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Matchup vs. San Francisco 8:05 CDT

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Noah Lowry Chris Sampson
4 - 3, 3.18 3 - 3, 3.89

Funny how once you lose the context, the motives become mysterious.

Today is the first anniversary of Russ Springer's plunking of Barry Bonds, and his subsequent ejection from the ballgame, along with that of Phil Garner.

Springer became something of a hero in Houston for hitting Bonds and a year later, I'm trying to figure out exactly why.

Springer has repeatedly denied throwing at Bonds that night. And although Garner pretended he'd forgotten the incident the other day, he was pretty sure when it happened that Springer had been wronged in his suspension.

At the time even I had written a piece in which I claimed that Springer got screwed by the ruling.

But the thing is, as I think back on it, the only read I can take is that Springer intended to hit Bonds. You pitch inside to a superstar, sure, but "inside" means in on his hands, not in on his belt buckle, or in on his thigh. In retrospect, it seems transparent given the locations of the pitches that Springer 1) was not trying to hurt Bonds 2) was trying to hit him.

Here's what JJO had to say in the wake of the plunking:

Intentionally or not, Astros reliever Russ Springer delivered a blow Tuesday night for every major-league pitcher Barry Bonds might have cheated with the help of steroids and every fan he might have spurned throughout the years.

Just in case there's any doubt what America thinks of Bonds, the crowd of 35,286 delivered a standing ovation after Springer drilled Bonds with a pitch in the fifth inning.

OK, then. Russ probably did the deed with forethought, but he was simply striking a blow for the morally just against a known cheater . . . .

I guess THAT's what we were thinking.

A year later, though, I'm not so sure about our righteousness. The context that may escape us as we look back, however, is just how thoroughly the Giants had kicked the Astros' ass the game before, and how well they'd picked up where they left off in the game that featured the plunking.

Springer's message was, in part, you're a friggin' cheater and you're not gonna homer off us, not in our park. But as crude in expression as it may have been, it was also 'us Astros have some fight,' and 'we're getting our asses kicked, but that doesn't mean we're complacent about it.' I would also suppose that according to some arcane ballplayer's code I am not privy to, this is where Russ' supposed leadership was demonstrated.

But if the plunking was one part gesture of leadership, did it help? Did it work? Did the plunking fire the troops up as it had been intended to?

Not sure, there, either. The Astros got beat as badly in the third game against the Giants as they had been in the first two, but Houston did go on to take 2 of 3 from Texas the following weekend. But then, after taking the opener of a four-game series from the Nationals, they lost five straight, including a a killer in 18 innings at the Pirates.

I don't know. I don't know whether what Russ Springer did helped the Astros. Despite what I wrote last year, I don't know whether what Russ Springer did was OK or not.

The only thing I do know is that Bonds in his contempt for the rules of the game and the assumptions of the game has warped things that used to be a lot simpler.