It looks like the Reds have become the new "Brewers." What I mean by that is, there are several players on Cincinnati's roster that Pirates fans cannot stand. The first one that comes to mind is Brandon Phillips. Despite this rather cool and endearing story of Phillips' showing up to a kids baseball game a couple years after he was invited to on Twitter, apparently, the Reds' second baseman is a phony and a jerk.
A second player that comes to mind is Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is probably the most hated of the Reds players in Pittsburgh because of his habit of buzzing Pirates batters around the head.
Last season, in a crucial August showdown in Cincinnati, Chapman nailed Pirates star outfielder Andrew McCutchen with a 90plus mph fastball in the ninth inning of a 3-0 Reds' victory. McCutchen was reportedly very upset, as were most of the Pirates players, but not much was done in the next game because the Reds came out throwing at Pittsburgh batters early-on, and both benches were warned, thus nullifying any chance of retaliation.
Fast-forward to this past Monday night in Great American Ballbark. Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake hit McCutchen with a pitch in the fourth inning. In the ninth inning, with Cincinnati ahead, 4-1, Chapman buzzed Neil Walker with another 90 plus mph fastball.
As you might expect, there was talk of whether or not the Pirates would/should return the favor in Game 2 of a very important four-game series between the two teams. The overriding sentiment by Pirates fans and the Pittsburgh media was that something definitely should be done to show Cincinnati that the Pirates simply were not going to be pushed around. With Pittsburgh ahead, 3-0, in the bottom of the first inning, Charlie Morton, of all mild-mannered people, nailed Shin-Soo Choo in the leg with his first pitch. This angered the Reds players, namely starting pitcher Mat Latos, but there was no payback on Cincinnati's part.
The Pirates went on to win, 4-0, and perhaps earn a little respect from the Reds' clubhouse. I guess that all remains to be seen, of course. The way these two teams have been throwing at one another over the past two seasons, I smell a benches clearing brawl in the very near future.
Either way, it's great to be talking about rivalries and bean-ball wars this time of year rather than what is going on in the Pirates minor league system.
Pittsburgh has spent the past five seasons re-stocking its farm system, and now it appears to be paying dividends in the form of a 5.5 game lead in the National League wild card standings and a competition-fueled feud with the Big Red Machine.