I had the incredible good fortune to watch Saturday’s Cubs-Padres game
from the second row behind home plate, from a seat in nearly a direct line with the plate and the left field corner. In other words, I was about 25-30 feet from much of the brouhaha.
(I have seen myself in the ESPN replays of the brawl. I’m wearing a light green polo shirt and I’m right behind the woman with the white shirt and the white hat who appears in the left part of the screen just after Derrek Lee throws the first punch.)
A few thoughts on a remarkable game as seen from a perspective I won't enjoy again anytime soon:
• At 6-foot-10, 260 pounds, Chris Young is a genuinely impressive physical specimen, unlike, say, Randy Johnson, who is simply gawky and odd-looking. As the Padres were batting in the top of the third, Young briefly shared the on-deck circle with the Padres’ 5-foot-8 leadoff man Marcus Giles. It looked like a snapshot from Take Your Kid To Work Day.
• Both Lee and Young were questioned after the game about who said what to whom and what precisely set off the melée. I have no doubt. I had an unobstructed view of Young’s crotch and he grabbed it in a most provocative and pointed way, immediately after which the fireworks began.
• It made my stomach turn to see Lou Piniella tumble on his head in the middle of the scrum. The guy is 63 years old. There are a number of things that young men can pull off that 63-year-old men should simply avoid doing because they end up looking ridiculous. These include wearing designer jeans and hitting on waitresses at Hooters. (I'm not aware that Piniella engages in either, by the way.) I would add to the list falling on your face in the middle of a baseball fight.
• I was aware of one fatality in the brawl. A pair of those cool Oakley sunglasses got snapped in half. As order was being restored, Cubs first-base coach Matt Sinatro picked up the glasses, realized they were broken in two and cast them back into the grass, where they were retrieved by one of the on-field guys who normally runs new baseballs out to the umpire. Later, both Jacque Jones and Jose Cruz of the Padres seemed to be scouring the area looking for their sunglasses. Jones pulls down between $5 and $6 million a year; Cruz, around $650,000. Both guys should spring for extra shades. Seems like it would save them a lot of stress.
Finally, what a joy to see Carlos Zambrano pitch so masterfully. Actually, it was a joy to watch all 247 pitches thrown in the game from that seat Saturday afternoon.
No doubt about it-- a 95 mile-per-hour fastball is an awesome thing. So, too, are the 89 mile-per-hour slider and the 85 mile-per-hour curveball. And when I consider, a.) the courage required to stand in the batter’s box against even the 85 mile-per-hour pitch, and b.) the skill required to hit the ball, not knowing which one of those pitches is coming, I find it hard to be too critical of a guy like Koyie Hill
for batting .160. In fact, out of respect for that courage and talent, I am not going to make a single caustic remark about any Cub hitter for the rest of the season.
Okay, not until Tuesday.