Saturday, August 30, 2014
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Analyzing some grown men fighting like sensitive, joyless children

In hockey, when players start fighting, the officials back up and give them space (unless one of the players starts laughing maniacally). In baseball, drama unfolds close to the same manner every time, with players protecting other players, and the root of the issue usually being that someone either needs to relax or get smarter or both.

Analyzing some grown men fighting like sensitive, joyless children

Video: Brewers-Pirates brawl

In hockey, when players start fighting, the officials back up and give them space (unless one of the players starts laughing maniacally). In baseball, drama unfolds close to the same manner every time, with players protecting other players, and the root of the issue usually being that someone either needs to relax or get smarter or both.

Yesterday's Brewers-Pirates game featured a benches-clearing brawl that people will remember more than the score. 

Carlos Gomez, a noted hot dog, hot dogged after hitting a home run that turned out to be a triple. Because of his blatant hot doggery, he really had to throw it into gear to safely arrive at third. 

The pitcher, Gerrit Cole, had not just given up a home run, which you'd think he'd be happy about. But instead, he began barking at Gomez - who needs merely a shift in the wind to go nuclear at any moment. Gomez then rationally tore off his helmet and hurled it before throwing a punch.

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This was the spark that lit the slowly exploding powder keg, as the benches cleared in baseball's time honored tradtion of adult men jogging out to stand around and watch as three or four of their co-workers get some paid leave.

We don't know what Cole said to Gomez, but we do know Gomez has a history of being a flamboyant, sensitive player. That said, Gomez could probably learn to take it down a notch - not the fun he's clearly having, but the level of offense he takes when someone calls him out for it. Why should he care? He's having fun. That the other guy is a grumpy-pants who just gave up a triple isn't his problem.

And on that note, Cole shouldn't really have a problem with Gomez cartwheeling out of the batter's box if he wants to. In this exact situation, it almost cost Gomez the hit he was so proud of; and any opposing team should know that anything Gomez does to slow himself down is a gift. The only person humiliated by Gomez getting thrown out at third on that play is Gomez. 

Now, it's all well and good to take the moral high road with no personal stake in the matter. The Phillies weren't there, but it would be tougher to gloss over if you replace Gerrit Cole with Cliff Lee.

Take this play from last season, when Kyle Kendrick was pinch running for some very good reason that I forget at the moment. It was late in the game, the Phillies were making one final, desperate push to score, and it happened to be against the Brewers.

Francisco Rodriguez tried a pickoff move and shortstop Jean Segura dropped the ball. Kendrick dove back to the bag in time, but by obscuring the drop with his body, Segura reclaimed the ball and held it up victoriously. The umpire called Kendrick out, and that was infuriating enough, until Segura began grinning and pumping his fist.

Anger and emotion are hopefully always going to be a part of baseball, as an already slow game would seem even more lifeless if the players were all complacent cardboard cut-outs. Gomez should be allowed to show off - as should Yasiel Puig, as should Jose Fernandez, as should *sigh* Jean Segura - and Cole should be allowed to vocalize his anger.

What we don't need is the helmet throwing. That seems like a clear line. Be yourself, but don't take off part of your equipment and assault someone. Don't rear back and throw a punch. Don't do a thing that, if you did it outside a baseball stadium, would lead to an arrest.

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