Last week’s column was about errors and redemption. This is the other side of the coin: retribution.
Wednesday afternoon, the San Diego Padres faced the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field for the last of a three game series. The Padres were leading the series and were looking to complete a sweep after the Colorado team had taken three out of four in San Diego as part of their home opener. During the prior seven meetings of these two teams this season, six batters were hit by pitches. Padres outfielder Manuel Margot was hit in the ribs by a pitch Tuesday night and the injury was severe enough to warrant placement on San Diego’s disabled list. The Padres came to the game with a score to settle. Tensions were, let’s say, high.
In the bottom of the third inning, Padres Pitcher Luis Perdomo sent his 39th pitch intentionally into the left arm of Rockies Nolan Arenado. There was absolutely no question about Perdomo’s intentions; he meant to drill Arenado. The Rockies third baseman threw his bat down and immediately charged the mound. Perdomo’s 40th throw of the game was a glove over Arenado’s head (it seems that Luis may yet have pitch control issues, which is a concern considering the size of the All-Star’s approaching melon.) Arenado took a swing at Perdomo, and the benches of both teams cleared as all players joined the first violent melee of the season.
In the end, Perdomo and Arenado both earned five game suspension, and Geraldo Parra and Buddy Baumann each received a one game suspension. Parra entered the fray by appearing to make a half-jump/half piggyback ride on one of his Rockies teammates. As expected, all players involved have appealed the suspensions. Based on how Parra joined in the fight, I believe he should be pardoned just for his creative use of transportation.
That evening at Fenway Park, similar events played out between long-time rivals the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The night before, Boston had crushed the Bronx Bombers 14-1. The Yankees are a proud, arrogant team. They wear their 27 World Series rings with swagger and are not used to being shown up so decidedly. Simply put, they do not like to lose. The Yankees came to Fenway that night to make a point. In the top of the third inning, Yankees Designated Hitter Tyler Austin ran from first to second as part of a Tyler Wade’s bunt attempt. Austin was forced out on a throw to Brock Holt, but he spiked the shortstop in the right calf in the process. Holt turned around and sprayed Austin with a number of unfriendly words. The two faced off and were soon separated by the others.
In the top of the seventh inning, with the Yankees now leading 10-6, Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly stared at Austin with a 2-1 count, reared back and sent a pitch, directly into the left side of Austin’s back. Austin immediately pounded his bat into the plate, threw down his helmet, and charged Kelly on the mound. The right-hander shoved him down and delivered a series of punches that bloodied the hitter’s lip as the benches cleared. Kelly received a six game suspension and Austin received five games. As was the case for the Padres/Rockies fight, a number of other players received various fines for their actions.
Retribution is one of those unwritten rules in Baseball. You do something like spike a player, you are gonna get plunked. There are things you just don’t do and the game has a self-regulating tendency outside of the formal rules. Austin knew what was coming. If not this game, it would be the next. Once delivered, you take your base and move on. Balance has been regained and the game can continue. With these charges of the mounds and the resulting team-wide skirmishes, these rivalries will likely continue throughout the season. You can fully expect to see more friction between these two sets of teams.
Sometimes, retribution finds itself in other forms. In game 3 of the 2015 World Series, New York Mets pitcher Noah “Thor” Syndergaard threw an opening brushback pitch at Kansas City Royals hitter Alcides Escobar. It was reported through social media the Royals would seek retaliation when the two teams faced each other the next season for 2016 Baseball’s opening night. The violence never came. Royals Manager Ned Yost dispelled the rumor prior to the game, saying, “We haven’t even thought about it. Our retribution was winning the World Series.” I like that. Raising their World Series flag in their stadium in front of the Mets was enough. Balance had been achieved, and more importantly, no one got hurt.
The best thing out of the whole Royals revenge rumor was Yost’s later comment to writers assembled in the room that “Some buffoon writes something and you guys are gonna jump like little monkeys in a cage for a peanut.” This has absolutely nothing to do with retribution, I just like the quote and my baseball watching dog, Brubeck and I both love peanuts. But, I digress.
Early in Saturday’s Chicago Cubs fantastic 14-10 comeback win against the Atlanta Braves, Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. was issued a walk in the third inning by Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb. The score at that time was Braves 9, Cubs 1. Whether from frustration or to make a point, Almora flipped his bat as he took his base. Unfortunately, he held on to the end just slightly too long and the bat went backwards and up. Coming down it nearly took out Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki and home plate umpire Chad Fairchild. I am not sure if there will be future consequences for Almora in the future, but if nothing else he should really pay better attention to where his bat lands.
Weather has been especially harsh on Baseball this spring. It hasn’t just been the Minnesota Twins that have been affected. Of the sixteen games to be played on April 15th, six were postponed. One of the six was a rescheduled game now part of a split double-header between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers. Once you need to again postpone a previously postponed game, you must realize that you have entered into foreign territory.
Minnesota Twins first-baseman Joe Mauer recorded his 2,000 career hit Thursday night. It came on a 7th inning ground ball that ran between first and second and on into right field for a single, scoring two runs in their 4-0 win over the Chicago White Sox. There was a true moment of beauty at Target Field when, after Eddie Rosario struck out swinging to end the inning, the rest of the Minnesota team stayed in the dugout, waiting to take the field until Mauer had already run out. With the St. Paul native alone on the field, the crowd was able to properly honor him for his achievement. The crowd’s love is retribution for the .309 career hitter who has endured repeated criticisms from a public for both his sizable contract and quiet personality. Despite his five silver slugger awards, Mauer is not a power hitter. His best season for Home Runs was the 28 hit in 2009 prior to signing his current contract. Prior to that year, his season high total was a mere 13 in 2006. He just doesn’t have the swaggering, outsize personality that typically accompanies a Home Run Hitter like David Ortiz, or Babe Ruth. He is a contact player who remains, for better or worse, quintessentially Minnesotan in his approach. The crowd’s recognition of his achievement was well-deserved retribution for a quality career now in its fifteenth season.
The Twins four-game series against their Chicago-based Division rivals had three of their games postponed due to a blizzard. Yes, a blizzard. In April. Prince was right, “Sometimes It Snows In April.” Of the ten-game opening homestand, Minnesota has had to postpone 40% of the games due to inclement weather. Does this mean that our retribution will come in the form of a Central Division Championship or a Wild Card playoff slot? Sometimes, retribution must lie and wait.
On April 15th, all players in the Major League donned “42” as their uniform number. This is the only day where this number is worn by all players and coaches. This is done to honor a man who played the game without seeking retribution for the ugly words and actions that were directed towards him just because he chose to put on a uniform and play this child’s game. Today we celebrate the life of Jackie Robinson whose appearance on the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947 signaled the end of racial segregation in the game. He drew a walk and scored a run in the Brooklyn’s 5-3 victory that day, but by the way he played that game, his true victory was a benefit for all people. Yes, sometimes just being there is retribution enough.
Daniel G. Moir is a freelance writer, musician, part-time DJ and baseball enthusiast. He hardly ever misses a Minnesota Twins home game at Target Field, and when the team is on the road he watches at home with his pal Brubeck. He can be contacted at @DMoir5150.
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