Bobby Valentine and the ESPN commentators were applauding the display of spirit at Friday night’s Red Sox – Tampa Bay Rays game. “Boys will be boys,” they said. What it amounted to was the Red Sox attacking the Rays’ hitters, because they were unable to hit the Rays’ pitchers. The “inside game” has never made sense to me. It shows that you have to maim an opposing hitter, because you can’t prove yourself within the ground rules of the game.
Pitching inside is obviously part of the game, and apparently Lester did not use that part in his disastrous outing Friday night– so said the catcher Saltalamachia. Perhaps Morales was instructed to give an object lesson with his “inside” strategy. But, having thrown behind Scott with his first pitch and mostly coming inside with the rest of his pitches, it was gratuitous to plunk Scott with a pitch that might have gotten him out. To me, it shows weakness to hit a batter instead of trying to get him out.
And if this is what it takes to get a team fired up then where’s the professionalism? No one has to tell Pedroia to get aggressive at the plate or the 36-year-old Posednik to steal late in the game. These guys play for an edge, the same way the Rays team does. You respond to aggressive play with aggressive play, not with a pitch to the ear. A baseball is a lethal weapon.
Too often this is what it takes to get a team fired up, a “purpose pitch” or obvious act of aggression. Save it for the football field, guys! That’s a contact sport where the harder you hit, the better you play. Face it, the Rays have the Red Sox’ number, and they need to figure out why, not use the ball as a weapon. That’s a cheap shot.
This can only end badly. Either a bench-clearing brawl or a serious injury to a batter. Too late for regrets after that. Why not try something new in the field? Bunt against the over-shift or head out for second when the catcher drops the ball. If you keep playing the same game against a good team, you can expect the same results.
I get the stuff about aggressive baseball and protecting your batters, but I don’t get the philosophy, “If you can’t beat ’em, hit ’em.” That’s what I think was going on Friday night, and it embarrasses me that the Red Sox had to stoop to that. If they think they are better than the Tampa Bay Rays, let them prove it between the lines. They don’t have to prove they are tough, just be tough. I think they have the line-up to do that. “Boys can be men.”