I’m not a fan of bravado. It’s empty. It’s a pissing contest. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “You wanna go, bro?” and I saw anyone actually go, I wouldn’t have any nickels.
So, don’t waste my time.
I’m also not a fan of aggressive intimidation, especially in sports. Stories of Ty Cobb cutting up opponents’ legs with his spikes make me angry. Late hits in football are cowardly. Anyone can sucker punch. Luis Suarez’s biting is just plain insane.
A real athlete let’s his skills do the talking.
That being said, I loved everything about Noah Syndegaard’s first pitch to Alcides Escobar in Game 3 of The World Series.
This is the exact kind of play that I should hate. He threw high and inside in the first pitch of the game. Escobar ducked and found himself sitting flat next to the plate, nodding, as if to say, “I see how it is.” Fox cut over to Mike Moustakas in the Royals’ dugout clearly mouthing, “Okay. Alright. Fuck you!” He was pissed and had every right to be. That asshole just threw at his teammate’s head!
But it was beautiful.
Syndegaard had a plan. He was sending a message. Even using the phrase “sending a message” is textbook bravado, so, I should hate it. But I don’t. The fact is, the message needed to be sent. “Welcome to New York. That plate is mine.There’s not going to be a first pitch inside the park home run. I’m not adjusting my game plan for you. You have to hit off of me.”
As a Mets fan, I am clearly partisan. I don’t want to be that prick fan that justifies every awful thing that his team does with a fist pump. That’s why God created Yankee fans. But I’m okay with the pitch because of Syndegaard’s comments after the game.
Let me explain.
In Game 2 of the NLDS, Chase Utley slid into Ruben Tejada and broke his leg. Utley would go on to score a run in that inning that broke the game open and resulted in a win for the Dodgers. What upset me most about that, other than the fact that Utley was called safe despite never touching second base, were the comments after the game. He was just playing hard. That’s just how ballplayers are taught to break up plays. Shane Victorino tweeted that his former teammate is a winner. Utley himself said he didn’t intend to hurt Ruben.
More than bravado and aggression, I detest evasion. What? Me? I was just playing the game! If you’re going to play dirty then have the courage to say, “yeah, I play aggressively and if the other grown man who is also a professional baseball player gets hurt, so be it.”
Here in a quote from Jeff Passan’s article at Yahoo, Syndegaard owns up to it.
“My first words I said to Travis when we walked in the clubhouse today is, ‘How do you feel about high and tight for the first pitch and then a curveball for the second one?’ ” Syndergaard said. “So I feel like it really made a statement to start the game off, that you guys can’t dig in and get too aggressive because I’ll come in there.”
Matt Cerrone makes the point that if you have a problem with that, then you have a problem with, “Roger [Clemens], Pedro [Martinez], Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and countless other legendary, hard-throwing guys.”
He knew what he was doing and he seems to be willing to accept any consequences for his actions. “If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away.”
As Passan further points out, “the Royals believe they’re the alphas, and they don’t like the feeling of being bullied when they’re typically the aggressor.” The Royals beat us decisively in Game 2 and we needed to change the course of this series. We needed Thor to come up big. He did.
I wish I could say that the most memorable moment of last night’s game was David Wright’s gaze at his own massive two run homer. That would be the sportsmanlike memory.
But it wasn’t. It was the first pitch of the game.
That pitch was a puffed out chest, fist pumping, you-wanna-go-bro move but, when executed by Syndegaard, it looked like a strategic pitch to get that hot Royals team off their game. And it worked.