson Accountable

by Jason Epstein

Should Arizona skipper Kirk Gibson and by extension his boss, general manager Kevin Towers, be punished for one of his pitchers throwing at Andrew McCutchen over the weekend? (The beaning may have directly resulted in the reigning NL MVP going on the 15-day disabled list with an avulsion fracture in his rib.) And is Commissioner Bud Selig’s office to blame for seemingly not showing any interest?

Grantland’s Michael Baumann believes it’s long overdue:

Regardless, trusting that playing the game “the right way” will win out in the long run over playing it well is a hilarious way to run a team, especially one that’s currently 49-63. In baseball, God doesn’t vindicate the righteous — the talented vindicate themselves.

But the Diamondbacks don’t play the game “the right way,” not even close. And they offered another painful reminder of that this weekend, retaliating for an accidental hit-by-pitch by beaming Andrew McCutchen squarely in the back.

It’s annoying when the Diamondbacks complain about who jumps in their pool or bad-mouth a player who’s on the way out, under the cover of anonymity. They’re going to lose a lot, which matters to me not at all, because I’m one of the fortunate folks whose happiness isn’t based on the Diamondbacks’ success. I can even live with Gibson and Miguel Montero taking the “we’re not happy until you’re not happy” approach after losses, because if the Diamondbacks aren’t going to have fun when they lose, the Dodgers or whoever else aren’t allowed to have fun when they win.

Where they cross the line is by throwing at hitters. Let’s call it what it is: an institutional policy, set in place by Towers and enforced by Gibson, of responding to hurt feelings with violence. In spring training games, blowout losses, and late and close situations, Arizona’s pitchers have intentionally hit opposing teams’ star players. Other teams hit batters on purpose, but nobody does it as often or as routinely as the Diamondbacks do. They’ll do it to retaliate for accidental hits-by-pitches, they’ll do it out of spite, and they’ll do it because they’re losing. …

Towers and Gibson order batters to be hit because MLB, through its inaction, empowers them to do so. You stand for what you tolerate, and while the commissioner’s office would have to be a little nuts to suspend Gibson for, say, the rest of the season, the game would be better off if it did. …

This one’s on MLB, too.

If Gibson continues to order his pitchers to hit the likes of McCutchen, baseball is going to lose a superstar to serious injury because the manager of a fourth-place team is the guy who tries to start a fight with a stranger and then tells his friends to hold him back.

During spring training, after Arizona starter Wade Miley purposely hit Troy Tulowitzki, Jack Moore wrote this: “For MLB to take no action on this is shameful, and they will regret it once concerns of serious injury, like the Rockies had with Tulowitzki on Friday, are fully realized. As long as Towers is allowed to preach violence and retaliation, as long as violence and retaliation are requirements of wearing the Diamondbacks uniform, it is only a matter of time.”

Towers and Gibson order batters to be hit because MLB, through its inaction, empowers them to do so. You stand for what you tolerate, and while the commissioner’s office would have to be a little nuts to suspend Gibson for, say, the rest of the season, the game would be better off if it did.

Last August, Gibson had harsh words for Ryan Braun, who was then about to be suspended for PED use. Gibson, never one to miss an opportunity to pander to his base, said he’d confront Braun to his face. Which, of course, he didn’t. Gibson took that personal, testosterone-charged anger to the press, and then, in June of this year, congratulated Evan Marshall for hitting Braun to load the bases with a one-run lead. The next batter, Jonathan Lucroy, hit a grand slam to provide Milwaukee’s eventual winning margin.

That last point is key: More than anything else, Gibson should be canned for appearing to give greater weight to mindless acts of violence to winning ballgames. Here’s hoping the club’s “Chief Baseball Officer” Tony LaRussa, on the job since mid-May, will clean house the day after the regular season concludes.


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