Symbolism and baseball go hand in hand. Maybe that’s why I’ve found some success writing about it, I’m a metaphor junkie and baseball provides ample opportunity to put that on display.
Today I’m certainly going to discuss the game as a whole but first I need to focus on something that really stuck out to me. In the bottom of the 4th, Bryan Reynolds and Gregory Polanco went back to back with solo shots, clearly an important moment but not what I took away from it.
After Reynolds put a charge into that ball he rounded the bases, walked down the stairs and barely acknowledged the waiving hands of his teammates looking to celebrate his achievement. Polanco followed with his blast and it Gregory fashion smiled as he returned to the dugout and was met with a half hearted attempt to celebrate.
He would eventually find his way to sitting next to Bryan on the bench and was clearly trying to pump up his teammate, but at least on the surface Reynolds would have none of it.
I’m not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill here, I’m not going to say Reynolds has checked out or anything silly like that, but I will say he plays the game professionally. He approaches everything he does with a seriousness that is painfully evident.
After what happened in the third (oh, I’ll get there) a proud player like that just wasn’t feeling celebrating. Not him, not Greg, not anything.
There are defining moments in a baseball season, both good and bad usually, but the utter incompetence of what Will Craig did in the third inning was the first time I saw large swaths of the team visibly embarrassed. I guess I should try to write what he did, it’s hard to do, I almost have to get a translation guide for how to translate baseball into stupidity.
With two outs, Gonzalez fielded a ground ball and threw it wide to Craig rather than just tag the base, he stood on the baseline waiting for Baez to run into the tag. Baez didn’t, instead retreating for home plate, all while the runner was coming from 3rd. Craig pursued, again instead of just going to first. Even then there was a way out of it, all he had to do is reach out and tag him, instead he panicked and tossed the ball to Perez to get the runner from 3rd out. It didn’t happen and Baez took off for the vacated 1st base bag, A bad throw later he wound up at second.
That was possibly, the single dumbest play I’ve ever seen. I’m actually wracking my brain to come up with something that wasn’t a physical mistake, this was just plain mental.
Normally after something like that, you see a sea of hugs and pats on the shoulder. Chin Up Kid!!! Not this time. He sat alone in the dugout, head hung low, sipping water. I’m not in there, for all I know just off camera someone was telling him it was ok, maybe he even told everyone he needed a minute, point is, this type of thing takes a team that is less talented but still fighting for each other and starts to lay a foundation of almost feeling hopeless.
For the record, this wasn’t the end of the world, it’s just a bad play, but when players who really matter are clearly not enjoying the process, it should worry management. Rebuilds are tough on everyone, but this is exactly why many including myself wanted them to bring in some real free agents in the off season, because it serves nobody involved to simply let your team fight around all the non MLB talent you’ve provided.
It’s the little things that suffer. In the bottom of the 6th Frazier led off with a single and Gamel missed a hit and run sign causing Frazier to get thrown out at second. Again, unfocused, undisciplined and that’s different than bad. Bad you can accept, but unprofessional, that’s where the wheels start falling off the cart.
They don’t have a lot of talent, but the few who do are visibly getting tired of trying like hell to pick up what’s here. Frazier is tired of collecting hits and never coming around to score. Reynolds is tired of either walking or taking a hack at the one pitch he sees, and never coming around to score.
Fatigue sets in, and much like the fan base, I’d rather see anger than apathy. It’s starting to look like both are shifting together. The record isn’t important, never has been, but that doesn’t mean these guys want to lose because a quad A player can’t make a simple play. It doesn’t mean they’re ok with fighting to get on base only to watch 3 guys take an unprofessional at bat that doesn’t even threaten moving them over, let alone in.
Point is, moments like this, they aren’t just a dumb mistake as Bob Walk tried to say repeatedly, they’re wholly a slap in the face to those who have put everything they have into this game for the entirety of their adult lives.
They must do more next year to address at the very least having MLB ready options for every position. Replacement level is fine, just don’t embarrass the fans, and more importantly the few veteran players you do have, especially if you want them to one day lead this club when it matters.
Regardless of all that, the Pirates continued to battle back, Perez hit a homerun in the 7th, they threatened in the 8th but left the bases loaded.
After getting the leadoff man on in the 9th they went down in order to end the game 5-3 Cubs.
Pirates back at it tomorrow as they host the Rockies at 6:35 at PNC Park. Jon Gray versus Mitch Keller.
News & Notes
- Three homeruns in this game, Reynolds, Polanco and Perez. All solo shots but also the only reason this game wound up interesting, unless you enjoy watching defensive abortion.
- Tyler Anderson wasn’t helped by his defense, but he continues to give up hard contact. At the very least the rose is off his bloom at this point, needs to make some adjustments. I say this because he appears to be doing the same things he had been doing, it’s just not leading to outs the way it was early on.
- In the 8th Difo walked, Frazier singled and Difo advanced to 3rd on a bad throw. Frazier was thrown out trying for 2nd base. The Pirates failed to score the tying run with 1 out yet again. they would go on to load the bases before Gonzalez grounded out to end the inning.
- The Cubs scored a late insurance run off Richard Rodriguez, after bobbling the groundball Newman threw to 1st and Craig went back to 3rd for an inning ending double play, but still a run scored on the play.