Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Machado, Pedroia, and Respect Won and Lost
I wonder if anyone noticed something during the Red Sox/Orioles series ender Sunday. Not Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes trying to decapitate Orioles third baseman Manny Machado in the eighth inning, but the way the Orioles handled the would-be brain scrambler.
They did nothing.
Machado, who isn't exactly a shrinking violet when it comes to confronting pitchers he thinks get out of line with him, didn't move a muscle toward Barnes.
No Oriole poking his nose out of his dugout hole did anything other than mill around the infield. Even though you might have thought they'd have every right to do so, considering Barnes was sending a payback message over Machado's hard slide into Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia two nights earlier.
A slide even Pedroia acknowledged wasn't intended to be dirty or injurious, despite Machado spiking Pedroia when his feet bumped up in the slide. A slide immediately after which Machado sprang up and, before anything else, reached to aid Pedroia. After that game, Machado even texted an apology to Pedroia, who responded affirmatively that he knew there was no intent.
Sunday the Orioles resembled diplomats and the Red Sox resembled combatants delayed. There'd been writers in between the two games suggesting the Red Sox needed to send Machado a message the sooner the better, and perhaps a few Red Sox took it to heart.
But all Barnes did when he threw upstairs to Machado Sunday was look like he'd been taking lessons in the unwritten rules from the Royals, who'd made a kind of distasteful practise in recent seasons of waiting until the last minute to send messages about games-old, weeks-old, or even season-old incidents.
Luckily for Barnes, the ball actually flew past Machado's coconut and hit his bat, saving him a trip out of Camden Yards by ambulance, if not Life Flight. The pitch drew an immediate reaction from Pedroia, as Red Sox manager John Farrell argued with plate umpire Andy Fletcher for tossing Barnes immediately.
"It's not me," Pedroia mouthed to Machado after whistling to get his attention. After the game, Pedroia told reporters, "I had nothing to do with that. That's not how you do that, man. "I'm sorry to him and his team. If you're going to protect guys, you do it right away."
Or, at least, you don't throw right at someone's head. You do it the way an earlier Red Sox reliever, Eduardo Rodriguez, did when Machado hit in the sixth. Rodriguez threw three down-and-in pitches near Machado's knees. Right then and there, never mind that it was still a little late to be sending a return message which didn't really need to be sent, it should have ended.
But no. Barnes had to try putting a hole in Machado's head. "I would never intentionally throw at someone's head," he insisted after the game, though every conceivable replay you could watch indicated he wasn't exactly aiming away from Machado, and his catcher was set up for a pitch well away from the middle of the plate. "That's kind of a line you don't cross."
Baseball government agreed with him. Barnes was hit with a four-game suspension today. He was the only player disciplined for either the Friday night slide or the Sunday night drill. Appropriately, and insufficiently. Barnes and the Red Sox should consider themselves lucky that four games was all he got.
If even one reporter urged retaliation for the Friday night slide in print, and there were also said to be tweets and other social media harrumphing in that direction, there's no real reason for any player to heed. But if you think you should heed, try taking a page from Shawn Estes.
Estes wasn't even a Met in 2000, when Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, who'd been hitting Roger Clemens like a batting practice pitcher in his career to that point, got coned by Clemens in pretty apparent frustration. Then, in that fall's World Series, Clemens heaved the jagged end of a broken bat in Piazza's direction as Piazza ran up the first base line. Anyone who says Clemens wasn't trying to shish kebab Piazza is blind, deaf, and dumb.
Two years later, in Shea Stadium. The Yankees arrive for an interleague series game, and Clemens is the scheduled starter for one of them, against Estes for the Mets. For more than a full fortnight the sports press and the baseball talking heads around the country were almost unanimously insisting that it was no less than Estes's very duty to send Clemens a message, some even saying the preferable message was to knock his head clean off.
Estes made chumps out of the blatherers when Clemens batted for the first time in the game. He threw one behind Clemens's knees. Clemens himself gave Estes a knowing wink and nod. The umpires issued the warnings immediately. The talking heads went nuclear demanding to know what that wimpy pitch was all about.
Except that the warnings took the inside pitch away from Clemens, who didn't dare even think about coming inside the rest of the day. The Mets went on to an 8-2 romp the real shock in which was Estes himself, batting against Clemens, hitting one over the fence.
Machado did the next best thing Sunday, after the decapitation pitch that wasn't banged off his bat. With Joe Kelly relieving Barnes, Machado hit the next pitch for an RBI double. The Red Sox went on to win the game, 6-2, but Machado banked a nice pile of respect for how he handled his would-have-been beheading.
So did the Orioles, none of whom even thought of retaliating against any Red Sox batter. But thanks to a fool relief pitcher who hadn't even pitched in the set until Sunday, never mind when Machado's slide spiked Pedroia by mistake, the Red Sox may have won two of three from a tenacious division rival — whom they host in Fenway Park next week — but they lost a considerable volume of respect along the way.