October 7, 2016
Episode 3: Beanball
This week’s episode saw Ginny run up against the Unwritten Rules and go spoiling for a fight. We also the evolution of her personal rules with some flashbacks to an old romance. The Padres manager wiggled his way back into his job after last week’s PR disaster by pitting members of the ownership group against one another. And the whole team jostled and hugged each other on the field because it’s a beanball war! As always, spoilers ahead.
Jarrett: I really liked the overall vibe of this episode. It felt very vintage Aaron Sorkin—the good kind, that gained him praise over the years. Two of Sorkin’s favorite narrative devices showed up here—the in media res cold open that then jumps back to how we got there, and plenty of walk-and-talks. Alan Sepinwall, the godfather of modern television reviews, has often noted that a new show will establish its typical week-to-week beats around the third episode, and if this is the structure of a typical Pitch episode, I’d be entirely cool with it.
The present-timeline baseballing this week was a game against the St. Louis Cardinals and their hated devil magic. We find out that Totally Not Clay Buchholz’s injury, which opened a rotation spot for Ginny, was due to a maybe-intentional beanball from a Cardinals starter very conveniently opposing Ginny in our game. After some near dust-ups in early innings, there’s the pressure of the unwritten rules weighing on Ginny to plunk the Mean Cardinals Pitcher Dude back—a notion opposed by Mike Lawson, seemingly because of his concern over Ginny’s safety once the beanball war starts. But Ginny goes off and does it anyways.
Meg: I wouldn’t call myself an expert on the unwritten rules, but here’s the thing: Ginny wasn’t with the major league club when the beaning happened. She was tooling around in Triple-A. I get that she is coincidentally the starter the day that Mean Cardinals Pitcher is coming back, but is this really her fight? It reminded me a bit of when Matt Bush hit Jose Bautista to set up Bautista’s fateful slide into Rougned Odor. This is your team’s last shot to exact dumb revenge, but what’s your beef? You were otherwise occupied when Bautista flipped his bat in the 2015 ALDS. It would be like the proprietor of the newsstand next door going after Michael Corleone for shooting McCluskey in that restaurant.
Jarrett: And yet she does it anyways. There is a bit of ambiguity as to why, but I think especially given the contrast to the flashbacks,it’s mostly to fit in. And she does gain the grudging respect—maybe even friendship?—of Not Buchholz just a few episodes after he’s established as a bit of a one-note sneering villain.
The retaliation for Ginny’s retaliation is left to the St. Louis closer and wild flamethrower, who probably had a name but is referred to instead by his sobriquet The Mountain the entire time, and is even more obviously Trevor Rosenthal than most of the baseball analogues on this show. The Mountain turns out to be the best dude of this week’s array of guest characters, refusing to even come close to throwing at Ginny because he’s a cool dude.
Meg: We might ask some questions about the manager’s decision making here. We are told that The Mountain lost his job as closer because of command issues (we’re further told that he leads the league in hit batsman, which, do people say that? Hit batsmen? Batsmen? Batsmen. Hmm.). Both benches have already been warned. Is the Cardinal’s manager trying to get Ginny hit? That seems a bit audacious. You’re essentially saying to the home plate ump, “Look, I know we’ve all been a little testy today and you’d prefer this remain at gnashing-of-teeth levels of hostility, but nah. Let’s crank it up in here.” Maybe he knows that The Mountain is actually a gentle giant, and doesn’t want to hit Ginny or anyone else. Maybe he knows this is The Mountain’s secret pain, a battle of character and command he’s perpetually losing. Maybe he’s sweet as pecan pie. But he still can’t throw a strike.
Jarrett: I think we’re supposed to be left with the idea that The Mountain would leave plausible deniability because he leads the league in hit... batters, right? Or maybe he really wanted to hurt Ginny, but this doesn’t seem like it given what we see otherwise. Or maybe he’s the stand-in for Buck Showalter.
It proves not to matter, because Ginny starts a brawl on her way to first anyways because baseball brawls make for funny TV. Seriously, I’m not sure there’s a better moment in the first three Pitch episodes than our Don Zimmer clone (managing because Dan Lauria got himself ejected intentionally to go smooth over ownership) hugging the Cardinals manager while pretending to fight.
Meg: They both had the feel of a grizzled police detective who has seen too much, and is a day from retirement, but has to close out one more case. They are officially Too Old For This Sh*t. It was perfect. You have to imagine in every baseball “brawl” there are always a couple gentle souls who look around and think, “Seriously, AGAIN?!” I always imagine them being bullpen arms who have to look like they’re running really fast even though they’re mostly moving laterally so as to avoid the actual conflict.
Jarrett: I got a very strong Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon vibe from these two, absolutely.
Meg: That Ginny is finally able to gain some acceptance by leaning into some of the more retrograde parts of the game seems true to life. Fist bump, Not Buchholz! And there is an assertion of equality here. Sure it’s dumb to bean someone on purpose, and sure there was perhaps an opportunity to find, as Mike says, another way. But Ginny is basically telling her teammates that not only will she be a knucklehead along with the rest of them, she’ll be the one to decide when and how and where she’s a knucklehead. Now, what will be interesting to see is the next adjustment. Ginny is playing the clubhouse culture game by trying to blend, and be one of the guys. That’s a way to do it, to beat the boys at their own game. But what happens if she decides the unwritten rules are stupid? I’m excited to continue to see the evolution of a woman in the big leagues, which probably means something different some of the time.
Jarrett: There’s a sharp contrast this week between our dear Mike Lawson and Cardinals catcher Trevor Davis, who we find out in this week’s flashbacks is also Ginny’s ex. I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to think Trevor is a jerk, but he ends up coming across like a real jerk, stringing Ginny along for some time with a promise that he’s quitting baseball and going back to college when he had no apparent intention to do so. I fear this character is probably recurring—oh god he’s totally going to end up on the Padres as Lawson’s replacement, isn’t he?
Meg: I’d be surprised. I don’t think Trevor is a purposeful jerk, so much as a clueless jerk. For him, it’s just some dates and baseball. Everyone likes dates and baseball! For Ginny, it’s establishing her code and her rules, and knowing that her code’s consistency will be the means by which she is able to rebuff advances. “I don’t date ballplayers. Go away.” Any inconsistencies in that code will be seen as giving license to all sorts of bad behavior. That is wildly unfair, but she’s probably right to anticipate the perception it would create. Trevor does end up giving her pretty solid advice in the end: she has to let someone in because navigating all of this by herself will be as challenging as it lonely.
Jarrett: And the person she decides to let in is Mike Lawson, because of course it is. He’s Mike Lawson! The shot of him pantomiming a golf swing at the end of this was perfect. I hope they never date.
Meg: May they never date, and may next week’s episode be just as good. Beanball!
Meg Rowley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @megrowler