Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates Brawl Again, Drawing Suspensions: An Ejection Inspection Special

Reds Pirates
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 30: Amir Garrett #50 (middle white shirt with out hat) of the Cincinnati Reds engages members of the Pittsburgh Pirates during a bench clearing altercation in the 9th inning of the game at Great American Ball Park on July 30, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Reds Pirates Brawl in Cincinnati

Tuesday night, amidst trade deadline news, one of the ugliest brawls in recent memory erupted in Cincinnati. Old foes settled an old score – one that has been brewing since their first brawl April 7th in Pittsburgh. It was not a “standard” baseball bench-clearer, either. This was not a bunch of guys standing around yelling at each other or holding one or two players back. No, this was an all-out donnybrook with punches, shoves, and tackles. In all, the umpiring crew ejected six people — four Pirates and two Reds — for their roles in the fracas. Adding to the three who had already been tossed, this made nine total ejections for the game. Ejection Inspection, of course, had to do a special analysis of this brouhaha.

Of the nine who hit the showers early, there were seven players, one manager, and a bench coach. Five are Reds, and four are Pirates. However, only two Reds ejections came due to involvement in the melee. One of the others came from arguing balls and strikes, and the remaining two came from intentionally throwing at a batter after team warnings had been issued. Major League Baseball announced Thursday that six players and both managers have been suspended. This game had so many ejections that it will not appear in Week 18’s Ejection Inspection, but in its own column.

Ejection Table

Inn. Name Pos Umpire Pos Reason
B8 David Bell Mgr Larry Vanover HP Arguing balls/strikes
T9 Jared Hughes P Larry Vanover HP Intentionally throwing at batter
T9 Freddie Benavides BeC Larry Vanover HP Violation of team warning
T9 Trevor Williams P Larry Vanover HP Bench jockeying an opponent
T9 Amir Garrett P Larry Vanover HP Fighting
T9 Yasiel Puig RF Larry Vanover HP Fighting
T9 Chris Archer P Larry Vanover HP Fighting
T9 Kyle Crick P Larry Vanover HP Fighting
T9 Francisco Cervelli C Larry Vanover HP Entering field while on injured list


Beginning of the Feud

Reds second baseman Derek Dietrich’s antics on April 7th sparked this entire feud. In that game, he hit a tape measure home run to right center off Chris Archer that bounced off the sidewalk and landed in the Allegheny River. He stood in the batter’s box watching the ball until it left the stadium. Then he ran the bases.

People can debate this all they want, but baseball has operated for over a century with the etiquette of treating everyone with respect. The motif through the “unwritten rules” is respect, also worded as “don’t show anyone up.” Celebrating a key play is fine – and encouraged – if it doesn’t rub an opponent’s face in it. When a batter hits a home run, one reward he gets is running the bases without anyone being able to stop him. It is okay for him to clap his hands or pump his fist while doing so. However, making gestures toward opponents or yelling at them in the process is crossing the line, as is standing in the box and waiting until the ball lands before running. It is natural for a batter to watch his home run, but he needs to do so while at least jogging to first.

No Double Standard

Some claim that it is hypocritical for a pitcher to be upset with a batter for doing what Dietrich did if the pitcher claps his hands or pumps his fist after a strikeout. This is a fallacious argument. Clapping hands or pumping a fist after a strikeout is akin to a batter clapping his hands and pumping his fist after he finishes running the bases or while trotting after a home run. What Dietrich did would be like a pitcher standing in front of the mound, staring at his strikeout victim during said victim’s entire trip back to the dugout, and refusing to take the ball from the catcher until the victim leaves the field. No one would appreciate that.

Often, when a team shows up an opponent, then the player who did it will either be brushed back or drilled in the seat of the pants, and then everybody moves on. There are coaches and managers out there – this author played for some – who get mad at their own player who angered the opponent when a teammate gets plunked in retaliation. David Bell is not one of those managers, and by doing so, he is giving his team the message that they can do whatever they want.

Archer Throws Behind Dietrich

The next time Dietrich batted, Archer threw behind him. Had he hit Dietrich, it would have been in the keister. Umpire Jeff Kellogg, a multi-decade veteran, warned both teams. Dietrich committed the action, the Pirates tried to retaliate and failed, and that should have ended it. Instead, Bell charged on the field, screaming his head off that Archer should be ejected. His team followed him, prompting the Pirates to spill onto the field, and chaos ensued.

As that incident began to subside, Reds right fielder Yasiel Puig took exception to something a Pirate yelled at him. He charged back at the mob, looking like he was trying to fight the whole team. For his antics, he received a two-game suspension. Archer received five for his, and Reds manager David Bell received one.

Tuesday Night

Even though the Pirates jumped out to an early lead, the game stayed quiet. However, when Dietrich batted for the first time in the bottom of the seventh, tensions rose. Keone Kela’s first pitch to him was a fastball that sailed over his head, awfully close to hitting him. The rest of the at-bat went on without incident, and Dietrich struck out.

Between innings, Reds first baseman Joey Votto yelled at Kela from the field, saying it was cowardly nonsense, albeit with vulgar terms. A long shouting match ensued, drawing warnings for both teams. Bell then came onto the field and demanded that Kela be ejected, but it fell on deaf ears. Everything calmed down until the bottom of the eighth, and that’s when the ejections started.

David Bell, Reds Manager


Bottom of the eighth


Puig batted with the bases loaded, one out, and trailing 8-2. The first pitch was a curveball that caught the upper outside corner of the strike zone. Puig spiked his helmet then walked several feet to the side of the plate to retrieve it. He put his helmet on his hip and stood there like a defiant toddler. Instead of throwing him out, like Vanover should have, he directed Puig to get back in the box.

Bell, meanwhile, charged out of the dugout, got right in Vanover’s face, and went ballistic. Vanover ran him quickly, but Bell stayed on the field and continued to scream and holler. Lip-reading was unclear other than a lot of f-bombs.

Understand the frustration?

Yes, to an extent. The Reds were not playing well but looked like they might get back in the game. From their dugout, the pitch looked like a ball, even though it appeared to be either in the zone or close.

Was the ejection justified?

Absolutely. Managers cannot come onto the field to argue balls and strikes, and ejections in this case are mandatory. Furthermore, he lost his mind.

Entertainment Rating

This was one of the better scream fests of the season, and it earns Four Weavers.

Jared Hughes, Reds Pitcher
Freddie Benavides, Reds Bench Coach and Acting Manager


Top of the ninth


Hughes’ first pitch of the inning hit center fielder Starling Marte straight in the backside. Vanover tossed him and Benavides immediately, per mandate.

Understand the frustration?

It was retaliatory for the brushback on Dietrich. Trailing by five runs, it didn’t matter in the long run, so yes. Furthermore, that retaliation should have evened the score, and the teams should have moved on.

Were the ejections justified?

Vanover had no choice, so yes.

Entertainment Rating

Zero Weavers. They were mandatory, and nothing followed. Or so we thought…

Trevor Williams, Pirates Pitcher
Amir Garrett, Reds Pitcher
Yasiel Puig, Reds Right Fielder
Chris Archer, Pirates Pitcher
Kyle Crick, Pirates Pitcher
Francisco Cervelli, Pirates Catcher (Injured List)


Top of the Ninth


Amir Garrett relieved Hughes. He surrendered two hits – one that was a three-run homer – and allowed two earned runs plus the runner he inherited. After two-thirds of an inning, game planning and outfield coach Jeff Pickler came to the mound and replaced Garrett. Before Pickler trotted out there, Garrett and at least one member of the Pirates dugout started a minor back-and-forth. It escalated, and Vanover ejected Williams. After giving the ball to Pickler, Garrett threw his hands up and charged toward the Pirates dugout.

Three members of the Pirates tried to intercept him but failed. Both benches emptied as he threw several punches at Williams, landing the first before the two went to the ground in a pile with several others. One of those others was Archer, who had come onto the field as soon as Garrett arrived and ended up on the bottom of the pile. Archer had no chance to defend himself as Garrett landed several blows on his head. After those in the pile regained their feet, Puig shoved Archer into the dugout railing. Three Pirates and two Reds got a hold of Archer and moved him away from the center of activity. After he was moved, he and Reds pitcher Sonny Gray aired their grievances with each other without any further escalation.

Managers Shout Each Other Down, As Do Puig and Crick

Meanwhile, Bell ran from the clubhouse to the field – something that prompts automatic suspensions – and went straight after Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. The much smaller Bell shoved Hurdle but barely moved him. Pirates hitting coach Rick Eckstein and Dietrich restrained the infuriated Bell. Eckstein and Bell went to the ground, with Bell landing near a bat in the on-deck circle. Hurdle lost his balance and fell. Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart helped him up, and then Cervelli got hold of Hurdle and calmed him down.

Bell had been helped up by this point but still wanted to go after Hurdle. Pirates strength and conditioning coach Jim Malone stepped onto the field and helped several Reds restrain Bell, who repeatedly yelled at Hurdle that he was a “piece of (expletive).” Hurdle sent retorts at Bell from behind four Pirates. Crick had helped get Bell off the ground. After that died down, he strangely challenged the much bigger Puig. While being restrained, Crick did a bizarre hip thrust as he yelled at Puig. It took five people to get Puig away from everything. Then Puig started pointing and barking at Kela, briefly rekindling the tensions. About a minute later, the field finally cleared. (Side comment: Kudos to the PA music operator, who played “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” during the incident.)

Understand the frustration?

Yes, all the way around. This was something that had been brewing for a long time, although the Pirates had less reason to be angry at this point than the Reds did. The Reds were tired of Dietrich continuing to be thrown at beyond the first time. When Marte was hit, that was the first time the Reds had done anything to retaliate with a pitch, so the Pirates did not have much to justify their anger.

Was the ejection justified?

Every single one was, yes. Furthermore, during the writing of this column, the league announced the suspensions. Every single suspension is justified as well, although every player is appealing.

Entertainment Rating

For those who like watching bench-clearing brawls, this is must-see TV. It is one of the ugliest brawls of the decade. The last one that this author remembers that was worse than this one is the Yankees-Orioles one from 1998.

Look for the rest of Week 18’s Ejection Inspection later on Thursday or early Friday.

Evan Thompson played baseball as a youth and teenager. He also umpired between 1995 and 2004 and has coached at the high school level.

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