Watching the Cincinnati Reds pitchers trade bean balls the past two series is like jumping in a time machine and ending up in the ‘60s. Back then throwing at an opposing batters’ dome was part of the DNA of missile-launchers like St. Louis Cardinals ace “Bullet” Bob Gibson and Brooklyn Dodgers gunner Don Drysdale. That isn’t hyperbole either. Gibson’s vicious pitching style broke the shoulder bone of Giants slugger Jim Hart in 1963.
It was common practice and a method of gaining control of the inside of the plate, because a batter that can’t dig in and get comfortable is at a disadvantage.
Making these “headhunters” even more intimidating was the possibility that you could lose teeth on any pitch. Marvelous and sometimes bloody brawls often followed a “bean ball” exchange. In worst instances, dudes have lost eye sight, careers and in rare instances, their lives.
“Beaning” is truly old school. Players get paid too much bread to be out here dodging launched projectiles, but Reds pitchers have been airing it out of late, blatantly head-hunting and looking for problems.
Reds skipper Dusty Baker is a throwback manager. At age 63, he is in his 45th year of pro baseball, and his managerial skills are embedded in pre-sabermetrics philosophies. It seems Baker’s tired of playing politically correct baseball. He’s ready to turn back the clock and set an early tone by unleashing the beast in his hurlers.
In the sixth inning of Sunday's series finale against the Cubs, Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto threw a pitch high over the head of David DeJesus, drawing a warning from home-plate umpire Bob Davidson. Nothing more popped off, but Cueto didn’t have the normal reaction of a pitcher who tossed a pitch that “got away.” He was laughing.
Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza thought the pitch was “bush-league.”
You don’t go after guy’s heads,” Garza said on MLB Network. “If (Cueto) has something to say about it, he knows where to find my locker. Hopefully he learns to grow the hell up.”
On Monday morning Baker turned up the brazenness, saying “Matt Garza and Johnny Cueto should just duke it out if they have a problem with each other’s pitching styles.”
And like Patron in a club full of models and money-makers, the bean balls kept flowing into Cincinnati’s Interleague series against Cleveland. Flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman got into the mix and turned it up another notch. Chapman, who holds the record for fastest recorded pitch in MLB history (106 mph), threw a dart about two feet over Nick Swisher’s head, to the back stop. Swisher stood motionless with his bat on his right shoulder staring at Chapman. Chapman kept it gully and returned the ice grill as he walked back to the mound.
The next pitch was a pea right under Swisher’s left earlobe. Swisher shook his head in stunned disbelief mouthing, “Don’t do that. Don’t do that.”
Then Chapman proceeded to obnoxiously paint the corner with a 100 mph fastball.
The most remarkable aspect of the scenario was that the umpire didn’t do a damn thing about it.
Cleveland got retribution anyway on Tuesday night when Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips took a 90mph pitch to the ribs in the 5th inning.
It was awesome to say the least. The announcers were flabbergasted, but Baker’s reply was, “Is that the first time you’ve seen Aroldis throw one to the screen?”
That’s classic stuff.