In sports, rivalries can bring a seemingly meaningless regular season game to a fever pitch. Steelers and Ravens, Penguins and Flyer, and for the Pirates well…
In theory the Pittsburgh Pirates main rivals should be the Chicago Cubs, the two teams have played each other more times then any other two teams in MLB history! Also in more recent history both franchises have found success at similar times battling for the top spot in a constantly close race in the central division. Yet as eager as the Cubs seem to be in starting a blood rivalry to mimic that of Yankees and Red Sox the Pirates always manage to turn the other cheek.
In 2015 the entire season the two teams seemed to be on a collision course. The Pirates and Cubs both World Series contenders finished the regular season series with the Cubs taking the lions hare of wins 11-8. However these games didn’t pass with out their fair share of controversy. At one point Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan made an aggressive slide taking out star infielder Jung-Ho Kang.
The 2015 season would conclude for these two in the NL Wild Card Game. Jake Arrieta would put in a silencing performance pitching a complete game shutout and striking out eleven batters. As if that wasn’t enough Arrieta would hit two Pirates batters. With the Pirates trailing by four in the fifth inning Tony Wattson for the Pirates would finally retaliate. Throwing at Arrieta at his next at bat, cause both benches to clear, and Sean Rodriguez of the Pirates to demonstrate his boxing abilities on a water cooler.
The opening series the next year featured to hit players and warnings to both benches and the first of a series of Joe Madden quotes that would infuriate the Pirates faithful for years to come.
So fast-forward to 2018, both teams again battling for precious positioning and we have another incident on Memorial Day weekend featuring the two teams. When Anthony Rizzo unnecessarily slides into home plate taking out Pirates catcher Elias Diaz. Diaz un-like Kang was able to stay in the game and showed no signs of injury. There for the Pirates gave no imitate retribution. That is until the next night, after the pirates saw their lead not only eclipsed but doubled by the Cubs, Pirates pitcher Edger Santana decided to retaliate for Rizzo’s actions the night before. Throwing two pitches inside in a pathetic attempt to hit the batter. Rizzo easily dodged both balls and took the walk. Then seemingly out of frustration for missing Rizzo, Santana would hit the next Cubs batter, and attempted to hit the third. After being warned by the umpire he seemingly straitened out his act, and the rest of the game finished with out incident.
So there is the history, but why oh why have the pirates not done anything about it? This isn’t hockey or football where you can be given penalties that hurt your team during the game, and in both recent accounts the games seemed un-winnable for the pirates when they had an opportunity to take retribution.
Is it a “Clint Hurdle Culture” or is it something more? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and tune in tonight at 7pm, when the two teams meet for the final game of the series which should prove to have fireworks.