This was a rather remarkable win for the Brewers. They beat All-Star Tim Hudson (9-5 with a 2.60 ERA) as the Braves lost consecutive home games for just the first time since late April. The Braves continue to boast the best home record in the majors at 31-12. Narveson was coming off a horrible outing against the Giants—a 3.1 inning, nine earned run debacle.
The real fireworks took place in the eighth inning, however. The first pitch to Fielder following his homerun sailed above his head, which earned the pitcher and both benches a warning. The next pitch from Jonny Venters drilled Prince in the back.* This coming after Prince was nailed in the thigh by Tommy Hanson following Ryan Braun’s homerun on Friday night and Hanson’s drilling of Braun in May. The May beaning knocked Braun out of the line-up for a few days.
There was some discussion that the plunking was the result of Prince showing up the Braves with his “elaborate” follow-through on his swing. Subsequent reviews of Fielder’s follow-through showed that there was nothing different about this swing (other than the fact that he smoked the ball) but that it is somewhat unorthodox and could be perceived as a show-up. Whatever. Of course, the Braves denied that any of the plunks were intentional, while Prince stayed silent (although his actions made his feelings obvious—he untucked after the game) and Macha questioned the intent behind the pitches and asked for an investigation. Really, Ken, an investigation?
How you feel about this is going to depend on your point of view. (Cannon ball, anyone?)
The Atlanta perspective: The Brewers need to get over themselves. Why the hell would Jonny Venters throw at Prince Fielder to lead off the 8th in a game that actually matters to us? There's no reason for Prince to freak out and then take a dirty slide into 2nd base to potentially end Alex Gonzalez's season. That's not a part of baseball. Wild pitches happen. Get over it.
The Milwaukee perspective: I realize Jonny Venters wasn't throwing full speed when his first pitch went over Prince Fielder's head. And I don't care. That 84 mph pitch could still do very serious damage if it had made contact. And the pitch that hit Fielder in the back was a 94 mph fastball. When you're throwing that hard above the waist, you're not retaliating anymore. You're headhunting.
Rachel’s perspective: I think Venters probably threw at Prince. I have no problem with that as long as he keeps the pitch away from his head. I don’t think Prince did anything too egregious but maybe hitting a homerun is egregious enough. What I am sort of surprised by is how touchy these “baseball establishment”, so-called-old-school-keepers-of-the-game types react to the Brewers. Why does Tony LaRussa get to decide whether untucking your shirt after a game is classless? Why does he get to set the parameters on the “right way” to play baseball? I know, he's old and been around for a long time. He's a good manager. Blah, blah, blah.
To me there is a difference between being excited about your success and “showing up” your opponent because of his failure. It seems silly to me that Ryan Braun can’t be excited about hitting a homerun because his woofing and fist pump might make Tommy Hanson feel bad. Whether he celebrates or not, it’s still a homerun. I think people vilify the victor so they don’t have to take responsibility for sucking. If you don’t want the other team to celebrate, then don’t give up a homerun. It may make you feel better to say Prince is a classless asshole douche bag as he’s hitting a home run, but, in the end, he still hit a home run.
I don’t think the line between celebrating your success and taunting your opponent’s failure is too blurry so as to justify an outlawing of emotion or celebrations in the game. I think there’s room for emotion in baseball. I think that baseball needs more excitement. It needs more colorful characters. That’s not disrespectful. It’s just more fun that way. It gives you someone to cheer for and someone to hate.
Brewers 6, Braves 3
Game played 7-17-10
* Plunkeveryone reported: “Prince Fielder got plunked for the 2nd consecutive game, bringing his total up to 14 this year. He and Rickie Weeks continue to make a strong push to become the first teammates since 1911 to both break the 20 HBP threshold.”