Friday, August 5, 2011

The Emperor’s Water Carrier Speaks

Bernie Miklasz is a fool.

I’ll get to that in a moment. First, the key word in today’s column needs to be defined.

Intent: in-tent  noun 1. something that is intended; purpose; design; intention: The original intent of the committee was to raise funds. 2. the act of intending, as to do something: criminal intent. 3. Law. the state of a person's mind that directs his or her actions toward a spcific object. 4. meaning or significance.

Miklasz, the longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist and sports-talk personality, fails to invoke the word “intent” while chiding the rest of us into believing that Tony La Russa can do no wrong as a major league manager. Last night in Miami, Cardinals third baseman David Freese was knocked out cold by a Clay Hensley pitch in the top of the third inning. It was a scary moment, as Freese lay motionless at home plate at Sun Life Stadium.

Tony La Russa (being Tony La Russa) then ordered a fastball into the back of Logan Morrison, who was leading off for Florida in the back to retaliate.

Except that he didn’t.

Instead, Morrison took ball one, then strike one. He fouled off pitch number three, then singled to center.

This is important to remember in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at what Miklasz wrote today about the Freese incident:

I wonder if the fools in Milwaukee now understand why Cardinals manager Tony La Russa makes such a big deal over high pitches thrown above the shoulders, and into that dangerous area where awful things can happen to a vulnerable hitter. If anyone still needed a clue -- a picture to explain it -- all they had to do was look at Freese. This was a teaching moment for simple minds.
*Note: Because of our apparent “simple minds” as Miklasz calls   us, here is the picture in question:

Back to Bernie:

To their credit, Brewers players -- and some Milwaukee fans and media people -- understand the basics. The players know what it's like to have a 90+ mph pitch screaming in at your head. Most professional players understand that pitching inside is part of the game. And they accept that. As does La Russa. But head shots should never be acceptable, whether they're intentional or an accident. (Personally, I think MLB should automatically suspend any pitcher that strikes a batter in the head.)

Others in Milwaukee remain unaware of the potential hazards. Manager Ron Roenicke is a good guy and appears to be a terrific young manager, but his casual attitude of "Hey, we're going to pitch up and in and sometime the pitch will get away" will lead to problems for the Brewers. And at some point -- maybe after one of his own players gets hurt -- Roenicke will figure it out. And so will the more out-of-touch members of the Milwaukee media.

Once again: pitch inside all day, all night. Move every batter off the plate if you wish. And if hitters don't like it, too bad. It's good baseball to pitch inside. Heck, one of the problems with Cardinals' starting pitchers is that they don't pitch inside enough. So if Roenicke and the Brewers are making it a point of pitching inside, they're being smart. I gave you the stats on that yesterday; Pujols has not handled inside pitches well this season. So yes, pitch him tough inside. But to go above the shoulders on Pujols or any other hitter? That's reckless and gutless.

Ok…to keep track of the St. Louis insults, Bernie Miklasz just:
·        Brewers fans “fools”
·        Brewers fans have “simple minds”
·        Makes no delineation between intentional and unintentional
·        Milwaukee media members (that would be me) “out of touch”
·        Apparently called Takashi Saito both “reckless” and “gutless”

First of all, he can hurl insults at the general public all day long, but Miklasz has to realize it won’t get him anywhere as a credible journalist. If you want to go after a player (or manager) for doing something stupid (like oh, I don’t know…getting arrested for DUI, for example) then I say go for it. If Takashi Saito had deliberately gone after Albert Pujols, then Saito, in my opinion, would be fair game.

BUT, there’s that key word from above: Intent. 

Back to Bernie, who added an addendum in the online version of his story, later after receiving some pushback:

Moving On ...
* Update: some are wondering why the Cardinals didn't retaliate after Freese was struck in the head. They want to know the difference is between what happened in Milwaukee, and what happened in Florida. They want to know why I'm not ripping the Marlins. They're kidding right? Seriously? The Hensley pitch was random. It got away. He had no control in the game. That's why he was pulled early. And Hensley was genuinely sorry for hitting Freese in the head. But the pitch in Milwaukee that sailed at Pujols' head, hitting him on the upraised left hand, was part of a pattern that was established in Monday's game, and carried over to Tuesday's game. Big difference. While the Milwaukee reliever that hit Pujols (Takashi Saito) isn't exactly a pinpoint-control guy, he knows what he's doing out there. He's no wild child.

So Bernie…you’re assertion is that Saito went head hunting on Pujols and Hensley did not? Really? Did Tony tell you which pitch was intentional and which pitch was unintentional?

Here are the two game situations. Can you tell which one is which?

  • 1 out, bases loaded. Game tied.
  • 0 out, bases loaded. St. Louis down by 1.

The latter of the two is the incident that happened in Milwaukee, in case you did not know. I use this illustration as a guide for the misguided Bernie Miklasz (and perhaps all of Tony La Russa’s water-carriers), who foolishly believes that Takashi Saito went head hunting.

Bernie…it’s all about intent. To break it down as simply as I can for you and everyone else in St. Louis:

  • Takashi Saito did not intend to hit Albert Pujols
  • Clayton Hensley did not intend to hit David Freese
  • Jason Motte tried (and failed) to hit Ryan Braun, so he cranked it up to 97 and didn’t even give him a chance to duck it. He intended to hit Braun.

Those are the facts of this matter.

There is no way you will ever convince any objective observer that with the bases loaded, up by one run, in the seventh inning, in a pennant race, that Milwaukee (or any other team, for that matter) would intentionally hit Albert Pujols (or anyone else, for that matter). It is a foolish notion that in almost identical game situations one pitch can be dismissed as “random” and another is branded as intentional because Saito, while not being a “pinpoint-control guy, he knows what he’s doing out there. He’s no wild child.”

Bernie. Stop drinking Tony’s kool-aid. You’re better than that.

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