Contending Teams At Disadvantage In Late Summer Beanball Wars

Andrew KoritzCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2008

After a towering two run homerun off Zach Grienke in his first at bat of the Twins-Royals game yesterday, Delmon Young stepped to the plate in the sixth inning.  And he immediately saw a ball sail towards his head. 

"I guess it's close toward your head, you wonder what's going on," Young said. "You rather prefer the ribs or lower."

Young and Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire were clearly not pleased by the pitch, with the left fielder having to be restrained by first base coach Jerry White as he took a few steps towards the mound.

Now, I don't know much about Zach Greinke.  I know he battled depression.  I know he quit on the Royals a few years ago.  I know he's been pretty good this year.  And I know he is a head hunter that gets in confrontations with several AL Central ballclubs. 

You may be saying it was unintentional.  After all, how many pitchers in the league are dumb enough to go headhunting while they appeal a five game suspension from starting a brawl less than one week earlier?

Well, let's look at the facts of the situation:

1. Greinke has a history with the Twins.  He got in a dust up with Torii Hunter last year and started a few fights with Minnesota, a club that hardly ever engages in beanball tactics under Ron Gardenhire.

2.  Young had already homered off Greinke last night.

3.  First base was open after a leadoff triple from Jason Kubel.

4.  Grienke rarely misses up and in that badly.

5.  As already mentioned, he ignited a war with Chicago in his last start.

As a Twins fan, this situation has become all too familiar as my favorite club has been in contention during the dog days of summer for virtually each of the last 7 years.  The problem becomes pitchers on perennial doormats such as Kansas City can go head hunting late in games, but the teams they fight against have too much at stake to retaliate. 

White Sox players AJ Pierzynski and DJ Carrasco knew they could not do anything in retaliation last week for fear of a suspension in the middle of a pennant race.  Young likely had the same thought process Saturday (good thing he didn't throw his bat again).   But it becomes frustrating to see losing baseball teams start beanball wars knowing all too well that the contending ball club in the other dugout can not respond.

"It's tough because we don't want to be seen as a bunch of pansies," ex-Phillies manager Larry Bowa said in 2001.  "But I'm not going to have my players rush on the field and get themselves ejected when we're fighting for the playoffs."

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