Jake Arrieta Stole a Base

Let’s think about reactions. Think about how people respond to things that don’t go their way. You learn a lot about maturity, which is a lot about emotional command. Years ago my stepdad told me he feels bad for people who are angry — anger is an ugly display, a senseless expression, the avenue of the underdeveloped. It took me a while to know what he meant. The thing about anger is how satisfying it feels in the moment. When provoked, it’s almost a craving. The thing about maturity is remembering the other moments.

Wednesday night, Sean Rodriguez’s anger was provoked. One of the enduring images from the wild-card game is Rodriguez beating the life out of a lifeless orange cooler, an act that’s previously sent Rodriguez to the hospital. To Rodriguez’s credit, he didn’t do that to another living person, not that he didn’t try. He was tossed out for throwing a punch; he subsequently threw several more. Rodriguez needed to let his anger out, the pressure having mounted, and the release was violent, paroxysmic. Rodriguez thought of nothing other than resolution through his fists.

Wednesday night, at nearly the exact same time, Jake Arrieta’s anger was provoked. That which provoked Arrieta provoked Arrieta’s teammates, and it was Arrieta’s teammates who provoked Sean Rodriguez. Unlike Rodriguez, Arrieta remained an active player in the game. And very much unlike Rodriguez, Arrieta channeled his anger into something non-violent and constructive. The night saw Arrieta demonstrate his superiority in more than one way.

That which started it:

The Pirates might say that isn’t fair. The Pirates might say Arrieta started it, by previously hitting two of their batters. Never mind that one was grazed on the fingers, and that the other was struck by a breaking ball. Never mind that the Pirates organization very famously instructs many pitchers to work dangerously inside. You have to know that emotions run high in these things. You have to know that inside pitches trigger something, and that a baseball still hurts when it’s going 80 miles per hour. The Pirates were upset, with Arrieta, and with their circumstances. So Tony Watson threw a fastball at Arrieta’s butt. Arrieta wore it, and no one was injured, but the intent couldn’t have been more clear. Words were exchanged more than blows ever were. Within Arrieta, emotions were brought near the surface.

Only 10 times in history has a pitcher been hit by a pitch in a playoff game. It happened to John Lackey last year, but before that, you’d have to go all the way back to 1977. One naturally becomes upset when injured. One naturally becomes more upset when injured by another on purpose. Arrieta identified that feeling within himself. He kept it in its place. While teammates and adversaries milled around and heatedly approached the edge of actually doing something to one another, Arrieta considered his anger and thought to make something of it.

As events settled down and returned to in-game normalcy, Arrieta stood on first base, looking at the left-handed Watson while the left-handed Watson looked at Dexter Fowler. First-base coach Brandon Hyde sneaked in behind Pedro Alvarez to whisper a message into Arrieta’s ear.

The message, probably: take off, if you think you can make it. The rest was up to Arrieta, but he had his permission. And with his anger, he created 90 feet.

Symbolically, Arrieta did what he pleased. Symbolically, his attempt was entirely uncontested. The Pirates had thrown at Arrieta on purpose, and while maybe they didn’t know what the exact result would be, they might’ve hoped for an emotional response that would knock Arrieta off his game. Instead, the only player who lost it came out of the Pirates dugout, and Arrieta very calmly turned one free base into two. The Pirates could do nothing but accept it, accept the micro-defeat within the macro one. Watson tried to pull Arrieta into the muck. Instead he found a path around and above it. Safely on the other side, Arrieta could look down upon his opponents.

It was the seventh time in playoff history that a pitcher has stolen a base. It was done once in 1908, when the flag had 46 stars. It was done again in 1952, and here’s what that looked like:

loes

Incredibly, it was done again by John Smoltz in 1991, 1992, and 1995. Then Cliff Lee stole a base in 2009, crediting first-base coach Davey Lopes. Finally, Arrieta, Wednesday night. Only Arrieta took off after having been hit by a pitch. And, as far as we know, only Arrieta stole on the first pitch after, at the first opportunity. Arrieta didn’t wait to observe. Arrieta didn’t do anything to time Watson’s delivery. Arrieta saw his presence on base was being neglected, and as quickly as he advanced to first, he advanced to second. There was zero hesitation. Arrieta knew exactly where his anger should go.

That’s the other part of it — as good as acting out can feel in the moment, if you’re able to harness your anger, you can turn it completely back around. It was the Pirates who acted on emotion by hitting Arrieta in the hip. And it was the Pirates left feeling most emotional after Arrieta took his base and then took another. In that way Arrieta won both the smaller confrontation and the bigger one, the one he controlled from start to finish. Out of the way that he felt, Jake Arrieta did something constructive and stayed on his mission. Over the course of his career, it isn’t just Arrieta’s pitching that’s developed.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

71 Comments
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Russ
6 years ago

This piece is insufferable. I’ll channel my anger by pretending you didn’t waste the time in writing it.

Jenny
6 years ago
Reply to  Russ

Ditto…about your comment

Tony Watson
6 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

Jenny, I’d like to pull you into the muck, too. Can I call you at 867-5309 with some lewd suggestions?

Cowboy Mouth
6 years ago
Reply to  Tony Watson

Turn off the radio.

WILLIAM
6 years ago
Reply to  Russ

You missed the strategy component.

First. The pitch was placed at the hip pointer location. Arretta’s pitches the next inning were all high, with location control issues, indicating that Watson had indeed caused a hip pointer injury. That would explain why Jake was so angry. One would expect that injury to be much more painful the following day. I would expect him to miss his next start. And for the record, I have 20 years experience in sports medicine and have worked at the University of Pittsburgh sports medicine centre. It was genius to hit him in that location. They just should have done it in the 6th inning.

The reason the pitcher was able to steal a base could have something to do with the catcher having been hit in his throwing hand with a pitch. Remember that? Remember who threw that pitch at his throwing hand? So before you make Jake out to be a hero in this shallow biased article for stealing that base, remember who injured The Catcher in the first place. The man with pinpoint control who happened to throw a fastball at a professional ball players hands, risking his career. The genius who knew he was coming to bat the next inning.

Matt
6 years ago
Reply to  WILLIAM

You’re giving wayyyyyy too much credit to the control these guys have. If you’ve watched Arrieta at all, you would see that he really doesn’t have perfect control, and didn’t last night.

Al
6 years ago
Reply to  WILLIAM

WILLIAM, it’s pretty amazing that you were able to type that whole message with your eyes all squinty from eating so many sour grapes.

Gueston
6 years ago
Reply to  WILLIAM

Also, He hit the catchers left hand IIRC

Logan
6 years ago
Reply to  WILLIAM

Hands are the easiest thing to move out of the way of a pitch. Granted it doesn’t always happen and players get fooled into starting a swing. But to suggest that Arrieta was aiming or hoping to hurt a batter’s hand is like saying a hitter was aiming to hit a triple.

Mikey
6 years ago
Reply to  Russ

Did the author not read anything other than the Chicago Cubs fan page? Not only did Sean Rodriguez say that is Chicago Cubs player choked him, that player admitted to it but said that he accidentally put his hands around Rodriguez’s throat. I’m not going to mention the Chicago Cubs player by name, because he does not deserve the publicity. But to make Rodriguez out to be some kind of lunatic when he had a right to be irrate about being thrown from the game, after trying to punch a man who had just put his hands on his throat… that smells of an author with a strong bias. FanGraphs is better than that. I know its playoff time but come on. Don’t pander to the city with the larger population. FanGraphs is better than that.

WILLIAM
6 years ago
Reply to  Russ

One last thing. Where were all these Chicago Cubs fans at the end of July when the team was 4 games over .500? You all act like you’ve watched the team all year or something. From the posts, it’s obvious you haven’t.

To compare Kris Bryant to Ted Williams? After one season? Are you all high? I know you don’t like to discuss batting average, but 275. Only league average. Not Ted Williams 400 or anything.
Then Bryant backhanded a ball hit right at him at third base. No movement required. And people say that makes him a great third baseman. Maybe he is? But that play was fairly routine for a competent MLB infielder. Josh Harrison makes that play all the time. As does every third baseman in baseball at the pro level, and most at the Triple A level.

cornflake5000
6 years ago
Reply to  WILLIAM

I bought my season tickets last January. I bought into what Jed and Theo were doing the day they were hired. Troll elsewhere.

Jason
6 years ago
Reply to  WILLIAM

Cubs fans have always been around, in fact the Cubs outdrew the Pirates the last couple years when the Cubs were terrible and the Pirates were a playoff team.