On Monday the Dodger sites and blogs were alive with perspectives on the Dodgers-Cardinals game on Sunday. Actually it was as if the perspectives were all written with the same pen or keyboard. The commentaries were not about Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier’s RBI singles, Clayton Kershaw alertly stealing a base or AJ Ellis picking Mark Ellis off second base. They were about Matt Holliday being hit on the backside by a Kershaw fastball.
Holliday was hit in retaliation for an earlier HBP on Hanley Ramirez by Cardinal starter Carlos Martinez. Dodgers fans celebrated the retribution. I expect I may be one of the few that questioned the revenge hit. From a baseball perspective it was poorly timed. The Dodgers had but a two run lead and the first Cardinal hitter in the inning was given a free pass just as if he had been walked. We all hate a lead off walk so a deliberate HBP is in essence an intentional walk. A home run by the next hitter would have tied the game. I expect we were comfortable that Clayton would not give up a two run homer but he demonstrated in the sixth inning that it is always a possibility when light hitting Peter Bourjos did just that, thus snapping Kershaw’s consecutive win streak at eight.
My second thought was that Clayton had better strike out the next hitter or make him hit the ball in the air. A ground ball would put either Dee Gordon or Hanley Ramirez in jeopardy with a ticked off 250 lb Holliday barreling into second base. That is exactly what happened on a ground ball and only a quick feed by Gordon and an athletic play by Ramirez avoided a full tilt collision with Holliday and the possibility of long term injury for Hanley.
It seems that Dodger fans have almost an irrational dislike of the Cardinals. I must admit my perspective is also clouded because I do not live with an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth mentality. I believe it is inherently wrong to deliberately hurt another human being either on or off the field. The Dodgers acknowledged that the HBP by Martinez was in their opinion not deliberate. Dodgers fans further railed when Trevor Rosenthal hit Hanley Ramirez again, in the ninth inning, as if by design. Rosenthal was one strike away from closing out the inning with a 0-2 count on Ramirez and a tied game. One wonders why the right-handed Rosenthal would deliberately hit the right-handed Ramirez with one strike to go to get to the left-handed hitting Adrian Gonzalez.
In Monday night’s game Dodger catcher AJ Ellis was hit on the helmet by Pirate pitcher Edinson Volquez. There was no protest, no retaliation. I expect it is because it was the Pirates, not the Cardinals. Hence the Dodger fans obsession with the Cardinals.
Monday’s blog post by Ron Cervenka here on ThinkBlueLA was titled Don Drysdale is Smiling Down on Clayton Kershaw. He may well be smiling. However, my third thought regarding the incident was not what Don Drysdale would think of the retaliation, which will indeed lead to further incidents, but what would Sandy Koufax have done. Now we don’t know for sure what Sandy would have done any more than we know what Don Drysdale was doing. However, we can speculate how Sandy would have handled the situation just as we can speculate how Don would view it.
Sandy Koufax faced 9497 hitters during his twelve career with the Dodgers. He walked 817 hitters, had 87 wild pitches and hit but 18 batters, an average of two in 162 games. In 1966 in 323 innings pitched Koufax didn’t hit any batters. Now we can claim he had impeccable control and therefore simply didn’t hit hitters. However, in 1966 he walked 77 batters and he had seven wild pitches so his control was not exactly perfect.
Sandy Koufax hit one batter deliberately in his career, not in retaliation for a hit on a Dodger player, but out of annoyance and frustration. In May 1965 he hit Lou Brock who was running wild on him, bunting and stealing bases. Brock was injured when hit by Koufax and missed some time.
Also in 1965 Sandy Koufax was involved in the Juan Marichal-John Roseboro incident. “Knowing that it wasn’t Koufax’s style to bean a batter intentionally, Roseboro decided to do the dirty work. When throwing the ball back to Koufax, he intentionally buzzed Marichal’s tower.” Marichal had previously buzzed Ron Fairly and Maury Wills.
Pitchers who retaliate by hitting opposing batters are hailed as great teammates. The question is, was Sandy Koufax less than a great teammate because he would not throw at hitters? Did he not respect the game because he didn’t get involved in the unwritten rules about retaliation? I submit that Sandy was a great teammate and showed the game the utmost respect by giving his best every time out, every pitch, even when his arm was literally falling off.
I am out on a limb pretty much by myself among Dodger fans regarding deliberately throwing at opposing players. I find that to be the highest degree of disrespect for opponents and disrespect for the game. Not much good ever comes from it. However, if I’m going to be on a limb on this one I like the company.