I don’t know how exactly I came to occupy this particular beat, but it sure seems to be at least a little mine. One piece dedicated to wondering not if but why Adam Lind maybe visibly farted might be dismissed as a fluke, but this entry is likely sufficient to constitute a pattern. So here I am, the person who scrutinizes baseball players’ various public excretions. Today? Pooping!
“I was warming up to go in a game. I knew I had the next hitter. I knew he was on deck. The at-bat was kinda taking a little bit. As a bullpen guy in these big situations, I call ’em nervous pees, where like I don’t have to pee a lot, but I know I have to pee before I go in the game. I can’t believe I’m telling you this,” Bradley said to Yahoo Sports.
So it’s a 2-2 count, and I’m like, ‘Man, I have to pee. I have to go pee.’ So I run in our bathroom real quick, I’m ready to go. I’m trying to pee and I actually [expletive] my pants. Like right before I’m about to go in the game, I pooped my pants. I’m like ‘Oh my gosh.’ I know I’m a pitch away from going in the game, so I’m scrambling to clean myself up. I get it cleaned up the best I can, button my pants up, and our bullpen coach Mike Fetters says, ‘Hey, you’re in the game.’ So I’m jogging into the game to pitch with poop in my pants essentially.
It was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been on the mound. And I actually had a good inning. I had a clean inning, and I walked in the dugout and I was like, ‘Guys, I just [expletive] myself.’ They didn’t believe me, then the bullpen came in and they’re like ‘Oh my God, you had to see this.’”
Bradley’s story contains a great many details — too many, it could be argued. But after listening to the podcast and reading the abundant coverage that followed (baseball writers: we love pooping!), I was struck by what was missing. For all his detail, Bradley never specifically told us when this incident occurred. Sure, he gave us clues. A bunch of clues, even. But he left the “when” of it as a little mystery, and I love mysteries. And yes, I’ll acknowledge I could have just tried to ask him. I’m a professional baseball writer. I could have contacted the Diamondbacks and said, “Hey, get Archie on the phone, will you?” But I didn’t. Despite his candor, it somehow felt overly familiar to ask a stranger when it was exactly that he suffered this (now) public indignity. So I began an investigation of my own; I set out to solve an icky mystery.
First, let’s review what we know. We know this occurred during a home game. We know the hitter up to bat immediately before Bradley entered the game was in a 2-2 count when the nervous pees struck, which suggests another pitcher or pitchers appeared in the inning prior to his outing. The podcast confirms he was wearing white pants. We know that, despite his plight, he threw a “clean inning.” We know all that — and also that he had some amount of poop in his pants. We assume he is a reliable narrator. What choice do we have?
Archie Bradley made 38 appearances prior to June 26, the publication date of the podcast, 20 of which were at home. Of those 20, fully 17 didn’t feature a run or earned run by a batter for whom Bradley was responsible. We can eliminate 10 of those 17 because Bradley started the inning on the mound. Two more are out because an inherited runner scored, and while a clean inning can apparently include poop in one’s pants, its definition probably doesn’t include runs scoring, even runs charged to someone else. That leaves us with five possibilities. The relevant innings on March 29, April 4, and April 22 didn’t feature a 2-2 count prior to Bradley’s entry. June 2 might have worked — there was a 2-2 count — but three more plate appearances passed between Yoshihisa Hirano’s eventual walk of J.T. Realmuto and Bradley’s appearance. It lacks the same sticky urgency of our winner. It’s no May 5. I think that’s our day. On to the tape.
(Author’s note: It has been noted that this Deadspin piece previously identified May 5 as the date of the likely pooping. We would like to acknowledge Deadspin’s fine work in this regard.)
On May 5, the Diamondbacks were playing the Astros. After getting the first two outs of the sixth inning, Zack Greinke had thrown 102 pitches, and gave way to Andrew Chafin. Here’s Andrew and his mustache.
You’ll also notice, in the background, Archie Bradley, wearing white pants while appearing to drink water from a paper cup. You have to have something to fuel your future nervous pee, after all. Chafin, as has sometimes been his wont this year, walked Brian McCann, which brought up Marwin Gonzalez. This was the wild pitch in the dirt that sent McCann to second and brought the count to 2-2.
I timed from when McCann reached second base, to allow our pooper a moment to realize the count, until Bradley appeared on the broadcast again. It took 1:15. Now, you might be thinking to yourself: is that enough time to think you have to nervously pee, poop your pants, clean up some of the mess (but only some of it!), and get back to the bullpen? I submit that it is.
Because look, it couldn’t have been too much poop. Too much poop and we’d have written about it the day it happened — because, if there’s too much, Bradley either enters the game with a telling smudge or is suddenly unavailable, and Torey Lovullo has to account for why. If he’s suddenly unavailable because of obviously soiled pants, there’s no mystery; Archie’s already shown he has no compunction admitting to accidentally pooping and not cleaning up all the way. He’d have just told us. So it couldn’t have been too much poop. And just some poop is workable in a minute and 15 seconds. From here we’re looking for subtle signs of discomfort and masked embarrassment.
When Bradley returns, we see him consulting with Mike Feters. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine he said, “Hey, let’s go over those hitters again. I’ve pooped my pants.” And then, at the end: “Pew, stinky!”
This is the uncomfortable strut-waddle of poop in one’s pants, as Bradley tries to exorcise its existence from his mind in a way he is temporarily unable to do with respect to his literal, physical person.
And this is his little poop-shimmy shift on the mound, as he wonders whether moving stuff around might improve things. It will not.
Pitchers have all sorts of rituals and superstitions and ticks when they work. One of Archie Bradley’s appears to be lightly touching his butt and then licking his pitching hand. Normally that’s fine; on May 5, the stakes of this gesture were altered considerably.
A small but telling indicator that this is The Poop Game comes at the end of sixth. Bradley walks off the field, trudging. Look at all the bits of fuss and adjustment. I think he walked off the field because he was worried about little flecks of poop having been jostled loose during his bit of work, and becoming obvious or else scooching down and gathering at the top of his high socks. He bears the slow gait of a man no longer distracted, finally forced to recall his circumstances. “There’s poop, there’s poop, there’s POOP” with every step.
But then later, after an inning to clean up, and a quick seventh? No runs and also no more poop. He’s free from the embarrassment. The story starts to be funny.
It’s an odd thing, this episode. I don’t want to make too much of it, but I think it makes baseball players more of a marvel. In the course of discussing Bradley’s red glove, the Diamondbacks play-by-play announcer Steve Berthiaume noted that Bradley doesn’t put much thought into it: “If I feel red, I grab the red glove.” But, says Berthiaume, “I think we all have days when we’re feeling beige.”
Whenever a player has a bad day or week or even season, I always wonder what else is going on, what fight they had with their partner that morning, what bit of meanness they hastily shared with their kids about which they feel badly. Whose death or disappointment is weighing on them? Sometimes you think you can see it in their eyes, but we can’t really. Not always.
As Chafin labored, the broadcast camera panned to the Astros bullpen.
We think they’re in the clear, a bunch of temporary non-poopers, but I suppose we don’t know for sure. We might consider, in absence of certainty, extending to them a bit of grace when they foul up, just in case of an undeclared poop, as it were.
Archie Bradley pooped his pants and threw 1.1 innings of solid work. He didn’t give up a run. He didn’t give up a hit! He’s a marvel. Not for pooping — he should probably see someone about that — but he did all that with only a little shimmy and a slow walk and the benefit of hindsight to betray him. He just carried on, uncomfortable but determined to make it through — and, later, managed to find the humor in it. Even on a crap day.
Meg is the managing editor of FanGraphs and the host of FanGraphs Audio. Her work has appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Lookout Landing and Just A Bit Outside.