That Mark Buehrle intentionally drilled Michael Cuddyer yesterday is hardly unusual. White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko had been hit on the upper lip by Carl Pavano in the first, and Cuddyer was Minnesota’s leadoff hitter in the second.
Umpire Jerry Crawford delayed his warnings, Buehrle hit Cuddyer in the shoulder blade, and, as is proper when this sort of thing happens, everybody moved on. (Watch it here.)
Until after the game, anyway, when Buehrle actually talked about his motivation.
“When I’m told to do something I try to go out there and do it to the best of my ability,” he told reporters. “Obviously you got to protect your guys.”
Rare is the instance when a pitcher admits to something like this, even in as roundabout a way as Buehrle. It’s tantamount to public confession, and, although Buehrle’s statement is probably too vague to fall into this category, frequently leads to discipline from the league.
Of course, Buehrle knows a thing or two about following Ozzie Guillen’s orders when it comes to things like this. I’ve excerpted this section before, but it bears repeating. From The Baseball Codes:
In 2006, Ozzie Guillen quickly identiﬁed Texas’s Hank Blalock as a target for retaliation after Rangers pitcher Vicente Padilla twice hit Chicago catcher A. J. Pierzynski during a game. That was the plan, anyway. Filling the space between conception and exe¬cution, however, was Guillen’s choice of executioner: rookie Sean Tracey.
The right-hander had appeared in all of two big-league games to that point and was understandably nervous. Even under optimal circumstances he didn’t have terriﬁc control, having led the Carolina League in wild pitches two years earlier, while hitting twenty-three batters. When Tracey was suddenly inserted into a game at Arlington Stadium with orders to drill the twentieth major-league hitter he’d ever faced, it was hardly because he was the best man for the job. To Guillen, Tracey was simply an expendable commodity, a reliever whose potential ejection wouldn’t much hurt the team, especially trailing 5–0, as the Sox were at the time. . . .
When the right-hander’s ﬁrst pitch to Blalock ran high and tight but missed the mark, Tracey did what he’d been taught in the minors, sending his next pitch to the outside corner in order to avoid suspicion. Blalock tipped it foul. When Tracey’s third effort was also fouled back, for strike two, the pitcher altered his strategy and decided to go after the out, not the batter.
According to his manager, it was the wrong decision. After Blalock grounded out on the ﬁfth pitch of the at-bat, Guillen stormed to the mound and angrily yanked Tracey from the game. He didn’t let up after they returned to the dugout, berating the twenty-ﬁve-year-old in front of both his teammates and a television audience. With nowhere to hide, Tracey sat on the bench and pulled his jersey up over his head, doing his best to disappear in plain sight. Two days later, without making another appearance, he was returned to the minor leagues, and during the off¬season was released. . . .
Ultimately, Tracey shouldered the responsibility for his actions, saying he “learned from it,” but the lesson was lost on his more tenured teammate, Jon Garland, a seven-year veteran en route to his second consecutive eighteen-win season. Before Padilla’s next start against the White Sox, Guillen launched a pre-emptive verbal sortie, positing to members of the media that if the Rangers right-hander hit any Chicago player, retribution would be fast and decisive. His exact words: “If Padilla hits somebody, believe me, we’re going to do something about it. That’s a guarantee. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but something’s going to happen. Make sure [the Rangers] know it, too.” Padilla did, in fact, hit Chicago shortstop Alex Cintron in the third inning, at which point it didn’t take much predictive power to see that a member of the Texas lineup would soon be going down. The smart money was on the following inning’s leadoff hitter, second baseman Ian Kinsler.
The smart money was correct, but the payoff left something to be desired. Garland’s ﬁrst pitch sailed behind Kinsler, a mark clearly missed. Plate umpire Randy Marsh, well versed in the history between the clubs, opted against issuing a warning, effectively granting Garland a second chance. The pitcher didn’t exactly seize the opportunity, putting his next pitch in nearly the same place as the ﬁrst. At this point, Marsh had no choice—warnings were issued and hostilities were, willingly or not, ceased. Guillen rushed to the mound for a vigorous discussion about the merits of teammate protection. Kinsler ultimately walked, and after the inning Guillen reprised his dugout undressing of Sean Tracey, spewing invective while Garland listened and the White Sox batted.
Buehrle was with the White Sox at the time, and is all too aware of the repercussions that come with failing to follow his skipper’s orders. (Not that he wouldn’t have done it on his own, anyway.)
He still has to work on keeping these things to himself, but at least Guillen— the league’s poster child for saying far more than he should—has little to hold over him in this regard.