Fox Gets It Wrong; Thor Had To Go
May 30, 2016

You knew it was coming. You didn't know exactly how or when, but while the Los Angeles Dodgers were in New York, Chase Utley was going to get thrown at. But even though everyone knew it, players, coaches, broadcasters, and other know-it-alls were shocked and dismayed that when it did happen, the pitcher responsible was thrown out of the game.

The New York Mets were still angry from last year's playoffs. Dodger second baseman Utley, in the only game LA would win in the series, made a hard slide into second base to try to break up a double play. He succeeded, and in the process, Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada wound up with a broken leg, and was done for the year. A rule forbidding such slides was put into play for this year, but Utley was never disciplined for what happened last season. It was the only time the Dodgers would face the Mets in New York, and you know the Mets were looking for payback.

It happened on Saturday. In a scoreless tie in the third inning, Utley at the plate, and the crowd and Fox broadcasters really not settled in yet, Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard buzzed a 99 mile-an-hour fastball behind Utley. Home plate umpire Adam Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, and subsequently tossed manager Terry Collins after he came out to argue.

“Did he just kick him out?”, Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck said while half watching the game and half trying to figure out what his in-booth guest Dwight Gooden was saying. “That's unbelieveable. It didn't even hit him.” Buck would say after his question was answered in the affirmative by analyst John Smoltz. “I mean you lose Noah Syndergaard? For that?”

Yes, Joe, for that. It was Syndergaard's fault for throwing that pitch. Everyone with a pair of eyes knew it was intentional. It was Syndergaard's choice to try to start something at that given moment, and in this day and age, when baseball is professing safety for players, you can't give Syndergaard a free pass.

“This umpire took matters into his own hands, which is the wrong thing to do in my opinion”, Smoltz said. “If you want to warn him, that's one thing...”

So in essence, give Syndergaard a free shot? How does that the right thing to do in today's world? Broadcasters and writers in that game, and afterward, seem to concur that warnings should have been issued, arguing that that's what happened in the Texas-Toronto game. But in that game, after Jose Bautista was hit by a pitch (logical to assume it was intentional after a 'bat flip' that angered Rangers players in the playoffs last year), on the next play, he slid hard into Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, who then punched Bautista in the face, and mayhem ensued.

“That's ridiculous”, objective reporter Buck said about the incident after Collins was kicked out. What's lost here is that it wasn't the umpire's decision to eject Syndergaard that was ridiculous, it was the pitcher's decision to throw behind Utley, and do it that early in the game. Syndergaard, nicknamed “Thor” for his Scandinavian heritage, divine-like long hair, and his lightning fastball, messed up. The thing is, if he had actually hit Utley, but made it look like an accident, he might have gotten off with a warning. Instead, he was gone.

What also was never pointed out by anyone in the entire series, was that the best time to have done something would have been Friday night. With Jacob deGrom on the hill for New York, Utley came to bat in the fifth inning. The Mets were leading 4-1. In the eighth inning, it was 5-1 New York. Why not do something then? Instead, Syndergaard was the one who forced the issue, and threw that pitch. He was immediately ejected, but will likely not be suspended, and probably gets a small fine.

Utley, who never showed any emotion at all one way or the other while being booed during the entire weekend, had the last laugh. After Syndergaard hit the showers, Utley would homer twice in that game, including a grand slam. He drove in nine runs in the three game series, and the Dodgers took two out of three.

For Syndergaard, his Saturday outing will officially go down as a no-decision. What it really was, was a bad decision.

Four wide ones?: Baseball is considering eliminating the throwing of four pitches for an intentional walk next year, and instead just awarding the batter the base. While this may speed up a game by about 20 seconds maybe once or twice a week, there is a reason that the pitches need to be thrown. In a wild game between the White Sox and Royals Saturday, an intentional ball went to the backstop, and two runners moved up, and would eventually score. It doesn't happen often, but it happens.

Local pride: The 'Unknown kid from California' that won the Indianapolis 500 Sunday, is from Nevada City. 24 year-old Alexander Rossi had just made the switch to Indy-car from Formula One, and won the 100th running of the race. Pretty cool for a kid from a small town, and even better for the town itself.

Scheduling snafu: How stupid is it that the Sharks and Warriors are playing on the same night at the same time? Yes, they are in two different cities, but northern California sports fans shouldn't have to swith back and forth, especially when neither sport featured a game on Sunday. Dumb.

Forever young: Friday night, the Dodgers called up 19 year-old left hander Julio Urias to make a spot start. The major league debut didn't go well, but Urias is consided the top prospect in all of baseball. Urias is from Mexico, and from the same region as former Dodger phenom Fernando Valenzuela. Reportedly, when a reporter asked the youngster if his dad had told him stories about Fernando growing up, his reply was “No, but my grandfather did.”

Personal note: My mother, who just turned 90 last month, is in the hospital with an infection in her legs. It's been diagnosed as MRSA, otherwise known as a 'super bug' that is resistant to many antibiotics. While this doesn't sound good, she seems to be feeling better and is in good spirits. There's also this, which is a little comforting: “Both health care-associated and community-associated strains of MRSA still respond to certain antibiotics. In some cases, antibiotics may not be necessary. For example, doctors may drain a superficial abscess caused by MRSA rather than treat the infection with drugs.” Get well soon Mom!!

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