The Brushback!

On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS November 16, 2015 #567 Up Next…The Brushback!

After further review…” In baseball a brushback pitch is usually a fastball, thrown high and inside, designed to intimidate the batter. Announcers often describe that pitch as “high-and-tight” or “chin music”. The intent, of course, is to keep a hitter from “digging-in,” or crowding the plate and narrowing the strike zone. The first pitch in game three of the recent MLB World Series is a case in point. New York Mets starter Noah Syndergaard – who routinely reaches 100 mph on the radar gun – threw his first pitch head-high and inside off the glove of catcher Travis d’Arnaud, sprawling Royals free-swinging leadoff batter Alcides Escobar, and in effect declaring “Batters Beware!”

Segue to NASCAR. The powers-that-be in that sport “parked” Matt Kenseth with a two-race suspension. Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner, delivered stock car racing’s equivalent of a “brushback.” According to NASCAR, Kenseth “intentionally wrecked” competitor Joey Logano’s car at Martinsville (VA) Speedway on November 1. Kenseth appealed, but lost; his suspension is throughout the remainder of 2015.
NASCAR, somewhat like MLB, has usually taken the “boys will be boys” approach to such incidents. Wait just a dang minute! Those stock cars are racing at 170 MPH-plus and the driver’s life is at stake. The same could be said for MLB, since fastballs are traveling at 95-100 mph near a batter’s head. Some may say, “Well, c’mon, man, it is what it is!” But just wait till a death occurs, and then see how these sports change. BTW, it’s not an “all boys” situation either. Pioneer female race car driver Danica Patrick was fined $50,000 for ramming David Gilliland’s car during a yellow flag (a caution period) in that same Martinsville’s race.

It’s about retaliation! Earlier this year at Kansas speedway, Logano had caused a dramatic spin-out on Kenseth’s car as he was leading with four laps to go. And earlier in Martinsville, Gilliland had sent Patrick into the wall at Turn 3. Thus, the retaliation. In MLB it’s practically an unwritten rule: you plunk of our guys, we’re going after one of yours. This is not healthy for the players, or the sport itself. And the eye-for-an-eye attitude of the pros tickles down through college and high school ranks, all the way down to youth little leagues. NASCAR officials have been criticized for their inconsistent enforcement of hazy rules. Maybe recent events are a wake-up call!

Will you support a closer look at these practices that endanger the lives of others?

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Jim’s new book “Another 101 Best of TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS will be available by end of November. The book will sell for $20. (shipping included) Please email him with requests for autographed copies.

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