After hitting Pirates star Andrew McCutchen in the back, in retaliation for the Pirates hitting Snakes star Paul Goldschmidt, the Dbacks have developed an unfair reputation of being the “dirtiest team in baseball.” The national media in particular has been very unfair in their assessment of this situation, and what the Diamondbacks are really about. Granted, the Dbacks clearly believe in an eye for an eye mentality, but the criticism has gone way to far.
Greg Doyel of CBS Sports.com called Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson a “meathead” Michael Baumann of Grantland called Gibson: “the guy who tries to start a fight with a stranger and then tells his friends to hold him back.”
Meanwhile ESPN host Keith Olberman took it up another notch naming Gibson and Manager Kevin Towers “the worlds worst persons in sports” on his August 4th telecast:
“Two of the best players in the National League are hurt. One gone for the year — because of an accident — the other gone for at least two weeks in the middle of a pennant race because a very bad baseball team run by a manager and a general manager, who have almost nothing but failure in their careers in those positions, decided to retaliate…for an accident.”
If you want to read my take on the whole situation than read this article.
It’s was only a matter of time before Towers, and Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa would take their turns to respond to all the criticism, and it wasn’t a surprise that both defended their organization.
Here is what Towers told arizonasports.com about what the media is saying about his club defending both his team and his manager:
“We’re not a dirty organization at all,” “I think the people in here are good people that have been in this game a long, long time and know how the game should be played.”
“With social media and what happens nowadays — 20 years ago, this wouldn’t be a story,” he said. “Now, it blows like wildfire and it goes crazy.
“But I think the one thing we all need to remember is baseball is a dangerous game. I think a lot of people think it’s vanilla. I mean, the game can be very dangerous and I think we need to remind ourselves that guys are throwing the ball 95 and 96 miles per hour across the plate and guys are leaning over the plate, guys are going to get hit and it can be very, very dangerous.”
Towers makes a good point that this story has been overblown, but many will say that his comments about the Dbacks not being a dirty team are ironic. Remember Towers said in spring training that he wanted his pitchers to start retaliating more often. He responded to this criticism saying that he was just looking to protect his players:
“My comment a year ago is we have to have allegiance to our players too. Our players and our fan base. Guys like Paul Goldschmidt, we need to be running out there every day to not only give our organization a chance to win, but he’s one of our more popular players. I think our guys need to have allegiance to our own players and play the game the right way. Not to hurt anybody, but to come in there and take away the inner half of the plate. If you take the inner half away, you’ve got a chance to be successful — and guys are going to get dinged at times, it’s part of the game.”
Towers also pointed out that plenty of other teams retaliate including the Pirates, who have hit a major league leading 62 batters this season. Clearly the Pirates could also be considered the dirtiest team in baseball.
La Russa also responded to the whole situation criticizing the media’s response. He had this to say speaking with arizonasports.com: “I think one of the problems nowadays is everyone looks for the quick answer and once they get a quick one that’s really controversial, they go with it, but they really don’t stop and analyze.” “If you’ve got a story line, then you will pick and choose examples that fit your story and ignore the ones that don’t.” “That’s why, by the way, they’ve been hit 60 times this year.”
“Because they get that stuff flowing and the other team doesn’t just sit back and say, ‘Okay, you have all the fun and we’re going to take all the hits.'” “We were totally innocent. I mean, you look at the whole history of the season and there’s no way you can accuse us of being head hunters and (pot)-stirrers. The Pirates, for one, have been more active (on that front).” “This team is our family,” “And you protect your family. You don’t mess with the upstairs area; that’s wrong. You have to pitch back inside so you can earn that respect.”
La Russa does make some good points. Retaliating has always been and always will be part of the game. If your going to throw inside like the Pirates do, than you risk hitting star players, and the other team isn’t just going to sit back and tolerate it.