Blue Jays plunk Kevin Kiermaier with 93 mph pitch because of their own mistake

·5 min read

Plunking opponents with fastballs is stupid and dangerous. Doing so because of your own mistake is next level.

Take, for example, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier took the plate on Wednesday in the eighth inning to face Blue Jays reliever Ryan Borucki. The Rays led 7-1 in the final game of a three-game series and the last time the AL East rivals will play each other during the 2021 regular season.

On his first and final pitch of the at-bat, Borucki unleashed a 93 mph sinker that hit Kiermaier squarely in the back.

A stare down ensued as Kiermaier took first base. Dugouts cleared. Borucki was eventually ejected. As was Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker after arguing with umpire Joe West. 

Strategy-card scandal preceded plunking

All of this occurred two days after an alleged egregious — and previously unheard of — breach of baseball's unwritten rules. 

During Monday's 6-4 Rays win, Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk dropped what looked like an index card at home plate while tagging out a sliding Kiermaier. Kirk got up and walked to the dugout. Kiermaier looked down, saw the card and grabbed it.

This card apparently contained information detailing Toronto's strategy for pitching against the Rays.

Kiermaier said after the game that he initially thought the card was his own. But when he realized it wasn't, he wasn't about to give it back.

“I keep [my OF positioning card] in my pocket,” Kiermaier said, per Sportsnet's Arash Madani. "Initially I thought it could’ve been that. And then, like I said, I don’t remember what I read, but I knew it wasn’t my card. Then, like I said, I’m not giving it back. … I handed it to one of our other personnel in the dugout.”

That "other personnel" was reportedly Tampa's major league field coordinator Paul Hoover. Madani reported that the Blue Jays sent a batboy to Tampa's dugout asking for the card's return. The Rays "scoffed" at the request, per the report. 

This was a Blue Jays mistake

This apparently caused all sorts of outrage in Toronto. As if Kiermaier had snuck into the Blue Jays clubhouse and surreptitiously snagged top-secret info while nobody was looking. Instead of, you know, Kirk literally dropping it on top of Kiermaier at home plate in front of thousands of fans and TV cameras. 

No, this was not cheating. Kirk screwed up and didn't properly secure valuable intel. He instead left it laying at home plate. 

Sep 22, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Ryan Borucki (56)  reacts after he throws a pitch that hits Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) during the eighth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports - 16806188
Ryan Borucki hit Kevin Kiermaier with a 93 mph sinker on Wednesday. (Kim Klement/Reuters)

Could Kiermaier have returned it to the Blue Jays' dugout? Sure. But he's not obligated to. And expecting him to do so while not capitalizing on an opponent's blatant error is not operating within the realities of high-stakes professional sports. This one's on Kirk. 

But this is apparently not how the Blue Jays interpreted the situation, despite Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo declaring it "agua under the bridge" on Tuesday after a chat with Rays manager Kevin Cash.

Blue Jays deny intent

Borucki denied intentionally hitting Kiermaier, per the Tampa Bay Times.

Montoyo also argued after Wednesday's game that Borucki's pitch wasn't intentional. 

"We didn't want to use another pitcher," Montoyo said. He added: "I understand what it looks like."

And there's no reason not to believe that Montoyo and Walker didn't order a hit. 

But the situation — Borucki hitting Kiermaier late in a game that was already lost and with no chance for Tampa Bay to retaliate — suggests anything but an accident. And catcher Danny Jansen made no effort to corral Borucki's pitch as it sailed inside.   

Rays not buying it

Kiermaier wasn't buying the argument and called it “a weak move" after the game. Rays second baseman called it "bush league," per the Times. Cash concurred that the pitch was "intentional." And umpires didn't eject Borucki because they thought it was an accident. 

Which takes us back to the concept of retaliatory beaning to begin with.

In any American venue that's not an MLB diamond, intentionally hurling a 93 mph projectile at somebody counts as assault with a deadly weapon. But for some reason (unwritten rules), this somehow still flies in baseball in 2021.

Making it all the more absurd is that a Blue Jays mistake ignited the uproar. If you don't want your opponent to know about your strategy, don't leave it sitting at home plate.

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