Thursday, May 4, 2017

Now the Red Sox Look Like Plain Idiots

By Jeff Kallman

Someone needs to read these Red Sox the riot act. Or, at least, Tuesday night starting pitcher Chris Sale. First, Sale joined Fenway Park fans in showing Adam Jones of the Orioles some respect his first time up, in the top of the first, after Monday's disgrace, when a small pack of Red Sox fans taunted Jones with racial insults. Then, when Manny Machado batted right after Jones, same inning, Sale tried to kneecap Machado with a pitch.

It was like a man accepting the Nobel Peace Prize one minute and authorizing a terrorist attack the next. And this nonsense needs to stop. Preferably yesterday.

Either some Red Sox are still steaming over the takeout slide in Camden Yards a week and a half ago, when Machado inadvertently spiked Dustin Pedroia; or, Sale was a little more than miffed when Machado — seeking a measure of revenge, since he'd been thrown at four times in Baltimore, in the final game of that set — took a slow ride around the bases after hitting a monstrous home run Monday.

When Jones batted in the top of the first, Fenway Park rose slowly but surely in a standing ovation. Sale, normally a quick worker on the mound, stepped off to let Jones get his ovation. Several Red Sox in the field applauded with the fans. When Jones finally batted and Sale struck him out on three pitches, it was back to business as usual and nobody complained.

Up stepped Machado, the next batter. Sale threw right at his legs, the ball sailing just behind them. Asking what on earth Sale was thinking might require first that there be proof that he was thinking.

This could not possibly have been just payback for Dylan Bundy hitting Mookie Betts Monday. Could it? You'd think there was no intent there — not with the Orioles leading 2-0 at the time. Payback for inside pitching to Betts and Andrew Benintendi? Guess the Red Sox forgot Eduardo Rodriguez trying to hit Machado three times two days after the slide into Pedroia and Matt Barnes throwing at Machado's head near the end of that game.

"You get one shot," said former Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell on MLB Network, where he works as an analyst. The Red Sox got three more than they'd earned at the end of the Camden Yards set. They should have considered themselves lucky that the only thing they faced Monday was Bundy hitting Betts's leg.

Machado blew up after the game in an interview with NESN's Gary Thorne, and there isn't a sane man or woman who'd say he was unjustified. An awful lot of Red Sox fans are saying he's not only unjustified but he's a crybaby punk whiner, to use only the most polite expressions bombing social media after Tuesday's skirmish. And they are wrong.

No, Machado isn't the easiest customer in baseball to deal with. But who's forgotten already that, after the takeout slide and the inadvertent spiking on Pedroia, Machado a) bent over to help Pedroia immediately after that play died; and, b) sent a text-message apology to Pedroia, who accepted it and said publicly that he knew there'd been no intent to injure on the play?

By the way, whatever Machado's postgame threats to take care of business on Wednesday, he took care of it the right way Tuesday night. When he batted against Sale in the top of the seventh, Machado hit the first pitch of the inning past the left center field end of the Green Monster and out of the ballpark.

Unfortunately, that was likely to be forgotten. So was Sale's otherwise remarkable performance, striking out eleven as the Red Sox won the game — yes, they actually played a baseball game Tuesday, and the final was 5-2, Red Sox.

So was the surrealistic triple play the Orioles delivered in the eighth, with Mitch Moreland on second, Pedroia on first, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. batting. Bradley lifted a shuttlecock of a popup behind shortstop and Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy couldn't hold onto it. But he picked the ball up swiftly and threw to second swiftly.

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop took the throw and tagged Moreland out. Then he stepped on the pad to ring up Pedroia and threw to first to bag Bradley. The key to the play, beyond Hardy dropping Bradley's shuttlecock: Neither Moreland nor Pedroia ran, thinking the infield fly rule might be called. Even the game announcers weren't sure until the umpires gave the clarification.

Those plus Hanley Ramirez's two home runs — both off Orioles starter Alec Asher, and both leading off innings (the fourth and the sixth) — should have been the talk of the game. Likewise Machado's ICBM, had he not been thrown at in the first.

But no. And Sale acted as though he couldn't have cared less how either he or his team looked. "Whatever, man," he said after the game, when told of Machado's post-game rant. "I'm not losing sleep tonight."

Plate umpire D.J. Reyburn handed down warnings immediately after Sale's throw behind Machado's legs. They probably needn't have worried. All things considered, the Orioles have handled this ridiculous little war with class. Hopefully they keep it that way and don't get any ideas about drilling a single Red Sox Thursday, and after.

The Red Sox? "They're probably going to try to hit me again," Machado told Thorne somewhere mid-rant. "I'm just going to have to wear it and see what happens and if I gotta take care of business on my own, then I might have to do something." I hope he's wrong. Because now the Red Sox aren't protecting teammates, they're protecting their egos.

Thirteen years ago, a fun-loving team of Red Sox, en route a surrealistic run to a too-long-elusive World Series, playfully called themselves the Idiots. So did their fans. Monday night, a small pack of racist miscreants did for Red Sox fans what Sale did for the Red Sox themselves Tuesday night: make them look like unplayful idiots.

Contents copyright © Sports Central 1998-2017