Tony La Russa Defends Arizona Diamondbacks, Now Dubbed ‘Dirtiest Team In Baseball’

Tony La Russa Hall of Fame

Getty Images

The Arizona Diamondbacks have taken a beating in the national media this week, and rightfully so. Arizona’s Randall Delgado drilled Pittsburgh Pirates‘ MVP-candidate Andrew McCutchen with a 97 MPH fastball, and McCutchen is now on the disabled list. The act was a retaliation to Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt being plunked the night before. And while it can’t be determined whether McCutchen’s injury, an avulsion fracture of one of his lower ribs, is directly related to being intentionally hit by the pitch, it certainly cannot be ruled out, either.

Nick Piecoro, a reporter for the Arizona Republic, reports recent Hall of Fame inductee Tony La Russa as saying, “I don’t see where the Diamondbacks should catch all this (expletive) they’re catching…They (Pittsburgh) don’t just pitch inside. They pitch up and in. And by choosing to do so, they have to live with the consequences.” And this is where the heated debate begins.

La Russa is one of the most decorated managers in history, and his recent induction into the Hall of Fame proves that. But La Russa is not only biased (he’s the chief baseball officer for Arizona); he’s also wrong in his recent statement. What is the former skipper trying to say? If he’s saying that the act of hitting Goldschmidt was an intentional move by Pittsburgh, he’s incorrect. Sure, pitching high and inside is dangerous and it results in batters being occasionally hit, but watch the replay. The Pirates were not intentionally trying to plunk Goldschmidt. It was an accident and those who say it wasn’t are wrong. Ernesto Frieri, the pitcher who hit Goldschmidt, is undoubtedly a wild pitcher. But regardless, it was accidental.

And if La Russa is saying that the simple act of pitching high and inside is the offense, then one of the most ludicrous “unwritten rules” in the history of baseball is now being formulated. Pitching high and inside is effective, regardless of your view on the matter. Even La Russa claims “I don’t care if you’re a right-hander or left-hander, nobody gets to that pitch. It’s a hole for everybody.”

If another team had plunked McCutchen, would this still be such hotly-debated subject? Maybe not. But the Diamondbacks have history. Kirk Gibson is an old-fashioned manager, and some of his actions in recent months have been blatantly unsportsmanlike. In June, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was drilled with a pitch from Arizona reliever Evan Marshall, and guess who was the first person on the top step of the dugout to congratulate Marshall when he was ejected? Gibson. He even gave Marshall a celebratory fist bump on his way to the clubhouse. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers also discussed this exact subject last October, and he was quoted as saying “It’s an eye for an eye. Somebody’s going down or somebody’s getting jackknifed.”

The Pirates have, however, hit the most batters in the league so far in 2014 (61). So maybe it’s time that, instead of trying to interpret all of baseball’s contradictory unwritten rules on hitting batters, MLB decides to come up with an actual rule to prevent pitches that are high and inside from injuring players. But the retaliation to those pitches, the intentional act of hitting a batter, is going to end someone’s career one day. Hopefully it doesn’t take that happening for them to act.

Regardless, the fact that MLB hasn’t levied a suspension on Delgado or Gibson is simply disgraceful. Pitching high and inside and accidentally hitting a batter is one thing, but intentionally throwing a 97 MPH fastball near a player’s neck is quite another. There is nothing, not even the accidental plunking of a player on a pitch that is high and inside, that justifies that.

Jacob Dennis is an MLB writer at Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, and add him to your network on Google.

Around the Web

  • Dave

    The Pirates hit 61 opposing batters this season entering the game Saturday, 13 more than any other team.
    “We’re going to pitch the way we believe we need to pitch to be effective, to get outs,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
    Frieri said he lived on the outside corner while with the Los Angeles Angels. When the Pirates acquired him, they told him to establish himself on the inner part of the plate.
    “I love it,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I’m going to keep doing it.”
    —– (from article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

    You know what? When, as a team, you lead the majors in hitting opposing batters, it’s a CLEAR sign that your pitching is out of control. Careers have been ended because of out of control pitching. This is why EVERY team in MLB will retaliate when their players are hit “accidentally”.

    Clint Hurdle obviously isn’t concerned about it because he thinks the only players at risk are the opposing batters. Well guess what Clint? It’s your “if you aren’t hitting batters you aren’t pitching far enough inside” philosophy that has your Bucs batters also leading MLB in getting hit themselves.

    When your pitching is dangerous by design, you WILL get hit more. MLB stats from the past two years support that.

    2013: Pittsburgh pitchers hit 70 batters, leading MLB. Pittsburgh batters got hit 88 times, also leading MLB.

    2014: Pittsburgh pitchers have hit 61 batters, leading MLB. Pittsburgh batters have been hit 60 times, also leading MLB.

    Incidentaly, the Dbacks numbers for 2013 are 60 and 43, respectively, and for 2014 they’re 32 and 39, far behind the Pirates’ numbers.

    So yeah, whether Frieri MEANT to hit Goldschmidt and end his season is irrelevant. He’s been told to pitch dangerously, and he ENJOYS pitching dangerously, just like every other Pirates pitcher. And if you think the Diamondbacks are the only team that isn’t happy with that kind of pitching strategy, you’re mistaken.

    • Sam Gedris

      This response is exactly the type of ignorance this article was meant to combat. How dense are you? Yes, the Pirates pitch inside they’re the first to say it and they admit and accept that they are going to get hit because of it. Watch any Pirates game in which a batter is hit and the announcers will discuss this. It’s an accepted part of having they’re successful pitching staff. Pirates pitchers are by no means out of control. They may have hit more batters than anyone but the only player I can remember being injured by a pirates pitcher this year is Goldy. Why? Because, yes, they pitch inside but they aren’t wild the pitches, generally they just hit an elbow pad or a hip or some other protected or meaty part of the body. The Goldy incident was unfortunate, Frieri threw a bad pitch but it was by no means intentional and I’m not certain he has the accuracy right now to hit anyone intentionally. So, all Pirates talk from the time Goldy got hit was how the Dbacks would handle it the next day. Everyone was pretty sure Cutch would get hit and we were ok with that because we understand the unofficial rules and we respect the game and genuinely felt really bad about knockin’ out the Dbacks best player. Everything up to this point was fine and dandy and if the Dbacks would’ve just plunked our first batter or hit cutch his first at bat with a nice little stinger life wouldve just continued no problem. But there’s where the problem that you and Tony are too thick to understand came in. The Dbacks waited till the game was practically over then missed on the first attempt. Ok fine reload try again, but no, they then pitch Cutch low and away so he settles in thinks hes getting a real at bat and sets him up to get truely hurt. Then they hit him high on the back with obvious intent to injure. Everyone is fine with you hit our best player we’ll hit yours but to intentionally try to injure a person is absolutely unacceptable. You can retaliate but you never intentionally lure a batter in pitch at a batters head or pitch at a batters knees. And that is the diffference here that Tony is ignoring. No ones ignoring the Dbacks plight because they aren’t in playoff contention they’re ignoring it because its a second-rate story to the fact that a pitcher was essentially told or allowed to intentionally try to injure the games best player and gets congratulated for it by his manager. I wasn’t even surprised to hear that La Russa could be this ignorant because I currently live in St. Louis and I know that he always talks a big game and trys to declare himself the unofficial moral police( he’s ruined the Cardinals for many baseball fans by giving them that reputation) but when he comes to two roads diverged in the woods he takes the low one.

      • Steve Bishop

        And last year they took out a hot hitting Aaron Hill under the EXACT SAME circumstances. But don’t let that get in the way of your opinion. Go on believing it’s perfectly acceptable to hit guys so long as it looks like an accident. Even if there’s a history of HBP’s in the organization.

  • Steve Bishop

    Show me ONE person in the press who says Goldschmidt was hit intentionally. ONE. Stop propping up straw men to make your arguments please.

    The reputation up to this year was that the Diamondbacks were SOFT for the exact opposite reaction they were giving when plunked in prior years. The same GM, same Manager, same organization. Now all of a sudden when they do start standing up for themselves they’re “dirty”.

    What is dirty is all the horrific “news reporting” and opining “journalists” who think they have the moral high ground.

    Pitching inside by pitchers who have lack of control IS A RECIPE FOR PLUNKING. Whether it was intentional or not, it doesn’t matter. Their pitcher took out the Diamondbacks star player. This SHOULD be answered. It’s too bad Cutch got hurt in the process but that doesn’t mean there should have been nothing in response.