On Monday afternoon during the Indians 4-2 loss to the Reds, Nick Swisher stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth for what looked to be a somewhat uneventful at bat. Shows what we know. As Swisher dug into the batters box, Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman uncorked a ridiculously wild, 100 mph fastball to the screen behind home plate.
No harm, no foul, right? Wrong.
After a brief stare down from Swisher, a seemingly innocent reaction in which you could almost read Swisher’s thoughts, “Holy crap, what was that?” Chapman stepped back on the mound and unfurled a pitch that could only be described as completely ridiculous. The 1-0 fastball, again traveling at 100 mph, flew within inches of Swishers’ skull and nearly decapitated the Indians multi-million dollar investment in the process.
The reaction was what you would typically expect. Swisher backed out of the box and started shouting at Chapman. The Indians bench, enraged by what they had just witnessed, was up on the top step of the dugout shouting any number of obscenities. Meanwhile, Chapman puffed out his chest with an arrogant sense of bravado almost as if to so, “So what? What are you going to do about it?” What Swisher did about it was nearly miss a home run two pitches later. He put a charge into a 99 mph heater that sent left fielder Derrick Robinson back to the track.
As he made his way back to the dugout, Swisher exchanged pleasantries with Chapman. One can only begin to imagine what was being said in the exchange. For my money, I’d be willing to bet it was a mixture of obscenities in both English and Spanish, the likes of which could probably make a Pirate blush. The rum drinking and pillaging type, not the Pittsburgh type.
You can watch the entire exchange below. (If video hasn’t loaded, refresh your browser)
It was an interesting turn of events, one that has left many wondering just what the heck Chapman was doing. It’s not as if Chapman and Swisher have a long history with one another. In fact, this was only Swisher’s second ever at bat against Chapman, which makes sense. Swisher has spent the entirety of his career in the American League and Chapman is only a few years into his career. The opportunities to face one another just haven’t happened.
So was this the case of a classic overreaction to an errant pitch by Swisher that led Chapman to retaliate with a brush back pitch, or was this Chapman acting on his own? Did Chapman intend to hit Swisher with either of those two pitches? We know Dusty Baker is an old school manager who wholeheartedly embraces such tactics. But again, where is the motive? It simply doesn’t exist.
I’m inclined to believe that the first pitch was simply an accident and Chapman took offense to Swisher’s reaction, as innocent as it may have been, and then threw at his head. After all this is a man who once somersaulted following a save and had a woman found tied up in his hotel room. Clearly, he’s partially insane. But what great closer isn’t a little bit of a loose cannon? History is lined with eccentric closers.
However, the more important question to ask is what type of carry over will Monday’s events have on the remainder of this interleague match-up. While Chapman did not make an appearance on Tuesday, he will still have two opportunities to take the mound and earn a save, this time in Cleveland. Will we see further hi-jinx? Is it possible we could see some sort of retaliation from the Indians should the opportunity present itself? However it plays out, Monday’s events took an already formidable rivalry and made it that much more interesting.