David Wright, Matt Cain, and Idiots

I watch baseball because I want to be entertained. For three hours, I want to forget about the big picture to focus on something inconsequential, but I want to magnify the meaningless past the point of reason. I get really fired up about one-pitch groundouts because it beats getting really fired up about politics.

Every once and again, though, something happens in baseball that brings me back to the big picture. Well, the big picture is that the sun is slowly running out of fuel, the universe will eventually collapse upon itself, and everyone you know will someday die. But, cripes, I’m not that morbid. No, I’m talking about Matt Cain and David Wright. The story, as simply as it can be told:

Matt Cain, in a tie game, with an 0-2 count, tried to throw a pitch above the strike zone. He missed and hit David Wright in the head.

Cain was pretty upset. He walked immediately toward the plate – something you almost never see after a batter gets hit. Cain crouched down, watched the motionless Wright slowly start to stir, and eventually went over to talk with the MetsBrian Schneider.

The big picture part of this isn’t that people get hurt playing sports. We all kind of get that, and when it happens, all we can do is wish for a speedy recovery for someone like David Wright. No, what jolted me out of my sportscentric fog was my unfortunate fascination with the reaction to the injury.

Note: Though the rest of this post deals with the reactions of Mets fans, I’m fully aware that if the situation were reversed, the only thing that would change would be the affiliation of the people making the comments. This isn’t a post suggesting that Met fans are morons. This is a post suggesting that people are morons.

My new theory: Everything in the world can be described in terms of a "pyramid of stupid." At the top of the pyramid – the point – you’ll find the logical folks. The people who can reconcile the random events of life with a mind designed to attribute blame.

Man, that was awful. I hope David Wright gets better

Some variation of that. Maybe, just maybe, there’s an implied hope that pitchers should be more careful when they’re going up and in, but for the most part, the top of the pyramid is for people who understand that the unfortunate event is a byproduct of the rules of the game, physics, and the fallibility of pitching motions.

I don’t care if it was intentional or not, MLB needs to send a message and suspend Cain for two starts at least

This was a popular reaction, and it’s one of my favorite illogical reactions: make up rules after you’re negatively affected. When a Mets pitcher has accidentally drilled a player in the head in the past – I don’t have a specific incident in mind, but I’m sure it’s happened – not one fan said, "We’ll miss him, but that guy needs to be suspended for the good of the game." Nope. To do so after the fact is an instinctual thirst for retribution, but it’s manifested in a civil way. There’s no thirst for blood, but there’s a thirst for bureaucratic blood. Stupid and illogical, but quite civilized. The logical extension is to suspend players wild enough to throw pitches to the backstop, or come down on hitters who make a conscious effort to drive the ball up the middle.

look, obviously it was intentional and if the mets werent such pansies they would have thrown one up at cain’s head too

It was just about the least ambiguous hit-by-pitch I’ve ever seen. The count, the score, the importance of the game to the Giants, and the lack of bad blood between Cain and Wright all made it a non-issue. Cain felt horrible, and it was obvious. Yet the overwhelming reaction was for Cain’s head. The boos are understandable – I probably would have done the same. But the people who are legitimately angry at Cain, who really think he did some intentional craven, sub-human act, are legion. They form the base of the pyramid of stupid.

So here’s the comment starter: In which direction is evolution leading us? Are the logic-fearing folks at the top growing in numbers? Is the next stage in human evolution going to value looking at an issue from every conceivable angle? Or is there some value to the base, illogical reaction from a natural selection standpoint? If humans lash out at unwanted actions without regard to context, will that allow them to stay alive longer? Is that the best way for DNA to be spread?

That batch of hypothetical questions isn’t just good for reactions to baseball-related events. It’s good for reactions to natural disasters, acts of war, or health scares. This is a freewheeling, wildly inappropriate and ill-conceived, sociological, biological, and anthropological speculation jamboree. At some point, the discussion will turn to empanadas, Rush, or Balzac. We’ll work in a few quips about Rikkert Faneyte and Damon Minor. And we’ll unlock secrets of the human mind. It should be a blast.

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