After a Chapman fastball went awry with 2 outs in the 9th inning and the tying run on deck, the umpires issued warnings. The game would end without conflict, but Rays Manager Kevin Cash has kept the pot stirring.
Giving Context Behind the Pitch (A 3 Part Series):
The Pitcher, The Situation, and the Aftermath:
The September 1st appearance for Aroldis Chapman was his 4th appearance of the season, of which his last two beforehand had been marked with wildness surrounding his pitches. (On his August 17th appearance his pitches were pretty consistent around each other.) I compiled the pitch locations from each game below. Let’s take a look:
Pitch Location Data from MLB.com. (Date: 8/28)
Pitch Location Data from MLB.com. (Date: 8/29)
It’s pretty evident to see that Chapman hasn’t been extremely accurate with his pitches. On the August 28th game I can see one prime example (McNeil #8) and on the August 29th example I see 4 examples (Hamilton #2; Nimmo #3; Davis #1; Conforto #1) of these wild pitches. Nobody was or is pointing to the J.D. Davis actual hit-by-pitch (from a 98.5 mph fastball) as intentional. Looking at those games compared to last night shows that not only has the wildness is pretty consistent, but that Chapman had missed his mark on up to 4 other pitches (Wendle #1 and #2; Meadows #2 and #3):
Pitch Location Data from MLB.com. (Date: 9/1)
Note: I’m not trying to make it seem like a 100 MPH fastball coming at your head isn’t scary. Of course it is! I’m just trying to show that attributing motive behind it is nonsensical.
The intentional hit-by-pitch has always been a key element in baseball. We’ve made this point many times on the blog in reference to the lack of punishment to the Houston Astros and how players have felt that they needed to police the sport themselves. Pitchers have made careers off the back of the fear coming from an intentional hit-by-pitch from them (see: Gibson, Bob).
However, we have to look at when this supposed “intentional” pitch came in relation to the game it was in:
The 9th Inning. With 2 Outs. The Pitcher holding a 2-Run Lead. The Tying-Run on Deck. And that hitter being 2-3 with a HR earlier in the game too.
I think it’s also important to look at the standings too. The Rays had a 4.5 game lead over the Yankees (before they lost last night) and had taken 7 of the 8 games played between the two teams this season.
Unless Chapman had decided to pull a “Hunter Strickland vs. Bryce Harper” the situation present at the game at the time of the pitch was completely unfavorable towards allowing a free baserunner. The other thing is that Brosseau and Chapman have almost no history between the two of them, with just one at-bat prior to yesterday when he struck out in 2019. Again, there is so little reason for why this would’ve been intentional from Chapman.
The Aftermath (on the Field):
After the pitch, I think the reason this started to get out of hand came because the umpires decided to meet up and discuss the pitch, giving it ample time to turn it into a scene. This happened just a few days ago during a Chicago Cubs-Cincinnati Reds game when a rookie pitcher Adbert Alzolay threw a ball over Shogo Akiyama’s head (Extended Twitter video, here).
This allowed Tampa Bay Rays Manager Kevin Cash to get onto the field and start getting fired up, and would eventually lead to both benches clearing after the last out of the game was recorded [Kuty]. Kevin Cash was also ejected after the game had officially ended [Adler].
But, it would not end there.
If You Have Nothing Nice to Say…Don’t Fire up the Opposing Team (Another 3 Part Series):
Kevin Cash’s Comments, Yankee Reactions, and My Thoughts
In his press conference after the game, Kevin Cash tried to come off as the “protective father” when he showed himself to be acting foolish. He openly admitted to the Kitteridge-Romine pitch at the head (video below) was intentional 3 years ago while trying to be the patron saint of protecting players, saying that was the last time there was intent in a hit-by-pitch from his team. Yet, to end his interview he openly called out the fact that he has many guys who can throw 98 MPH while alluding to the fact that he is ready to throw at Yankees batters. You can’t have it both ways Kevin Cash.
Here’s the full #Rays Cash quote: “I can assure you, other than three years ago, there hasn’t been one pitch thrown with intent from any of our guys. Somebody has to be accountable and the last thing I’ll say is I have a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph.” — Juan Toribio (@juanctoribio) September 2, 2020
Various Yankee Reactions:
I think the Yankees handled this perfectly with the media immediately after the game. Instead of continuing to instigate the Tampa Bay Rays and firing back with comments of their own about the pitching staff, they have associated all the future blame onto the Rays commenters. This is seen especially clear with the Jomboy tweet, showing how when the Rays came inside with pitches it was all part of the strategy of the game by “the brilliant” Kevin Cash, but when it gets done to the Rays it is wrong.
DJ LeMahieu on the confrontation with the Rays tonight and if he expects them to retaliate tomorrow: “The comments from their manager made the rounds pretty quick in our clubhouse. Obviously that’s a pretty serious threat, but it is what it is” pic.twitter.com/zx6T7mn6Ro — Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) September 2, 2020
First things first, Kevin Cash and the entire Tampa Bay Rays organization should be thanking their lucky stars that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are on the IL. I can’t imagine a team would be willing to talk this much if they knew that two guys standing 6’7” and built like NFL tight ends were readily available on the other end of things.
Second, the Yankees are going to come off extremely well here if they play the situation right. I am fully expecting DJ LeMahieu to get hit starting off the bottom of the 1st inning for the Yankees. This means tomorrows starter has to make sure he doesn’t hit a Rays batter in the 1st inning. Tanaka did hit Wendle (perfectly on the elbow) in last nights game- as retaliation for Kitteridge throwing high and inside to Yankees batters repeatedly earlier this year- and I expect the Rays to do the same to the Yankees. The umpires should also exercise caution and allow that instance to go without warning both benches. This allows the situation to end naturally, allows the Yankees to point at the Rays and show they were planning this after Cash’s comments, and gives them a free baserunner early in the game to capitalize from.
Article By: Ethan Semendinger
Date Published: September 2nd, 2020