Noah Syndergaard threw 34 pitches Saturday night, the last of which got him ejected from the Mets’ 9-1 loss to the Dodgers.
Understandably so, since it was a 99 mph fastball so far behind Chase Utley it wouldn’t have hit Utley had Utley’s behind been as big as Prince Fielder’s.
Utley is the protagonist whose slide last October broke Ruben Tejada’s leg and was about as far beyond the boundaries of clean play as Syndergaard’s pitch was out of the strike zone.
Home plate umpire Adam Hamari ejected Syndergaard Saturday, as is his wont, even though there was neither a warning nor a hit batter. Hamari might be the kind of policeman who gives out tickets to motorists driving 41 in a 35 mph zone, but he wasn’t wrong.
“My argument was nobody got hit,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “He (Hamari) made an assumption, which he’s certainly is allowed to do. I disagreed with it. … There was a time, when in this game, you had a shot.”
That’s easy for Collins to say, since nobody was taking that shot by way of a 99 mph fastball at him. Or maybe that was Syndergaard’s shot and he wasted it.
There was a time, too, when retaliation pitches were 89 mph instead of 99, and when catchers and middle infielders were as much targets for base runners as they were defenders. There’s rules now protecting the latter, and baseball is a better game for it, no matter how muddled the litigation is. If you don’t think so, watch Scott Cousins run down Buster Posey again.
Rules change for a reason, and Syndergaard’s fastball is as good as any for why. It’s hard to blame Hamari for being proactive when a pitcher with a 99 mph fastball throws it behind a batter and shrugs his apology.
Syndergaard said the pitch “got away from me,” but if Politico was scoring, that would one be a “uniform is on a fire lie.” It’s a remarkable coincidence that pitches which “get away” are always wild on the side of the batter’s box the hitter is standing on and not the one which is empty.
Ken Rosenthal’s column on foxsports.com (link here) criticized not Hamari’s decision but MLB’s “lack of consistency.”
Rosenthal: “The Rangers’ Matt Bush hit the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista in a similar act of retaliation for an incident in last year’s playoffs (a bat flip, as opposed to Utley’s violent slide). Both teams received warnings. Bush was not ejected.
“Only days later, the Twins’ Phil Hughes nearly hit the Jays’ Josh Donaldson with consecutive pitches, for no apparent reason. Donaldson believed that Hughes threw at him intentionally. Hughes was not ejected.
“What made Syndergaard’s pitch to Utley different?”
Consistency doesn’t always equal justice; if it did mandatory sentencing might be more of a success. All crimes or violations aren’t equal. And, given how the Bautista hit by pitch played out, that Bush wasn’t ejected might not be the best defense against a Syndergaard ejection.
Syndergaard is a 23-year-old pitcher who has as much bravado as he does fastball, which is a lot. He said he had an October surprise for the Royals before Game 3 of the World Series last year and then threw his first pitch up and in at Alcides Escobar, which is about the only way to keep Escobar from swinging at a first pitch. If you want to be a tough guy and let it be known you’ll throw there, you don’t get to use the absence of a warning as a defense.
Maybe Hamari didn’t want to be the umpire behind the plate when Syndergaard’s control erred. Maybe, given what happened last October in the NLDS, Hamari considered both teams warned. Throw up and in or up and behind as Syndegaard does, and what happens when your aim is off?
(The great young Mets rotation apparently includes a pitcher not scared to throw inside against anyone, and another too scared to meet the press when he performs poorly.)
The Mets were honoring their 1986 champions this weekend, so perhaps the whole episode was fitting. The ’86 Mets saw themselves as the ultimate tough guys, still oblivious to the idea that if they had more sense than machismo, they might have won more than that lone title.
Dwight Gooden, according to the New York Post, left Citi Field because Syndergaard was ejected. Too bad the Mets couldn’t get him to leave early in Game 4 of the 1988 NLCS before Mike Scioscia’s ninth-inning home run.
Mets captain David Wright said the best revenge is winning, and he’s right. The Mets proved it last Ocotober. And Utley did so Saturday, treating Syndergaard’s offering with indifference, then homering twice off his relievers.
Whatever Syndergaard’s intention, presumably it didn’t include losing.
The irony of the whole affair was Syndergaard exacting revenge for Tejada, who is no longer a Met. Tejada was designated for assignment by the Cardinals over the weekend and while he no doubt appreciated Syndergaard’s pitch, he doesn’t need gestures of support, but a job.
Also of note from this week:
- Boston’s Steven Wright threw a complete game Sunday, his third of the year. Only four pitchers have multiple complete games this year: Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, Chris Sale and Wright. Which one doesn’t belong in that group?
- Kershaw has 105 strikeouts and five walks. That’s a 21-1 ratio. His best previous ratio was 7.7 in 2014, when he struck out 239 and walked 31.
- Jake Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg and Sale have all nine wins. Cueto is second with eight, tied with Rich Hill, who had won 26 games in 11 seasons entering this one.
- The Yankees beat the Rays 2-1 on Starlin Castro’s home run Sunday, their only hit of the game. Teams throwing one-hitters this year, Joe Sheehan tweeted, are 3-3. Winning one-hitters were: the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia over the Brewers 7-0 on April 14; the Rays’ Drew Smyly, Erasmo Ramirez and Alex Colome over the Red Sox 3-0 in 10 innings on April 19 and the Braves’ Matt Wisler and Arodys Vizcaino over the Mets 3-0 on May 2. Losing one-hitters were: the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez and Mike Montgomery to the Rangers, 3-2, on April 4; the Royals’ Kris Medlen, Danny Duffy, Joakim Soria and Luke Hochevar to the Mariners (and Felix Hernandez), 1-0, on April 29; and the Rays’ Jake Odorizzi, Xavier Cedeno and Ramirez to the Yankees, 2-1, on Sunday.
- Adam Duvall, who had eight home runs in limited play for the Giants and Reds in 2014-15, has 13 for the Reds this year. He was part of the return last summer when the Reds traded Mike Leake to the Giants. Duvall has hit twice as many home runs for the Reds (18) as Leake made starts for the Giants (9).
- Twins lefty reliever Fernando Abad retired the first 21 lefties he faced this year until Nori Aoki singled. Lefties are 1-23 against him.
- Carlos Gonzalez, who hit one homer from April 17-May 25, has hit four in his last five games. The last three have all been off lefthanders — the Giants’ Josh Osich twice and the Reds’ Tony Cingrani Monday.
- Jackie Robinson’s 1947 contract is on display for a short time at the Constiution Center in Philadelphia. His 1947 salary was $5,000.
- Phillies fans spend a lot of energy complaining about first baseman Ryan Howard, and it’s hard to blame them. Howard, who is batting .157 with 52 strikeouts, 12 walks, 11 singles and eight homers in 140 at-bats, might be MLB’s worst regular in 2016. He’s at -1.3 WAR, and this will be the fourth season in the last five he’s been a minus. But the Phillies are stuck with Howard, having signed him to a long-term deal they can’t buy out of until this season is over. There’s no reason for outfielder Peter Bourjos starting 43 of 51 games in 2016. Bourjos is batting .200 with a .526 OPS, has five walks and 40 strikeouts and has a .490 OPS vs. righties. His -0.4 WAR would be worse but for a positive defensive contribution and his batting ninth most games. The latter is on merit. Pitcher Vincent Velasquez is a better hitter vs. righties — 3-for-11 with a walk for a .606 OPS — and Jerad Eickhoff — 3-for-15 with a .467 OPS — almost as good.