"Everything can have drama if it's done right," Julia Child famously said. "Even a pancake."
We got much more than a pancake on Tuesday.
As front offices were busy exchanging phone calls on trade-deadline eve, the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates were busy exchanging punches, the final act of a season-long simmering feud between the two clubs. Indeed, a few minutes after reports leaked about the three-team blockbuster trade that sent Trevor Bauer to the Reds and Yasiel Puig to the Cleveland Indians, there was the spirited Puig -- still in the game in the top of the ninth inning -- in the middle of the melee, with several teammates and coaches eventually holding him back before he self-combusted.
Talk about a dramatic departure. The Puig era in Cincinnati was short-lived -- 91 games and 404 plate appearances -- but Reds fans will forever remember his final game. Likewise, Indians fans will recollect Bauer's last game with Cleveland, an outing that ended in a childish tantrum when he chucked the ball over the center-field fence after being removed from the game. Puig and Bauer are perhaps the two most controversial personalities in the game, so maybe it's fitting their departures both end in a crazy blend of tragedy and comedy.
The Reds-Pirates brawl was one of the nastier fights in a long time. The animosity goes back to April 7, when the Pirates took offense to Derek Dietrich taking too long to watch a home run and Chris Archer later hit him with a pitch. The benches cleared in that game, and Puig was one of the players ejected. In May, the Pirates hit Dietrich again -- and then he hit three home runs the next day and admired each one.
In Tuesday's game, Dietrich entered in the seventh inning and Keone Kela promptly threw a pitch over Dietrich's head. At the end of the inning as the Reds took the field, Joey Votto had words with the Pittsburgh dugout, motioning to his head as if to say "don't throw it up here." In the top of the ninth, Cincinnati's Jared Hughes plunked Starling Marte in the rear end, earning an ejection and bringing Amir Garrett into the game.
All remained calm until the last out of the inning. Garrett had just retired Kevin Newman on a groundout, but as he returned to the mound, he had words with Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams and then charged toward the Pittsburgh dugout like Mel Gibson taking on the English:
That's how Puig eventually got involved -- and received his third ejection of the season. (He was ejected four times in six seasons with the Dodgers.)
Reds manager David Bell, who had been ejected in the eighth inning for arguing balls and strikes, returned to the field during the brawl, certainly earning himself a fine and suspension. He found himself on the bottom of the chaos with Pirates hitting coach Rick Eckstein on top of him, and as he finally extricated himself from the pile, Bell appeared to shout "You piece of s---" at Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
Bell also had pointed words for Hurdle after the game.
"The warnings aren't going to do anything," he said of the Pirates' head-hunting tactics. "There's no place for it. ... This has been going on all year."
The Pirates don't have a good reputation in this regard. Yes, Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage preach pitching inside, but Kela's pitch was bush league. Bell tried to raise this issue with MLB earlier in the season to little avail:
Hurdle is 62, which makes him a guy from a different generation, as compared to most of today's managers. He played in the rough-and-tumble 1970s and 1980s, when brawls were a much more frequent part of the game. While we rarely see those kinds of all-out fights anymore -- even in this one, it didn't appear that Garrett actually landed clean blows with any of his punches -- the pitches at or near the head remain too frequent in today's game. Throwing at Dietrich in July because of a home run he hit in April is a discredit to the Pirates organization.
Bell is right, however: Warnings from the umpires don't solve the problem. Until the punishment for pitches like the one Kela threw are more severe, we're going to continue to see this stuff happen. The Pirates and Hurdle are maybe the worst offenders, and their actions toward Dietrich this season have been an embarrassment, but they're not the only ones. The players have proved they can't police themselves, and at some point, one of these pitches is going to hit a batter and do some serious damage.
There will be suspensions. There will be fines. Let's hope MLB figures out a way to step in and actually stop the nonsense.