Psychologists would have a field day with what happened yesterday.
After a series where several Mets players were hit, including Pete Alonso in the helmet and J.D. Davis in the leg which caused him to leave a game early to an injury, newcomer to the Mets Yoan Lopez threw a ball high and tight to Nolan Arenado, which Arenado took exception to. This is not what psychologists would have a field day with though.
Psychologists could look at the two wildly different responses to the previous paragraph by the opposing fanbases. Both sides are convinced their team was in the right and the other team was in the wrong. From one perspective, the Cardinals had simply hit too many Mets players and Lopez didn’t even get close to Arenado. From the other, Lopez’s high and tight fastball was the only intentional ball thrown in the direction of a batter in the entire series and the pushback was appropriate. We all witnessed the same series. Completely different responses. Fascinating, right?
First, some background. The Mets players came into this series being hit by a pitch a lot. A LOT. To really illustrate this point, here’s two different highlight reels of the Mets getting hit by a pitch before this series. I needed two, because they’ve been hit too many times to fit into one highlight reel.
I feel like you need to see the evidence to appreciate both Mets players’ complaints and Mets fans. Some of the HBPs are a natural result of how the hitter approached the pitch, not realizing how inside it was until it was too late or just letting it him them. But Pete Alonso has already been hit in the face. Francisco Lindor was hit in the face. There was another ball that hit a guy near the face.
The getting hit in the face complaints are 100 percent legit, the complaining about getting hit nearly once per game? Not as much. The team is sort of designed to get hit by pitches a lot. Getting HBP is considered a sort of talent, like there’s something you do in the box that leads to you getting hit by a pitch that other players avoid. We see this with Edmundo Sosa. Starling Marte (19 HBPs per 600 PAs) has that talent. Mark Canha (22.5 HBPs per 600 PAs) does. Pete Alonso (18 HBPs per 600 PAs) does. While not on their level, Dominic Smith with 11 per 600 PAs, James McCann with 9 per 600, and JD Davis with 10 per 600 PAs also get hit their fair share amount.
Nobody has pointed this out, as far as I know. They aren’t being targeted (for the most part? I can’t speak to their previous series without context). I’m trying to remain objective, but I understand that I’m coming from a biased Cardinals fan point of view. But also Mets players were not the only batters hit in that series. That seems to be getting kind of lost in the shuffle from the Mets side I think. I don’t think any of the HBPs were intentional. But Cardinals players did in fact get hit. Here’s a third HBP reel of the last series.
Just look at Canha’s HBP if you want an example of how getting hit by a pitch can be a talent. He invites it. Here’s where I’m confused. Look at Marte’s reaction to getting hit. Look at his career HBP numbers. There’s just no way he got to that number accidentally. He knows that his approach to the plate leads to getting HBP more. He accepts that. And the bases are loaded and he’s pissed about getting hit? I don’t understand that to be honest.
More Mets players did get hit, but the Cards did still get hit three times in three games. And there was also this.
(Hey Pete might want to consult Chris Bassitt about how a pitcher can be so off that he hits a guy in the head, since he did it nearly twice. It happens. By Bassit’s account, it’s because the ball sucks.)
Here’s where the disparity between the two fanbases lie. I think both sides acknowledge that the Cardinals HBPs are unintentional. Maybe not all Mets fans think that, but a good portion do. Mets and Mets fans don’t care that it’s not intentional. They still got hit. Don’t throw it inside if you’re going to hit a batter. That seems to be the rationale.
Cardinals fans, however, think that because it was unintentional, the Mets should get over it. I don’t know what the right answer is here, but looking at it framed from that perspective, I get how Cardinals become the villains. The Mets have a legitimate beef. One of their players got hit in the face. Another player left a game injured. I don’t think we’d care if those were unintentional. At all. And we’re just like “why are you overreacting to this, they were all unintentional?” I’m actually pretty sure I’d be doing the same thing Mets fans’ are doing. Nuance tends to get lost when fandom is involved.
I don’t know what the right response is though. Like I both get that the Cardinals’ pitchers didn’t hit anyone intentionally and why that wouldn’t matter for Mets fans. But intent does matter. To use a probably bad comparison, sliding into second base trying to break up a double play. There’s hard baseball plays and then there’s dirty plays. Chase Utley in the NLDS was a dirty play. That was against the Mets right? If Utley had slid into 2nd base like most people slide into 2nd base (pre-rule anyway) and he still injured the Mets player, the anti-Utley brigade would be nowhere near as vocal.
Intent matters. And why Cardinals fans are anti-Mets is simply that Yoan Lopez’s fastball high and inside was intentional. There is no debating this. The Mets announcers immediately recognized it as intentional. They showed him getting high fived by his teammates, and telling us why. This was a new Mets player playing in his 2nd ever game for them, ingratiating himself to his teammates by defending his teammates.
And the beef really is that he threw it in the general direction of Arenado’s head, intentionally. Not that he threw at Arenado. And come on Mets fans. If we did the exact same thing to you after one of our guys got hit in the face, there is no way you would say with a straight face “it wasn’t even close to him.” Not a chance. It was close enough. And yeah he wasn’t trying to hit him, but he was trying to throw a ball relatively close to his face. And that is what we call playing with fire. What if you’re off target even a little bit? We certainly are well aware that pitchers do not always throw it where they intend to.
But that’s the nature of fandom. It was just a perfect confluence of events to divide fanbases in a way where both are right and both are wrong. We shouldn’t pretend intent doesn’t matter, but also it really sucks to when players get hit in the face, which has happened three times already to the Mets. Just from a human behavior perspective, I find this extremely fascinating. Maybe I should have been a psychologist.