Johnny Cueto pitches to the Cubs leadoff hitter in the bottom of the first.
On Sunday, in the Reds’ last game of a series against the Cubs, many less-than-ideal things happened: Logan Ondrusek blew the save, Joey Votto didn’t have any RBI, and the Reds lost in extras. But the one thing that made the news was a sixth-inning pitch Johnny Cueto let fly that didn’t pass by in front
of Cubs’ centerfielder David DeJesus so much as three feet over
I had the good fortune to actually be at that game, and I didn’t think much of the pitch. The Cubs had already hit Todd Frazier in the fourth, so I wasn’t surprised when the umpire warned both benches. I was surprised when Shin-Soo Choo got hit in the bottom of the ninth and the Cubs’ reliever wasn’t ejected; I though there was a rule now that said any HBP after a warning was automatic ejection.
But neither of those plunks made the news because Cubs’ starter Matt Garza was spouting off to the media about Cueto’s not-so-near miss:
I took total disrespect out of that. [DeJesus] has never done anything wrong, he just plays the game the right way. If Cueto has any problem, he can throw at me, and I’ll definitely return the favor. I didn’t like that one bit. We don’t retaliate. We take it game by game. Hopefully, he learns to grow the hell up. That’s totally uncalled for.
Here’s a video of the whole comment. The media outlets cut out the rambling, so you really need to see it for yourself to get the full experience of a grown man calling another grown man “totally immature.”
I first found out about this story on a Cubs blog, and I saw in the comments someone bringing up the brawl with St. Louis lo these many years ago. In fact, that brawl was a theme that came up in the comments on EVERY story about this non-incident. It’s like a guy can’t even miss you by a mile without everyone bringing up the time he kicked someone in the head and that guy didn’t play anymore.
I’m not going to be another person pointing out that Cueto was pinned against the wall or that Jason LaRue knew full well what he was getting in to by piling on. I might point out that LaRue’s career was really over already, and that it wouldn’t be out of character for Tony LaRussa to use the incident as an excuse to vilify Cueto, fire up the rivalry, and give them an easy way to let LaRue go, but that’s not what has me noodling on this either.
No, the reason I’m still thinking about these comments a full three days after the batter wasn’t hit is that I’m wondering how long the statute of limitations is on a brawl. That brawl happened in 2010–that’s three years ago now–but nothing else that Cueto has done in that amount of time seems to count when these people evaluate his character.
I don’t like the implications. I’ve pulled some real bonehead move in my time, and the fear that I can’t ever escape them keeps me up at night. Maybe it’s naive, but I cling to the hope that people are defined not by a single incident in their life but by a collection of all of their works, and that the good ought to have a chance to outweigh the bad over time.
On the other hand, there might just be no way to stop people from casting the first stone. Maybe you just have to recognize that self-righteously hating minor celebrities from afar is a part of fandom for some people.
And maybe you just stop reading the comments on news stories. Honestly, where do they dig those people up?