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Josh Donaldson calls out baseball’s beanball culture

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There is a culture in baseball which dictates that, at various times, it’s appropriate to throw a ball at a high rate of speed at someone’s body as some sort of punishment or as a show of dominance. Sure, players and managers always deny that a specific pitch was aimed at a batter intentionally so they won’t get in trouble for it, but everyone acknowledges that, in general, pitches are thrown at guys on purpose for any number of slights, real or perceived.

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson was thrown at twice yesterday. Given some chirping back and forth between Donaldson and the Twins bench during the series and given Donaldson staring at the Twins bench after an earlier home run, it was almost certainly intentional. It likewise seemed intentional given that the man throwing the pitches — Phil Hughes — has excellent control and the ball was unlikely to “slip” on him the way pitchers often claim such pitches slip. In this case even the umps didn’t buy it, tossing Donaldson’s manager out of the game for coming out and arguing that, hey, maybe it’s not cool for Phil Hughes to be throwing at a guy.

What can’t be denied is that Donaldson has had it with baseball’s unwritten rules regarding purpose pitches, plunkings and beanballs aimed at policing player deportment. Here he is venting after yesterday’s game:

“Major League Baseball has to do something about this. They say they’re trying to protect players. They make a rule that says you can’t slide hard into second base. They make a rule to protect the catchers on slides into home. But when you throw a ball at somebody, nothing’s done about it. My manager comes out to ask what’s going on and he gets ejected for it. That’s what happens.

“I just don’t get the point. I don’t get what baseball’s trying to prove. If I’m a young kid watching these games, why would I want to play baseball? Why? If I do something well or if somebody doesn’t like something that I do, it’s, ‘Oh, well, I’m gonna throw at you now.’ It doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Donaldson is right on the money. Defenders of beanball culture always say “that’s just how baseball is,” and cite the codes and traditions of the game, often glamorizing violence as they do it. While we deal with a literal crisis in brain injuries in other sports, people still romanticize Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale planting one in someone’e ear. While we talk about how awful it is that a player, say, breaks his hand while making a diving catch, we talk about throwing pitches that could easily break someone’s hand as if it were some necessary and immutable part of the game. While we talk about the importance of playing the game the right way and keeping one’s emotions in check on the field, we validate and make excuses for what are essentially temper tantrums in the form of fastballs to someone’s ribs, backside or behind their back.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to be that way because keeping it that way is going to get people hurt, just as players have always been hurt by errant pitches. But it also doesn’t have to be that way because baseball players are adults who should be able to handle their business without the need to resort to petty and misguided revenge.

Cardinals beat Brewers, both clinch postseason berths

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. LOUIS — Harrison Bader tripled and homered to help the St. Louis Cardinals clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season with a 5-2 win over Milwaukee, and the Brewers also earned a playoff spot Sunday via help on the West Coast moments later.

St. Louis (30-28) will be the fifth seed in the NL and open a three-game wild-card series at San Diego on Wednesday. By winning, the Cardinals avoided having to travel to Detroit for two makeup games Monday. St. Louis finished the regular season with 23 games in 18 days as it made up a slew of postponements caused by a coronavirus outbreak in the clubhouse.

“You had to throw some of the expectations out the window not knowing what to expect after taking those couple weeks off and all those doubleheaders and so many new guys,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “It was very different, very fulfilling to make the playoffs.”

The Brewers (29-31) locked up the eighth seed and a third consecutive postseason berth after the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 in a game that ended about 15 minutes after St. Louis’ victory. The Giants finished with an identical record as the Brewers but lost out on a tiebreaker due to an inferior intradivision record.

“It’s fitting for 2020 and everything we went through,” Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich said. “It felt just as good as past years. This year’s a unique one. There’s so many challenges we had to go through on a daily basis behind the scenes, things you don’t deal with in a normal year.”

Milwaukee will face the top-seeded Dodgers in Los Angeles in a three-game series that also starts Wednesday.

The Brewers haven’t had a winning record at any point this season. Milwaukee and Houston will be the first teams ever to qualify for the playoffs with a losing mark.

“It’s a celebration,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re in the playoffs. That’s how you see it. There’s no reason to apologize for getting into the playoffs.”

Cardinals starter Austin Gomber allowed one run, one hit and two walks and struck out three over four innings.

Giovanny Gallegos (2-0), Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes combined to pitch the final five innings. Reyes got his first save.

“We’d have been happy getting in as the eight seed,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We’d have been happy being the one seed, but people can say we got in if there was no expanded playoffs so that’s even another feather in this group’s cap.”

Brett Anderson (4-4) surrendered a triple to Bader and a walk to Tyler O'Neill to start the third inning before departing with a blister on his left index finger. Anderson opened the season on the injured list with a blister on the same finger and did not make his debut until Aug. 3.

Freddy Peralta replaced him a day after being activated from the paternity list, and O’Neill promptly stole second. Kolten Wong then hit a line drive off Peralta’s leg that Peralta threw into right field to score Bader and O’Neill.

Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong each added RBI singles to push the St. Louis lead to 4-0.

After Milwaukee scored in the top of the fifth, Bader hit his fifth home run of the season.

“That was a big counterpunch,” Shildt said of Bader. “Got them on their heels again.”

THREE TIMES THE FUN

Yadier Molina grounded into a triple play in the eighth inning when he hit a one hop grounder to Jace Peterson at third base in the eighth inning. It was Milwaukee’s first triple play since Sept. 23, 2016, when Cincinnati’s Joey Votto lined out to first base. Molina was also the last Cardinals player to hit into a triple play when he grounded out to third base at Boston on Aug. 15, 2017.

TRAINING ROOM

Brewers: Counsell said it was too early to prognosticate Anderson’s status after departing with the blister.

Cardinals: St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak announced that RHP Dakota Hudson will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Monday. Hudson went 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts before leaving his start on Sept. 17 at Pittsburgh with right elbow discomfort after two innings.

UP NEXT

Brewers: The Brewers head to Los Angeles and will likely be without two of their top starters in Anderson and Corbin Burnes, who sustained a left oblique injury on Thursday.

Cardinals: This will be the fourth postseason series between St. Louis and San Diego, who faced each other in 1996, 2005, and 2006 in the Division Series.