Last night, Masahiro Tanaka faced Mike Napoli three times. Tanaka owned the first two, striking out Boston’s master of the Three True Outcomes with his trademark splitter.¬†It looked as if their third meeting, with the score knotted at 1 in the 9th inning, would go much the same. Masahiro had Napoli on the ropes with a two strike count.
Perhaps Masahiro felt the need to prove himself as a bona fide MLB pitcher and not some exotic sideshow. Perhaps he heard the voice of Major League‘s Lou Brown in his head.
Whatever the reason, Tanaka forgot his curveball and indeed threw Napoli a heater… which the slugger promptly sent flying into next Tuesday.
After his home run trot, cameras caught Napoli saying, “What an idiot… He struck me out twice on a splitter!” as he stepped into the Boston dugout. The following vine (courtesy of Stpehen Fox) captures the moment nicely:
Like hammer to the kneecap, baseball scribes instantly burped up columns about, “How the game is supposed to be played,” and “Playing with class,” decrying Napoli for such a desecration of their hallowed game.
The truth, though, is Tanaka IS an idiot. He had¬†Napoli dead to rights. If Tanaka doesn’t shake off McCann’s sign and throws his splitter, Napoli pulls a Napoli and strikes out. Instead, Tanaka decided to serve up a fatty-boom-batty home run ball and got the punch in the mouth he deserved.
So let’s all take a breath. Though¬†openly calling someone an idiot is boneheaded, it’s hard to argue with Napoli’s logic on this one.