Let's assume Ryan Braun had it coming, that going on three years ago he – How'd he put that? – "made some serious mistakes" that left him both "deeply ashamed" and in a physical condition to pulverize Kirk Gibson's Arizona Diamondbacks in a playoff series.
And let's assume Gibson holds a grudge, because he does.
And so, after going on three years, on a Tuesday night in Arizona, the Milwaukee Brewers in town, three Diamondbacks having been hit with pitches in the series (one in the back of the head), Braun at the plate and first base open, let's assume the moment presented itself.
So the Diamondbacks hit Braun. Missed him the first try, hit him the second. Left a nice welt on his rear end, presumably. Because baseball never forgets, and what you have coming does eventually come, and Gibson is so old school he called his first coach marm, and the game demands this sort of retribution.
The Diamondbacks celebrated, and the baseball gods were sated, and all was well for a jobbed franchise, right up until the very next pitch, which the next Brewer (Jonathan Lucroy) hit about three miles for a grand slam.
Everybody still happy?
The Diamondbacks awoke Wednesday morning in last place. Their record is the worst in the National League. They'd lost six of seven games. And their high-fives are saved for a rookie who needed two shots to hit a mostly stationary target, because he'd had the stomach to go after Braun twice, and because their general manager had harped on the concept of protecting hitters, and because clearly their manager had expected retribution ... right … now, and because they've wanted so badly to be gritty.
Again, they'd been hit by enough Brewers' pitches. They'd retaliated by hitting a guy below the waist, the prescribed method. Perhaps they'd have walked Braun anyway, so who cares how he got to first base? They were loading the bases for Lucroy. (There's a reasonable argument against that, by the way, starting with Braun's .167 average since June 5.)
Well, here's the thing about all that. Why the joy? Why the fist bumps on the top step, when you're going to deny intent later? Was the big show for Braun? For the Brewers? For Gibson himself?
It looked bad. It looked petty. It looked desperate. You really think Brewers pitchers are targeting your hitters, do what you have to do, I guess. Then put your head down, move along, make the next pitch, win a ballgame.
His job title, uniform and paycheck had required him to stand for Braun before, so Ron Roenicke was on familiar ground in Arizona, where Braun had evaded one fastball, but not another. This time, Roenicke's defense of Braun came from higher ground. The Brewers did not appear to be throwing at batters. Sometimes batters get hit anyway.
Sometimes, however, when your team isn't very good and the organization is teetering and old grudges present themselves, the game arrives through a violent prism.
Afterward, Roenicke's voice quite nearly shook.
"He hit him on purpose," he told reporters. "There's no question."
Evan Marshall, a 24-year-old right-hander in the second month of his big-league career, did the deed. He claimed neither of the pitches he fired at Braun was intentional, but no one believes that. The league will make it unanimous any day. And when the suspension comes, Gibson ought to go with him.
There's hard play. There's standing for your teammates and your organization. There's a refusal to bow to a bad season. There are victories to be had within the victories. Even within the defeats. This wasn't one of them. This was just shortsighted.
So, let's assume the Diamondbacks targeted Ryan Braun to load the bases in a one-run game in order to pitch to the hottest hitter in the Brewers' lineup and thought that would work out for them. Let's assume the Brewers had actually thrown at Diamondbacks' hitters ("Ridiculous," Lucroy said.) Let's assume any of this makes any sense at all, and that anybody should have been happy about it.
"I think the at-bat [Lucroy] had was probably the best at-bat I've ever seen," Roenicke said. "After they smoke our guy, they bring in their closer and the first pitch he sees, he hits a grand slam. There's no way an at-bat can get bigger than that."
So, at least somebody could be happy about it.