I love fights.
People criticize the proliferation of fights in the NHL, but what they don't realize is that, on top of the fact that most fights follow from a gentleman's agreement, there's also a strategy involved. Fights evoke emotion. Fights lift the bench. If a team is trailing or simply not playing very well, oftentimes you'll see one of its players drop the gloves in an effort to get everyone amped up and back in the game. Chances are good that, if a guy on a struggling team goes out there and fights, afterwards the rest of the guys are going to be skating a little harder.
No doubt this line of thinking crossed Richie's mind somewhere between waking up and charging the mound like a crazy idiot. You'd have a hard time convincing me that that stunt wasn't at least a little bit premeditated, and that it wasn't at least a little bit intended to light a spark under a team that, lately, has been playing like crap. I'm sure a big part of it was also just the boiling over of personal frustration, but the fact that Richie ran out there on a pitch that wasn't even particularly close tells me that he was just waiting for the opportunity to send a message. A message to the Rangers, a message to the AL, and - more than anything else - a message to the Mariners.
But here's the problem with that: baseball isn't hockey. Hockey is a sport that feeds off of emotion. It's blatantly obvious when a team is trying and when it's just going through the motions. Bad teams beat good ones all the time because they skate a little faster, pass a little crisper, and hit a little harder. In short, hockey is equal parts ability and effort.
Baseball isn't. Granted, if you have a team that doesn't really care at all about winning, it'll show up in the box score, but by and large, the results are driven by ability and randomness. There just isn't very much room for emotion to play a significant role. Almost everything in baseball is done best with a clear head. Batters need to focus. They can't go up to the plate looking to beat the snot out of the pitcher because it isn't going to work. And pitchers can't stand on the mound all angry-like trying to make the batters look stupid, because they'll get wild. These kinds of things (defense too) require incredible concentration. Especially in the Major Leagues, when the other guy's perfectly capable of using your emotions against you. Players can't afford to let their feelings get the best of them.
If Richie wanted to give his team a lift, he should've tried to hit. Or walk. Or just play better in general. Because as much as I imagine baseball players won't want to admit it, stuff like this just doesn't accomplish what people think it does. It's a fantastic way to vent and just go completely insane for a few minutes - and we can all understand the need to do that from time to time - but in terms of actually helping a team improve, I'm not seeing it. I'm not seeing how that would work. It certainly didn't work tonight. It was entertaining, and it probably helped Richie blow off some steam, but I don't see how this sort of thing could shake the Mariners into playing better baseball. To do that, they need to score more runs. And to do that, they need to be better at hitting. They're bad at hitting, and no amount of hilarious helmet tosses is going to make them improve.
Biggest Contribution: Richie Sexson, +2.1%
Biggest Suckfest: Felix, -22.3%
Most Important AB: Lopez double play, -7.7%
Most Important Pitch: Kinsler homer, -13.3%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -23.9%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -27.3%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +1.2%
(What is this chart?)
I guess I probably shouldn't try to think rationally about this whole thing since there's nothing more irrational in baseball than the bench-clearing brawl. Teammates see a guy charge the mound and five seconds later they're out there pinning the other team's backup catcher in a chokehold while getting sucker-punched from the side by a veteran LOOGY. It doesn't really make that much sense if you think about it. It's not just the players, either. Look at the opposing fan bases during a brawl and they'll be spitting some of the most potent venom you've ever heard. When a brawl first breaks out, even the most objective, even-handed fan on the planet is going to be pointing at the backup catcher screaming "THAT GUY'S A BITCH!" They're just insanely polarizing. From the field to the broadcast booth to people's living rooms around the country, a brawl truly makes a baseball game feel like an us-versus-them battle royale. It's energizing, but it's also really, really ugly (update: and clumsy. Holy crap, the clumsiness. Baseball players should not be allowed to try to throw punches) (update #2: well I guess technically they're not allowed to throw punches). A big part of me is thankful they're as rare as they are. I couldn't deal with that level of hate on a more frequent basis.
The game? Felix was bad. Richie was kind of stupid. Kason Gabbard got his ass beat, albeit not on the scoreboard, which would've been way better. Mark Lowe was awesome. We lost again. If I'm starting to sound like a broken record, that's weird, because I'm typing, you freak.