Category Archives: Retaliation

Courtroom Meets Code in the World of Civil Action Over Baseball Fights: Jose Offerman, Come on Down!

OffermanSo now we know what the legal community thinks of the unwritten rules.

In 2007, while playing for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League, Jose Offerman charged the mound. While there, he hit used his bat to hit pitcher Matt Beech in the hand and catcher Jonathan Nathans in the head. (See photos of the incident here.) Now Offerman is on civil trial for damages borne from assault, and people on both sides of the courtroom are trying to explain in legal terms just what happened.

It started when Beech, pitching for the Bridgeport Bluefish, hit Offerman with a pitch. Beech, testifying in a deposition read on Monday, claimed that it was unintentional. “I threw him a cut fastball that hit him in the lower leg,” he said. “I did not hit him intentionally. If I had wanted to hit him, I would have aimed a fastball at his ribs, so no one else would get hurt.”

While it’s unclear how hitting Offerman in the ribs rather than the leg would keep others from getting hurt, Beech added that such information should be assumed knowledge for all ballplayers. Offerman, whose 15-year big league career included stops with seven different teams and two All-Star appearances, is counted among that group.

Nathans claims that his own aspiring baseball career was ruined, and is suing Offerman and the Ducks for $4.8 million. I’m sure the fact that he is now an attorney has nothing to do with it. (Not to mention the fact that a 28-year-old hitting .200 in the Atlantic League—who was playing with his seventh independent team since topping out at the Double-A level of the Red Sox system three years earlier—isn’t usually what one would call a lock for future big league riches.)

The Code came into play again when Joseph Klein, the Atlantic League’s executive director, stated for the record that “plunking is wrong.” Klein has a long and storied career in all levels of baseball, so his opinion is not uninformed. “Hitting players intentionally is not part of the game, as I see it,” he said, although based on the AP report of the trial he did not indicate whether he was talking about baseball in general or the Atlantic League specifically.

One thing that Klein was not prepared for, he said, was intervention by law enforcement, who arrested Offerman after the attack. “I was stupefied and dumbfounded,” the exec said. “What happens between the lines should stay between the lines.” In that, at least, the Code agrees: there are numerous ways to respond to a given grievance from within the field of play. (Then again, the unwritten rules also mandate that under no circumstances should a bat have to be entered as a piece of evidence in a potential trial, primarily because it has no business being anywhere on the field but the batter’s box or on-deck circle.)

Offerman was suspended indefinitely by the league, which has yet to rescind the ruling (mostly because Offerman hasn’t asked them to). Official charges were dropped after the player agreed to two years’ probation and rehabilitation. (It didn’t work. In 2010, while managing the Licey Tigers of the Dominican Republic Winter League, Offerman punched an umpire and was suspended for what ended up being three years.)

While it’s tragic to see a person sufficiently disturbed to go after somebody with a bat, it’s interesting to see a baseball pro discount, as Klein did, that the idea of hitting batters intentionally even exists. He did, however, discuss a time during his own playing career when such a thing happened to him:

Klein recalled that he, too, was the victim of a plunking.

“The ball hit me right here,” he said, pointing to the base of his skull, just behind his ear.

Smith asked whether Klein ever retaliated for that pitch.

Klein replied that although he didn’t charge the mound, the pitcher did get his comeuppance. Klein said he smacked a line drive back at the very same pitcher the next time he faced him 10 days later.

“Hit him right in the shin,” Klein said with a mischievous smile. “I was sort of happy about that.”

As for Offerman, I love him for the fact that, unrelated to any of this, he led the National League in errors three out of four seasons (nearly doubling up his closest competition in 1992) with the Dodgers. This led Jay Leno to joke that Offerman was so upset over his fielding that he decided to end it all and jumped in front of a bus. It went right through his legs.

If that’s not worth a few bucks whatever civil judgment is about to be rendered, I don’t know what is.

 

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Ron Roenicke Does Not Like Hitting Guys on Purpose

On Thursday, Ron Roenicke explained why his team did not seek to escalate the budding feud with Arizona that exploded two days earlier, after Arizona’s Evan Marshall drilled Ryan Braun to load the bases, followed by Jonathan Lucroy’s grand slam.

“How many times we get hit during a season and how many times we hit people, it should explain how we feel about it,” the Milwaukee manager said in an MLB.com report. “We do the right things. We try to play the right way, and I’m not in control of what happens on the other side.”

For those scoring at home, how many times they’re hit is “a lot,” and how many times they hit people is, “not so much.” (The actual numbers since Roenicke took over are 248 and 125, respectively.)

“We try to pitch the way we should pitch,” he said. “We don’t throw at people. There’s a time you have to pitch inside to get people out. Good hitters you have to pitch inside. So that’s what happens.”

This is a terrific ideal, with obvious upside: Because Milwaukee pitchers don’t risk extra baserunners put on in the name of vendettas, Milwaukee pitchers are almost never hurt by extra baserunners put on in the name of vendettas. The downside, however, is a little more nuanced, and has to do with people far darker than Roenicke.

Because as clean as the Milwaukee manager wants to live, he has to deal with people in opposing clubhouses who harbor no such virtuosity. These are pitchers and managers who are all too willing to throw inside with impunity, not just to establish the inner portion of the plate but to intimidate opponents. One way to control this type of reckless behavior is to respond in kind. They’re known as message pitches for a reason, and the ones that come in response to hit batsmen are the clearest sort. We’re not talking about drilling somebody who flipped a bat, but holding accountable opponents who intentionally put your batters into harm’s way. It’s more than just making a statement—it is a physical reminder to the pitcher who started it that such behavior will not be tolerated.

There will also be questions raised should Brewers position players feel that said accountability is not a part of their team’s game plan. It’s easy to imagine a player, or a faction of players, growing upset over passivity from their staff after a critical mass of their teammates has been drilled, unanswered. (It’s easy to imagine because it has been a regular occurrence over the years—players calling out their own pitchers, wondering when somebody is going to step up and do something about all the guys being abused.)

None of which is to say that this is the right way to go. (Or that Roenicke doesn’t play by any other of the unwritten rules. He does.) Baseball is constantly changing, and so is the Code. If Roenicke is at the vanguard of a movement in which the only batters hit are hit inadvertently, more power to him.  The game will be better for it.

Ideals and reality don’t always mesh however, and watching this play out over time will prove useful to those trying to figure out which way the wind is actually blowing.

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On the Impracticality of Hitting Opponents Out of Anger, Arizona Diamondbacks Edition

Braun drilled

This is what it looks like when a plan doesn’t work out.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, angry with the Brewers for a variety of reasons, and with Ryan Braun for some very specific other reasons, finished a passel of business Tuesday in the span of two pitches. The first sailed behind Braun, the next drilled him in the backside.

Milwaukee’s response: Hit ‘em where it hurts.

Things grew heated in the sixth, when Milwaukee right-hander Kyle Lohse hit Chris Owings in the upper back, the ricocheting ball knocking his helmet off his head. It did not bear the marks of an intentional pitch; it was about the slowest fastball in Lohse’s arsenal during a close game, and the right-hander visibly blanched when the pitch made contact. (Watch it here.)

By itself, this may not have been enough to fully rile the D-Backs. But when, two batters later, Lohse threw a slider over the head of pitcher Mike Boslinger—who was trying to bunt Owings to second—Arizona took note. This pitch, too, was almost certainly unintentional. Why would anybody want to drill the pitcher in a two-run game? Much more likely, Lohse was trying to put a pitch in a difficult-to-bunt location. (In that, at least, he succeeded.) Add to that the fact that he grazed Didi Gregroius with a slider in the first inning, and manager Kirk Gibson’s mind was almost made up for him.

The very next inning, he had what he must have felt was a tailor-made situation. Not only were there runners on second and third with one out, leaving first base open, but the batter was Ryan Braun. The same Ryan Braun who Gibson was not at all shy about slagging last year, in response to the fact that the 2011 NL MVP led the Brewers to a taut playoff win over Arizona, and later admitted to have been juicing at the time.

“If I get a chance to see Braun, I got a question for him, right to his face,” said Gibson last year, in an Arizona Republic report. “Is he about rehearsed by now? About ready to come out? He’s probably been practicing at theater school somewhere. Anyway, she was looking at how things like that can influence people’s opportunities and the opportunity to do something like that.”

So: Pissed-at-the-present plus pissed-at-the-past apparently equals send-your-reliever-out-for-some-dirty-work. Arizona pitcher Evan Marshall sent a 94-mph fastball behind Braun’s back, drawing a warning from plate ump Ted Barrett. His next pitch was even faster, and connected with the small of Braun’s back. Barrett ejected him on the spot. Not so oddly, Gibson seemed delighted when Marshall returned to the dugout. (Watch it here.)

The plan, of course, backfired. Gibson strategized as best he could, using his statement to set up the double play in an instance when he would have been justified in ordering an intentional walk to do the same. But his team’s 4-3 lead turned into a 7-4 deficit when the next hitter, Jonathan Lucroy, touched reliever Brad Ziegler for a grand slam. (Watch it here.)

Oops.

The Diamondbacks have talked a lot of late about the need to stick up for their own in ways just like this, and followed up in as overt a way as he could. That’s the thing about planning, though—without execution, it doesn’t amount to a whole hell of a lot.

The teams have two more games, today and Thursday, with which to continue sending messages. If Gibson’s astute, he’ll recognize not only that he took his best shot (two of them, in fact), and that it didn’t work out so well for him. His slate should be clean. If the Brewers are astute, they’ll recognize that Lucroy gave them the best response for which they could ever have hoped.

Even-steven, everybody. Now go play some ball.

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Follow-Through Mania: When Swings Get Loopy, Things Get Touchy

Dickerson swingsSo Manny Machado isn’t the only guy around with a lethal backswing. At least there appears to have been no reason for Corey Dickerson to have unleashed his with intention.

During the follow-through of an eighth-inning swing Thursday, Dickerson’s bat collided with Braves catcher Gerald Laird’s mask with enough force to knock the catcher—in concert with a foul ball that had ricocheted off his head just two pitches earlier—from the game. (Watch it here.)

Maybe it’s Machado’s fault, and that folks around baseball are particularly keyed up about this subject, but on the very next pitch, Braves right-hander David Carpenter drilled Dickerson on the hip with a 95-mph fastball. Rockies manager Walt Weiss was upset enough by this to get thrown out for storming the field in anger toward the pitcher.  (Watch it here, from a Rockies broadcast crew with no small amount of bias.)

The bad feelings actually started Wednesday, when Braves right-hander Julio Teheran hit Josh Rutledge with a pitch that bounced off his shoulder and knocked the helmet from his head. After Carpenter hit Dickerson, Weiss was heard (and caught on video) shouting from his side of the field, “We owe you two.”

It is reasonable to be inspired to anger at the sight of a teammate laying face first on the ground, as Laird had been just moments earlier, but Carpenter needed to be more cognizant of the situation. There appears to be little chance that Dickerson intended to hit Laird; as Weiss said after the game in an MLB.com report, “If you think a guy can foul a ball off and at the same time hit the catcher on a backswing on purpose, you’ve got no clue.”

Plate ump Jordan Baker wasted no time ejecting Carpenter after Dickerson’s HBP, which should have been enough to mollify Weiss, at least for the time being. The Rockies had been victimized by a pitcher using an extremely loose interpretation of the unwritten rules, and that pitcher had been punished by the actual rules. Weiss, though, wanted more.

Colorado got back one of Weiss’ two in the following frame, when, with the Braves losing 10-3 and down to their final out, reliever Nick Masset hit Laird’s replacement, Evan Gattis. Masset was ejected, just moments before his replacement, Matt Belisle, closed things out.

The teams don’t see each other again this season, which would have almost certainly been occasion for further response. Now we’ll just have to see what kind of memory Weiss has when it comes to this sort of thing.

Update (6/17): Masset’s been docked three games.

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Machadope: On the Reckless Pursuit of Imaginary Justice


Machado swingsManny Machado is trying to rewrite the unwritten rulebook, virtually from cover to cover. One day the guy is inventing new things to get angry about, the next he’s figuring out new ways to retaliate for them.

In the process, he’s proved himself to be among the most reckless, hard-headed and downright dangerous players in the game, and should be harshly suspended for Sunday’s action.

Machado’s aggravation with the A’s began on Friday, when he took issue with an ordinary tag by Josh Donaldson, who was later thrown at by O’s reliever Wei-Yin Chen. On Sunday, the young shorstop took it to a new level stratosphere.

Hitters will occasionally come into contact with catchers on a backswing. It happens. That said, it is rare and inadvertent, and because it puts catchers into no small degree of peril—a bat is connecting with their head—hitters who do it are immediately apologetic.

Not reckless Manny Machado.

Machado hit A’s catcher Derek Norris with a backswing early in Sunday’s game, then connected again with significant force on an exaggerated follow-through in the sixth, his bat cracking the top of Norris’ helmet. The catcher, stunned, was immediately pulled from the game. Was it intentional? Judge it by Machado’s reaction. The guy didn’t so much as turn around. In fact, as a dazed Norris was being led into the A’s clubhouse, the Baltimore shortstop was caught on camera smirking. (Watch it here.)

“Usually most guys, it’s a, ‘You all right?’ Something,” said Norris after the game, in an MLB.com report. “But, if anything, I might’ve caught him smiling one time, which is kinda bizarre. Not really much [courtesy] coming from his side today. I don’t need a guy to ask me if I feel all right to feel good about a situation, but I think it is courteous for one ballplayer to another to ask if they’re all right. But yeah, nothing.”

This action is beyond the pale. Pitchers who throw at opponents’ heads are shunned by their peers—even those peers who believe in retaliatory pitches. Every one of them cites the idea that aiming a fastball above a player’s shoulders is the quickest way to end a career. Norris is no Tony Conigliaro in terms of long-term impact (at least from the looks of things so far), but a trip to the disabled list to deal with late-manifesting concussion-related issues is not out of the question. That the blow was leveled intentionally, under the scope of game play, is shameful.

Machado backswing

A normal backswing? You be the judge.

Machado compounded matters in the eighth when A’s pitcher Fernando Abad, on to protect a 10-0 lead, threw an inside fastball toward Machado’s knees—almost certainly a response to the backswing, but a mild one. It was not a difficult pitch for the batter to avoid, and it passed unimpeded to the backstop.

Machado waited until the next pitch, then swung and let go his bat—ostensibly to fly at Abad, though it sailed harmlessly down the third base line. It was obvious enough for the Orioles own broadcast crew to proclaim, “Manny Machado thought he was thrown at, and on that swing he let that bat go, intending it to go to the mound.”

A minor pass is given for the fact that Machado is coming off of knee surgery, and is obviously protective of that part of his anatomy. Then again, the reaction fits perfectly with everything we’ve learned about him this weekend. The 21-year-old hothead with the big ego has put some personal and indecipherable code of ethics above the safety not just of his opponents (it appears he’d have been happy to have hit two Oakland players with bats), but his own teammates, should the A’s opt to retaliate at some point in the future. Machado hasn’t yet spoken publicly of some irrational need to be respected, but his actions are those of somebody who feels strongly that he is owed something, despite a decided lack of merit.

O’s manager Buck Showalter pased the buck after the game, saying in the Baltimore Sun that he preferred to let players take care of this kind of thing on their own, and adding that “I thought Manny handled it better than someone with some experience [would]. It was also a good experience for him to have. He cares. It’s a learning experience for all of us.”

If it’s really a learning experience, Machado needs a voice of reason wearing orange and black telling him to knock it off. The Code dictates that one (or more) of Machado’s more senior teammates step in to corral what is looking increasingly like an out-of-control player. That said player is the most talented guy in Baltimore’s system complicates things, but not so much that the team’s veterans can’t bring their voices into the equation.

The A’s may well have a few things to say about the situation when the teams meet again in July, but if things haven’t been handled internally long before then, the Orioles will have far bigger things to worry about than Oakland.

Update (6-9-13): The talking to has happened, at least to some degree. Machado apologized via the team’s TV network.

Update (6-10-13): I can’t see any way this would actually happen, but the Orioles are presenting a serious front: Dan Duquette says that sending Machado to the minors is “an option.”

Update (6-10-13): Machado has been suspended five games, and will appeal. In a less sensible move, Abad has been fined for a pitch that did not hit a batter, after he was thrown out of a game for that same pitch, but only after throwing another, subsequent pitch.

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Is That Your Glove in my Gut, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Machado tagOpponent of baseball’s unwritten rules: The Code exists as a means of allowing overly sensitive players to exact nonsensical macho bullying on each other under institutional cover.

Counter to that argument: Friday evening at Camden yards.

A generation ago, infielders—primarily first basemen, in the process of fielding throws to first while trying to keep baserunners close to the bag—utilized hard tags as a weapon, a means of relaying to an opponent that issues were afoot. Runners, familiar with the framework, understood this and took it accordingly. Should the message skew out of line, they had their own means of response.

Today, nobody seems to know anything. This is the only explanation for a play in which a baserunner goes ballistic after having been put out by an entirely ordinary tag. In the third inning on Friday, Manny Machado, on second base following a single and fielder’s choice, tried to take third on Adam Jones’ groundball to Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson. Machado clearly did not expect the play; there were two outs and Donaldson could easily have thrown to first to end the inning. Instead, seeing Machado crossing his path, Donaldson stayed close to home.

In his surprise, Machado tried to jackknife out of the way. Donaldson thrust his glove at the evasive runner, his only intention being to make sure he did not miss.

The off-balance Oriole angrily spiked his helmet to the ground even as he was tumbling backward. Donaldson offered only a confused smile, wondering why the hell his opponent was upset in the first place. (Watch it here.)

“I was actually walking over there to pick his helmet up for him, and then he jumps up and starts yelling at me,” said Donaldson in an MLB.com report. “I have nothing against the kid. I don’t understand where it came from.”

Which brings us to the point at which we offer a rebuttal to the sentiment in the first sentence of this post. Pick apart the Code all you want, but it’s impossible to see one of Machado’s forebears so much as blinking at this kind of play. It’s easy to criticize those who take things too far in the name of some imagined construct that dictates propriety on a ballfield, but that construct also serves to give players a baseline for knowing what is and isn’t appropriate. Had Machado been aware of this in the first place, he never would have reacted like he did.

As if to double down on the lunacy, the Orioles then backed Machado’s hissy fit as a team. In the seventh inning, pitcher Wei-Yin Chen first brushed Donaldson back with a pitch near his head, then hit him on his left forearm.

This, then, is the dark side of the unwritten rules (critics, cue the echo chamber): rogue justice meted out without regard for merit. But even in this (an act—hitting a batter out of anger—that is patently ridiculous) we can see some greater purpose. Chen was doing his duty as a teammate, backing backing one of his own, even if he did not agree with him, because that’s what teammates do. There’s no quicker way for a pitcher to build respect in his clubhouse. Still, the the Orioles would have been better served had a player with some seniority pulled the 21-year-old Machado aside and, rather than taking it out on the A’s, suggested forcefully that he check himself. And it’s possible that happened.

Warnings were not issued (perhaps to give Oakland a chance to retaliate for a lunatic outburst), and Donaldson had words for the Orioles dugout as he made his way to first base. The game was too close from that point for things to progress from there, and no response of note was seen on Saturday. If the A’s are smart, they’ll leave this one alone, knowing they have nothing to gain by prolonging hostilities. If the Orioles are smart, they’ll have already dealt with Machado themselves.

 

 

 

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Red Sox vs. Rays, Because of Course Red Sox vs. Rays

Papi pops

Would David Price have had such a long memory had it been anybody but the Red Sox? We’ll never know unless he tells us, of course, but the answer is, of course not.

In last year’s ALCS, Ortiz hit two long homers off of Price (who gave up seven runs in a Game 2 loss), watching the second for a beat longer than the pitcher would have liked. Afterward, Price complained to the Boston Globe about the possibility that Ortiz was just watching to see if the ball went fair. “I saw it and I knew it was fair,” he said. “Run.”

He faced Ortiz for the first time since then on Friday, and wasted little time making a statement, planting a first-pitch fastball into the slugger’s back. It was enough for plate ump Dan Bellino to issue a warning, but not—contentiously—for Price to be ejected. Umpires are known to delay warnings until the other team has a chance to respond (especially under questionable circumstances such as these), but in a series as combative as this one—which saw benches empty less than a week earlier—Bellino was taking no chances.

Neither was John Farrell, who argued his position to the point of ejection.

Already upset by unrequited aggrievence, the Red Sox grew further agitated when Price hit Mike Carp in the right forearm three innings later. That this one appeared to be less intentional did little to slow the rampage; benches emptied, with Ortiz animatedly pointing toward Price, who for the second time in the game managed to avoid ejection. (Watch it here.)

Not so for backup Red Sox manager Torey Lovullo, who began his conversation with the umpires by spiking his cap, and ended it by trudging off to the showers. Boston’s third manager of the evening, Brian Butterfield, was tossed in the sixth, along with Brandon Workman, when the Red Sox starter threw a pitch behind Evan Longoria.

(Why wait until then? Well, Longoria is Tampa’s biggest gun, and Workman was not long for the game, anyway—the pitch to Longoria was his 89th, the most he’s thrown since last August. As if there would be any other way.)

After the game, Ortiz pulled no punches.  “That’s means it’s a war. It’s on,” he said in a Tampa Bay Times report. “This guy that hit me better bring the gloves on. I have no respect for him no more.”

Fueling his rage was the fact that the Red Sox absorbed four ejections while hitting nobody with a pitch, while Tampa Bay emerged unscathed, despite hitting two.

At least one player in the Rays clubhouse, however, wishes things were handled differently.

“I wish he would have hit me so it could have been done and over right there,” Longoria said. I just don’t want to get hit in the head, just make sure it’s down below the neck. Hopefully we’re beyond it.”

If the Red Sox are playing by the unwritten rules, it should be over. Butterfield had his shot, and he missed (with the possibility that he threw it intentionally wide with the score 2-1, to avoid unnecessary baserunners).

At this point, however, in the self-sustaining biodome of animosity that is Boston-Tampa Bay, all reactions seem to be on the table. These teams have disliked each other so intensely, for so long, that every slight is magnified and the need for response set in stone. While the rest of baseball seems more content than ever to not sweat the small stuff when it comes to the Code, that’s all these two clubs seem to do.

Update (5-31): Ortiz: Price is “a little girl.” Price: “This is not a war.

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A’s Push Back on Porter, Houston Pilot Pops

 

Porter tossed

Leave it to Bo Porter to show us how closely the Code can be  linked both to perspective and perception.

On Thursday, his pitcher, Paul Clemens, was ejected for drilling Oakland’s Jed Lowrie. The following night, he grew upset when A’s pitcher Fernando Abad received only a warning for hitting Houston’s Jason Castro. Both pitches were likely intentional. When Porter argued that point, he was tossed. (Watch it here.)

Those details, in a vacuum, place Porter pretty squarely in the role of aggrieved victim. Mix in a few pertinent facts, however, and it’s remarkable how much things change.

Lowrie was drilled because … well, it’s still not clear. Porter was obviously angry that the A’s shortstop bunted against the shift in the first inning of a game on April 18. Why he was angry is a point of some contention, which the manager has yet to explain with any sort of clarity. Still, he responded by apparently having Clemens throw at Lowry later in the game, and then had him drilled (again apparently, and again with Clemens on the mound) when the teams met again six days later. Plate ump Toby Basner knew the history, and tossed the pitcher for his actions.

On Friday, Oakland’s Brandon Moss bookended the ninth—another huge inning against the Astros in a season full of them—by getting hit twice. Neither appeared intentional: The first, from right-hander Josh Fields, barely grazed him. The second was a sailing cutter that had Anthony Bass, Houston’s sixth pitcher of the night, staring skyward in frustration after it found its mark.

No matter—after a time, enough is enough. It’s been said all week that Porter’s reckless behavior surrounding the Lowrie incident would eventually make targets out of his players, and on Friday it happened. Innocent as things may have been surrounding Moss, the tipping point had been reached. Castro was drilled, and Porter was irate.

Houston’s skipper has displayed no talent for instrospection to this point in the proceedings, but if he honestly assesses his role in this string of events, and wonders if he could have changed the outcome along the way with an even slightly cooler head, answers would be pretty easy to find.

Of course, chances are that—based on his exiting body of work, anyway—none of those answers would make him happy.

Porter’s go-to phrase through this entire affair has been “Baseball takes care of itself,” and in that, anyway, he is correct. On Friday, Oakland rolled a course correction into action. Here’s hoping that Porter views it with some clarity.

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Throw at Me Once, Shame on You; Throw at Me Twice … Holy Hell, You Really Threw at Me Twice for That?

Clemens tossed

It’s been a great week for double-dipped stupidity. First Michael Pineda, now Bo Porter.

As if the Houston manager’s act last week wasn’t thin enough—he apparently had his pitcher throw at Oakland’s Jed Lowrie for bunting in the first inning, then shouted the shortstop down after he flied out to end the frame—he reprised it yesterday.

Paul Clemens, the same guy who threw at (and missed) Lowrie last time, was again the man on the mound. This time he connected, drilling him in the backside. (Watch it here.) The next batter, Josh Donaldson hit a two-run vengeance homer, but since the A’s were already ahead, 8-1, it made little difference. Porter’s team continue to be the Astros.

Donaldson’s homer came off of Anthony Bass, because plate ump Toby Basner, showing outstanding situational awareness, tossed Clemens immediately after Lowry was drilled.

Lowrie called it “flat-out embarrassing” in an MLB.com report.

“There’s no other way to say it,” he said. “Every perspective, every angle you look at it, it’s embarrassing. That kind of conduct should be condemned.”

He’s absolutely right. Clemens went about things the right way for a guy with vendetta on the mind—every one of his questionable pitches came in below the waist—but there’s no mistaking the fact that Porter’s leadership is fast becoming reckless. After the game, the manager refused to criticize the act, going so far as to justify it as “part of the game” because Houston’s “George Springer got hit tonight, too.”

It’s one thing to teach a young team to stand up for itself. It’s another to overreact to a bogus charge, then double down on it later. The Gerrit Cole-Carlos Gomez affair earlier in the week had people across the spectrum decrying the sport’s unwritten rules, but they had it wrong—this was the incident that makes the Code look bad.

Perhaps Porter feels that his best chance to get runners on base this season is to turn them all into targets by pissing off the opposition with an ongoing display of irrational behavior.

Shouldn’t be long, now.

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Spring Drill Exchange in Arizona Sets Tone for D-Backs

Wade Miley

Mr. Miley

There are benefits to blanket warnings that your team will no longer tolerate opposing pitchers throwing at your players. Say it enough, and back it up once or twice, and maybe people will believe it to be true.

Of course, should your pitcher, under said blanket, hit somebody unintentionally, cries of innocence tend to fall on deaf ears.

This is part of what made last week’s HBP exchange between the Diamondbacks and Rockies so confusing. Perhaps Arizona pitchers are training up their tough-guy attitude, which would help explain Wade Miley putting a fastball into Troy Tulowitzki’s calf on Wednesday.

It sure seemed like retaliation, coming as it did after  Rockies farmhand Tommy Kahnle hit Arizona’s Mark Trumbo in the back—which itself came after Diamondbacks GM. Kevin Towers said on his local radio show last October that “Come spring training, it will be duly noted that it’s going to be an eye for an eye,” and that pitchers who don’t agree “probably don’t belong in a Diamondbacks uniform.”

Unless there’s some unknown beef between Kahnle—whose lack of control has contributed to his never having pitched above the Double-A level—and Trumbo, the initial volley was almost certainly a case of a misplaced pitch. Was Miley out to prove that his team won’t tolerate wildness from farmhands?

But Towers’ statement—along with the facts that Miley has excellent control and Tulowitzki is an obvious retaliatory target—eliminates the perception that the drilling was a mistake. Even if the drilling was a mistake.

It was almost certainly a mistake when, later in the game, Arizona pitcher Jimmie Sherfy—a 22-year-old whose career consists of 17 1/3 innings at or below A-ball—hit Colorado’s Michael McKenry. Again, however, thanks to Towers’ decree, it didn’t matter. The Rockies responded in kind, right-hander Raul Hernandez throwing a pitch behind Jesus Montero in the eighth, at which point plate ump Doug Eddings finally saw fit to warn both dugouts.

It barely matters that Towers followed up his initial statement to clarify that he wasn’t in support of hitting guys on purpose, but rather if “our hitters are being made uncomfortable at the plate, we need to be the same way.” He added that his point was “about pitching inside effectively with purpose.”

Yeah, but still. Damage done.

Spring training is a great place to settle old scores—atone for injustices of the past when the games don’t count and tee times await those who get thumbed from ballgames early. Turning it into a proving ground for new scores, however, is reckless. Tulowitzki left that game and had not returned to the lineup as of the end of last week.

If Miley was throwing at Tulo, he was out of line. If the pitch legitimately got away from him, he can thank his GM for causing the rest of us to doubt that to be true.

(H/T to Troy Renck, who shares his own terrific insight at the Denver Post.)

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