Tag Archives: Boston Red Sox

Substance Abuse, NY Style: Yankees Pitcher Puts the ‘Pine’ in ‘Pineda’

So Michael Pineda loaded up his hand with a substance that would only be shocking if it was not pine tar. Why is this of interest? A few reasons:

  • His Yankees are playing the Red Sox, with just a couple people paying attention.
  • He did the worst job of hiding it we’ve seen since Kenny Rogers in the 2006 World Series. (Considering the Detroit-St. Louis matchup that year, Pineda did it on an arguably bigger stage.)
  • He was busted quickly by the BoSox TV crew, who called it quickly and accurately.
  • Despite the fact that Pineda struck out seven over six innings of one-run ball in a 4-1 New York victory, nobody in the Red Sox dugout saw fit to challenge him on his proclivities.

The latter point is the most pertinent. Lots of players cheat, after all, and even more of them fail to see the use of pine tar—employed primarily to improve grip—as even qualifying as cheating.

The Red Sox themselves know a thing or two about the topic. Why, just last October there was speculation about Jon Lester doing some World Series doctoring of his own. Earlier last season, Clay Buchholz raised some eyebrows by repeatedly dabbing at his unnaturally shiny forearm during a start.

Boston manager John Farrell is aware of all of this. It is almost certainly why he chose not to act, despite being made aware of the substance on Pineda’s hand in the fourth inning. (Official lines: Pineda, It was dirt; Girardi, I saw nothing; Farrell, He cleaned it off so we’re cool.)

In 2012, then-Nationals manager Davey Johnson was not nearly so cool when he got Tampa Bay reliever Joel Perralta ejected from a game for secreting pine tar on his glove. Afterward, Rays manager Joe Maddon raged about the impropriety of it all. The Code, of course, says that managers will wink across the field at each other when this kind of thing goes down, because nobody’s closet is devoid of skeletons, and the opening salvo in an accusation battle is rarely the final shot fired.

So Farrrel played this one close to the vest. Lester is still on his roster, after all. Buchholz was on the mound, as the Red Sox starter opposite Pineda.

Similar silence was precisely the course of action taken by Tony La Russa back in ’06, when Rogers was spotted with a palm smudged similarly to Pineda’s: He made sure Rogers washed his hands, and let it go from there.

Joe Girardi is undoubtedly grateful.

 

 

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Filed under Cheating, Pine Tar

1972: Pudge’s Boston Blast Buys Bad Blood

Carlton FiskResearch for my next book, about the OaklandA’s dynasty of the 1970s, to be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2015, has turned up boundless examples of unwritten rules from that bygone era. The latest concerns an intramural spat among the Boston Red Sox, and illustrates the idea that its usually a good idea for ballplayers to measure their comments to the media. From the Associated Press, Aug. 9, 1972:

Carlton Fisk is leading the Red Sox in home runs and batting average, and was a member of the American League All-Star team.

The Springfield Union quoted the 24-year-old catcher as saying that teammates Reggie Smith and Carl Yastrzemski have not been hustling, nor have they demonstrated any leadership abilities. The story was picked up by the wire services and blown up by the Boston press.

The Union article quoted Fisk as saying, “(Yastrzemski and Smith) don’t realize the effect they have on the club as a whole. When they aren’t as aggressive in the outfield or when they don’t show desire, the whole team droops.”

Misquoted?

“I was severely misunderstood,” Fisk said last night before the Red Sox defeated the Indians, 4-1.

“I guess it’s a lesson to learn,” the easy-going catcher said. “But you have to learn the hard way, I guess. Maybe I’m too naive, I don’t know. I just won’t say anything to anybody anymore. I’m completely disenchanted. The story made it sound malicious when it wasn’t meant that way. I told Carl and Reggie it wasn’t meant like it appeared in the paper.”

Fisk, Smith and Yastrzemski met with manager Eddie Kasko for a 10-minute closed-door session before the game to straighten things out.

“As far as all parties are concerned, it’s a dead issue,” Kasko said. “Fisk explained that he was misquoted and misinterpreted and that he didn’t mean things the way they came out. The explanation was satisfactory to both Smith and Yastrzemski. Both of them know what kind of a kid this is. They know he’s not the type to go popping off.”

Smith was asked about the problem. “There’s no problem,” Smith said. “There never was any problem to begin with.”

Maybe not, but Smith was in no laughing mood after the game. He read an article in a Boston newspaper that said Fisk was correct in his remarks about the two high-priced outfielders. Smith finished reading the article, violently flung the paper across the clubhouse and stormed into the trainer’s room.

Fisk’s comments marked the second time in a little more than a year that Yastrzemski and Smith have been criticized by fellow teammates. Last year in New York, Billy Conigliaro blasted both outfielders, saying they were babied by management. Conigliaro was traded after the season, but the Red Sox were loaded with outfielders then. All-Star catchers are a little harder to find.

 

 

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Why Does Dempster Hate A-Rod So? Let Us Count the Ways

A-rod plunkedThe reason the unwritten rules dominate baseball like in no other sport is the space within the game for messaging. The idea that if somebody wants to communicate an idea through action, there is sufficient opportunity to do so—be it a well-timed stolen base, some styling to start one’s home run trot or an intentionally hit batter.

The thing about the latter category is that we are rarely certain when a batter has been intentionally hit.

On Sunday, however, we were offered about as much certainty as can be reasonably expected, short of admission from the pitcher. Boston’s Ryan Dempster, facing Alex Rodriguez in the second inning, threw a knee-high fastball behind the batter. He followed that with two waist-high inside pitches, then planted a fastball into A-Rod’s elbow. Not even a hint at subterfuge—Rodriguez was marked. (Watch it here.)

Which is where the messaging comes in.

The immediate assumption was that Dempster, an old-school red-ass if ever there was one, was making a statement about PEDs, expressing his displeasure both at Rodriguez’s usage and his subsequent refusal to accept the punishment handed down by Bud Selig. Just two days earlier, after all, Boston players John Lackey and Jonny Gomes discussed their displeasure with the fact that Rodriguez was being allowed to play while appealing his 211-game, PED-related suspension.

If that’s what Dempster was doing, he has some precedent. In 1990, Bert Blyleven hit Baltimore’s Phil Bradley because of Bradley’s hard-line stance in labor negotiations which, in Blyleven’s opinion, prolonged settlement of the 32-day lockout that delayed the start of the season. Blyleven was concerned about pension time, did not appreciate tactics which stood to cost him financially, and expressed his displeasure from the pitcher’s mound.

Would it be so peculiar for another pitcher to take a similar tack? Maybe not, but then we hear this, courtesy of Yahoo’s Big League Stew: A Canadian hockey writer says that Dempster had different priorities.

A-Rod tweet I

A-Rod tweet II

This may seem so much more petty than PED grandstanding, but it’s also more feasible—and it, too, has precedent. 

One of Tommy Lasorda’s go-to stories is about how, as a star-struck 14-year-old, he approached New York Giants outfielder Buster Maynard after a game in Philadelphia and asked him for an autograph. Maynard brushed him off.

Eight years later, Lasorda was a promising pitcher with the Triple-A Montreal Royals, in the Brooklyn Dodgers chain, when to his surprise he found himself facing a fading former big leaguer trying to hold his job with the minor-league Augusta Yankees: Buster Maynard. Lasorda’s first pitch knocked him down. His second pitch did the same. When Maynard came up again later in the game, Lasorda decked him a third time.

This time it was Maynard waiting for Lasorda after the game, asking what the heck was going on. Lasorda told him the story of saving up his money to go to a baseball game, only to be ignored by his hero. He concluded the sentiment with, “I wish I had hit you, you busher!”

Girardi argues

Joe Girardi: angry.

If this was Dempster’s motivation, it was not apparent from field level at Fenway Park. Yankees manager Joe Girardi lit into plate ump Brian O’Nora for not ejecting Dempster—he was upset that the pitcher was given four pitches with which to work—and then warning both benches, precluding retaliation. Soon, he was himself tossed. On his way back to the dugout he shouted toward Dempster, “Somebody’s going to get hit.”

(In the middle of this came a highly unusual moment, in which the Red Sox bullpen came streaming onto the field as if to fight, despite no indication that Rodriguez would do anything other than take his base.)

Dempster denied everything, of course, and Rodriguez ratcheted up the best possible response when he took Dempster deep for a sixth-inning homer at the center of a four-run rally that proved to be the difference in a 9-6 New York victory. (Watch it here.)

Rodriguez also provided the quote of the night, when asked about whether Dempster should be suspended for his actions. “I’m the wrong guy to ask about suspensions,” he said in the Boston Globe. “I’ve got a lawyer I can recommend.”

The teams play seven times in a 10-game span in September. If there’s more to be said about this, it’ll be said then.

Update (8-20): Dempster has been handled, five games’ worth.

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Filed under Alex Rodriguez, Retaliation, Ryan Dempster

Rays, Red Sox Bring Battle Online

Red Sox-RaysIn June, the Red Sox and Rays got into it when John Lackey drilled Matt Joyce.

Last year they got into it when Franklin Morales drilled Luke Scott (among multiple confrontations during a long Memorial Day weekend).

During the decade spanning 2000 to 2010, they were involved in a series of skirmishes significant enough to merit an entire section in The Baseball Codes.

At least yesterday the hostilities were limited to Twitter.

It started with a blown call—Daniel Nava appeared to score what would have been the tying run on a sacrifice fly with two outs in the eighth, but was called out at the plate by umpire Jerry Meals—a decision that helped Tampa Bay to a 2-1 victory over the Red Sox in Boston. The win pushed the Rays into first place by half a game.

Afterward, the team’s official Twitter feed got into the action.

Rays tweet

Not willing to be outdone, the Red Sox shot right back.

Red Sox tweet

Welcome to retaliation in the digital age.

Update (7-31): Reader RoadDogRuss alerts me that this wasn’t the first digital tweaking between the teams.  (The tweet, of course, refers to this incident.)

(H/T Bleacher Report)

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Bad Blood Between the Rays and Red Sox? Say it Ain’t So

Rays-SoxAs soon as John Lackey drilled Matt Joyce in the back with a 90-mph fastball in the sixth inning of Monday night’s game, people were already speculating how far back the antagonism ran.

Did it date back to the second inning, when Joyce connected for a mammoth foul ball to right, then dropped his bat—“styled,” in the words of MassLive writer Evan Drellich—as if he’d just homered?

Did it date back to the first inning, when Joyce actually did homer?

Lackey did some yelling toward the Rays dugout after Joyce’s second-inning pimp show. After being hit, Joyce pointed toward Lackey amid a slurry of what is safe to assume was epithets, then got into a pushing match with Jarrod Saltalamacchia when the catcher cut off his path to the mound. That was when benches emptied, although no punches were thrown. (Watch it discussed on MLB Tonight, complete with clips.)

Joyce actually thought that it was none of the above.

“As far as I understood, he was pretty upset that I dropped my bat on that 3-0 swing,” Joyce said in a Tampa Tribune report, describing the count when he pulled his second-inning ball foul.  There is indeed an unwritten rule about restraint from swinging at 3-0 pitches, but it only applies late in blowout games—never in the second inning.

In case there was doubt about Joyce’s personal view of possible impropriety, it was cleared up by what he said next: “I was actually pretty upset myself I had such a good pitch to hit and missed it. I usually never drop the bat.”

In a close game (the Red Sox would win, 10-8, in 14 innings), Tampa Bay settled for a low-impact response—in the seventh inning, reliever Joel Peralta threw his first pitch, to Dustin Pedroia, high and tight. (Even that is up for interpretation; it was a 79 mph curveball.)

Beyond that, Lackey denied intent and was alternately defended by one manager (his own) and criticized by the other.

While the easy answer is that hostilities started with Joyce’s second-inning swing, the reality is that whenever something happens between these teams it’s almost expected. Their relationship over the last decade-plus has been testy enough to have inspired an entire section in The Baseball Codes; between 2000 and 2008, it seemed like every one of their meetings added another chapter to their collective book of spite, and things have hardly slowed from there. A condensed excerpt:

* August 2000: Boston’s Pedro Martinez hits Ger­ald Williams on the hand with his fourth pitch of the game. Williams charges the mound, shoving the much smaller Martinez to the ground and lands a glancing blow to his face. Benches empty, during which Boston’s Brian Daubach dives into the scrum, where Tampa players accuse him of taking cheap shots. The commissioner’s office eventually rules that Daubach acted appropriately, but by the time the game ends, Daubach has been thrown at by a succession of Devil Rays pitch­ers, starting with Dave Eiland—who wants to hit him so badly that, with two on and nobody out in the third inning, he sends his first pitch spinning toward Daubach’s head. The hitter manages to avoid that one, but can’t get out of the way of Eiland’s next pitch, which drills him in the body. Shortly therafter Eiland hits Nomar Garciaparra and is tossed from the game. His replacement, Cory Lidle, is himself ejected after throwing a pitch behind Daubach. Lidle’s replacement, Tony Fiore, lasts all of two pitches before finishing the job, drilling Daubach with his third offering and spurring another confrontation between the teams.

* September 29, 2000: Tampa Bay eliminates the Red Sox from the AL East race with an 8–6 victory. From the mound, Rays closer Roberto Hernandez waves a sarcastic bye-bye to the Tropicana Field visitors’ dugout.

* 2001: Over the course of the season, Devil Rays pitchers hit eleven Boston batters; Red Sox pitchers tag nine Tampa hitters.

* May 5, 2002: Devil Rays pitcher Ryan Rupe hits both Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand in the first inning, a day after each was instrumental in helping Boston overcome a 5–2, ninth-inning deficit. Boston’s Trot Nixon lets go of his bat on a swing, sending it flying toward the mound. Red Sox pitcher Frank Castillo responds by hitting Tampa’s Randy Winn. Both Castillo and Nixon are suspended.

* July 18, 2002: The day after Manny Ramirez scorches the Devil Rays with a home run and a double, he’s hit by Tampa starter Tanyon Sturtze. Boston’s Frank Castillo hits Tampa Bay second baseman Brent Abernathy in the third, and reliever Tim Wakefield hits him again in the fifth. In the ninth, Devil Rays reliever Esteban Yan just misses Ramirez’s head as the slugger ducks, and the ball glances off his shoulder. “You can’t act like what happened never happened,” says Derek Lowe in the Boston Herald. He also says, “Every year, why is it always this team?”

* September 9, 2002: Lowe keeps wondering after being ejected for hitting Devil Rays shortstop Felix Escalona with a pitch. The follow­ing night, Tampa Bay reliever Lee Gardner, pitching in the eighth inning of an 11–1 Boston runaway, is ejected for hitting second base­man Lou Merloni.

* September 27, 2004: Red Sox starter Bronson Arroyo keeps relations testy by hitting both Aubrey Huff and Tino Martinez in the third inning. Devil Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir retaliates by hitting Manny Ramirez and Kevin Millar in consecutive at-bats an inning later, emptying the benches. Kazmir is ejected.

* April 22–24, 2005: Five batters are hit in the first two games of a three-game series between the teams. In the third game, Arroyo hits Huff—7-for-10 lifetime against him—for the second time in as many seasons. An inning later, Devil Rays reliever Lance Carter throws a pitch behind Ramirez’s head, eliciting warnings for both benches. One pitch later, Ramirez belts a home run. Carter then throws at the head of the next hitter, David Ortiz, who has to be restrained by catcher Toby Hall. Dugouts empty, and Carter, Trot Nixon, Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella and pitcher Dewon Brazelton are ejected. In the sev­enth, Arroyo hits leadoff batter Chris Singleton on the thigh, earning his own ejection. In a radio interview on WEEI after the game, Boston pitcher Curt Schilling blames Piniella: “Play­ers on that team are saying, ‘This is why we lose a hundred games a year, because this idiot makes us do stuff like this.’ ” A day later, also on the radio, Piniella says, “I have forgot more baseball than this guy knows.”

* March 27, 2006: After tagging out Tampa’s Joey Gathright at the plate during a spring-training game, Boston reliever Julian Tavarez stands on the baserunner’s arm, he says, so that Gathright couldn’t “throw a punch at me right away.” Tavarez then hits Gathright in the jaw while the outfielder is down on one knee. Gathright later says that Tavarez “hits like a woman.” Devil Rays outfielder Carl Crawford subsequently chal­lenges the pitcher to a post-game fight in the parking lot.

* June 5, 2008: The highlight of five hit batters on the night is Boston outfielder Coco Crisp’s charge of the mound after being drilled by right-hander James Shields of the Rays, who by this time have dropped the “Devil” from their name if not their attitude. Shields is responding to Crisp’s hard slide into second baseman Akinori Iwa­mura the previous night, which was itself a response to Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett using his leg to block Crisp’s headfirst slide into second. Shields misses with a roundhouse right, and Crisp— with 17 knockouts to his credit in 17 amateur boxing matches as a youth—is able to land one shot of his own before being overwhelmed by a scrum of Rays, primary among them Crawford and Johnny Gomes, who shower blows upon him. (After the game, Crisp says that the Rays were like “little girls, trying to scratch out my eyes.” Shields had already hit Dustin Pedroia in the first inning, and Boston’s Jon Lester responds by hitting Crawford, then Iwamura. Tampa Bay reliever Al Reyes closes the festivities by drilling Kevin Youkilis in Boston’s final at-bat.

* October 10, 2008: In Game 1 of the ALCS, Rays reliever Grant Bal­four sends a fastball toward the face of Boston outfielder J. D. Drew, which catches the slugger’s shoulder as he spins to avoid it. Barking ensues, and the seven-game series is so tight that even four more hit batters (two from each team) over the remaining games do little to raise the tension.

Things hardly ended there. There were the three times Tampa Bay’s Luke Scott was hit by Boston pitchers over a three-game span in 2012—the last of which ended up in a brawl. (Red Sox reliever Franklin Morales threw a fastball behind Scott’s back, then two inside, then finally drilled him in the leg. Earlier, Pedroia had been drilled, and a pitch thrown over Daniel Nava’s head.)

There were words last March, when Alfredo Aceves drilled Sean Rodriguez in the shoulder, one at-bat after he had homered.

All of which gives some context to Monday night’s dustup. Just another day at the office, it seems.

Update (6-12-13): The Rays still have opinions.

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Arm Butter Accusation Storm Builds in Toronto

buchholz arm

Sportsnet’s Buchholz graphic

It started last week when Dirk Hayhurst—ex-pitcher, sometimes author and current broadcast analyst for the Toronto Blue Jays—unleashed some damning suspicions on Twitter about Boston pitcher Clay Buchholz, who’s currently setting the American League afire with a 6-0 record and 1.01 ERA:

Forget the hair, I just saw video of Buchholz loading the ball with some Eddie Harris worthy slick’em painted up his left forearm. Wow.

It continued when Hayhurst’s colleague, ex-Tigers great and current Blue Jays broadcaster Jack Morris, piled on, telling ESPN Boston that “it was all over his forearm, all over the lower part of his T-shirt, it’s all in his hair,” while in the next breath stipulating that he has no actual proof of impropriety.

It really picked up steam when the video crew at the Rogers’ Centre unleashed some video from Wednesday’s Jays-Sox game, in which the right-hander allowed only two hits to Toronto over seven shutout innings, of Buchholz’s left (non-throwing) arm, glistening with what appears to be something other than sweat. (Hayhurst went on to say that it might be sunscreen mixed with rosin. The Jays’ crew added some talk about Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa possibly doing something similar.)

To be expected, Buchholz subsequently denied everything (“Definitely no foreign substances on my arm,” he told MassLive.com), as did Red Sox catcher David Ross (“I know when a pitcher is messing with the ball, he said. “He’s not putting anything on it”).

People came out for Buchholz. Dennis Eckersley told Morris to “zip it,” and Jerry Remy defended him on the air. Cliff Lee discussed his own innocent accumulation of sweat and rosin. Tim Hudson had some fun with the situation.

People came out against Buchholz. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci discussed details about what he feels is a fishy situation, and ESPN’s David Schoenfield compared the break on Buchholz’s pitches to those on offerings nearly 30 years ago from notorious ball scuffer Mike Scott. (He also quoted from The Baseball Codes, so credit to him on that one.)

What does it all mean? Nothing, almost literally. The Blue Jays haven’t accused Buchholz of impropriety. Neither has any other team. Umpires have yet to check him. The accusations are based on TV footage that can be realistically explained any number of ways.

It appears to be a Kenny Rogers-Tony La Russa-type situation. When  the Fox TV crew spotted Rogers with an unusual brown spot on his palm during his start in the 2006 World Series, it became national fodder—especially when video evidence showed the same brown spot during his previous postseason appearances. Instead of having the umpires check Rogers, however (knowing that if they found a foreign substance, he’d be ejected and likely suspended), Cardinals manager La Russa merely asked them to make sure he washed his hands. From The Baseball Codes:

In the face of this World Series controversy, the Gam­bler did the only thing he could reasonably do—he cleaned his hand and continued to pitch well. Fifteen postseason shutout innings with an obvi­ous foreign substance were followed by seven shutout innings without it. Alleged pine tar or no alleged pine tar, the Cardinals, who scratched out only two hits against Rogers in eight innings, fared no better than the Yan­kees or the A’s had in earlier rounds.

The primary question was, why did La Russa not come down harder? A variety of theories surfaced, one of which gained particular traction: Pitchers cheat in Major League Baseball. Not all of them, but enough to touch every clubhouse in some way. La Russa’s own pitcher, Julian Tavarez, had been busted for using pine tar only two seasons earlier, and suspended for 10 days. La Russa called it “an example of bullshit baseball.”

La Russa, the theory held, had kept quiet because he was reluctant to travel this particular road on behalf of his own pitchers, who would undoubtedly come under increased scrutiny. No less an authority than Buchholz accuser Jack Morris weighed in, telling the Detroit Free Press that “Tony’s been through a lot himself, so I don’t think he wanted to push that enve­lope.” (An entire chapter was devoted to this particular situation in The Baseball Codes.)

So even if the Blue Jays did recognize something askew about Buchholz on the mound, they may well have opted (and continue to opt) to keep it to themselves. This could be equally true for every other team in the league, regarding every other pitcher in the league. Rare is the guy like Davey Johnson, who just doesn’t give a crap.

Chances are that Buchholz will dial back whatever it is he’s doing (even if it’s legal, he’ll likely strive to make it less suspicious), and that the entire situation will blow over within the week, assuming he does not get uncharacteristically blown out of his next start.

Which is as it should be. Most folks around the big leagues view cheating as largely acceptable, so long as the cheaters knock it off (at least for a while) once they’re caught. Buchholz’s arm butter, legal or otherwise, is no exception.

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Et Tu, Pedro? Well, Yeah, of Course Et Tu.

First, Lance Armstrong admitting to doping, and now this. Remember all those guys Pedro Martinez intimidated with inside fastballs over the years? (He hit 141 hit batters over 18 seasons, finishing in the top three in the category five times; only one man ahead of him on the career HBP list from the modern era, Jamey Wright, hit more batters per nine innings.)

Turns out that he meant almost every one of them.

Pedro Martinez

Yesterday, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweeted that “Pedro just admitted that 90 percent of the guys he hit were on purpose.”

Well, of course they were. During Martinez’s heyday, no American League pitcher was close to him in terms of command. He complemented a darting fastball with the game’s best changeup and an array of devastating breaking pitches—and didn’t stop there. He also took a page from Nolan Ryan’s playbook, turning the brushback, the knockdown and the hit batter into valid parts of his repertoire. As if trying to adjust from a low-90s fastball to a changeup in the mid-70s wasn’t tough enough, hitters also had to deal with the idea of staying light on their feet.

Sometimes, of course, this reputation was detrimental—Martinez engendered no shortage of opponents who much didn’t care for him, as this excerpt from The Baseball Codes will attest:

Take Reggie Sanders, who charged the mound in 1994 after being hit by Pedro Martinez. That the pitcher was trying to protect a 2–0 lead in the eighth inning was one clue it might have been unintentional; that it was an 0-2 count was another. That Martinez was in the middle of throw­ing a perfect game should have put to rest any lingering doubts. Without a shred of hyperbole, Sanders was the most obviously unintentionally hit batsman in the history of the game.

Still, it wasn’t enough to keep him in the batter’s box. Martinez had been brushing back Cincinnati batters, including Sanders, all afternoon. After one such pitch in the fifth inning, Sanders gave the pitcher a long, angry glare, which Martinez returned in kind. After he plunked Sanders three innings later, Martinez even went so far as to raise his arms in frus­tration before realizing that it would be a good idea to defend himself.

It takes a special kind of pitcher to pull off something like that. Martinez has just rejoined the Red Sox as a special assistant to General Manager Ben Cherington, where he will hopefully continue to lend insight into the machinations that made him such a force of nature. Welcome back to the big leagues, Pedro.

(Via Yahoo.)

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Bitter Bobby: Valentine Slaps BoSox, Fans on his Way Out the Door

For anyone who might have, against all reason, been maintaining even a modicum of hope for the tenure of Bobby Valentine in Boston, the soon-to-be ex-manager effectively flipped the bird to the entire Red Sox organization on his way out of town. He used as his weapon Boston’s lineup against the Yankees:

Pedro Ciriaco, 2B; Daniel Nava LF; Cody Ross RF; Mauro Gomez 1B; Ryan Lavarnway DH; Jarrod Saltalamacchia C; Danny Valencia 3B; Che-Hsuan Lin CF; Jose Iglesias SS.

Yep, six of his nine hitters were in their first or second seasons, five of them with fewer than 150 at-bats on the year.

The pertinent unwritten rule here, of course, is that late in the season, teams with nothing to play for nonetheless offer their best effort down the stretch when facing teams still in a pennant race. And thanks to its 10-2 victory over Pawtucket North, the Yankees opened up a one-game lead over Baltimore, which lost at Tampa Bay.

That it’s New York, of course—Boston’s arch-nemesis—makes it all the more fitting for Valentine to completely throw in the towel. Why not? He has no vested interest in his team, and it’s just one more way to piss off ownership.

None of this makes him a bad manager—just a man with a mean streak and a deficiency of morals. Difficult to say which is worse.

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Perfecto Broken Up by Bunt … and for Once That’s Okay

Boston, a day after getting gut-punched 20-2 by the Oakland A’s, had mustered not so much as a baserunner with two outs in the fifth inning Saturday against right-hander A.J. Griffin.

Frustration was inevitable, but was it sufficient to explain why Jarrod Saltalamacchia would bunt in the middle of a perfect game? The Red Sox catcher did, and reached base safely, which seems like a no-brainer: The guy was in clear violation of the Code. Heck, he even had a parallel with the most famous perfect game breaker-upper in history, Ben Davis—another catcher, who pulled the trick against Curt Schilling in 2001.

There was, however, a notable difference: For some unexplainable reason, A’s manager Bob Melvin had put on a defensive shift. With third baseman Adam Rosales positioned where the shortstop usually stands, Saltalamacchia was given the same kind of wide-open invitation all left-handed batters receive in that situation: an easy base hit with a well-placed bunt. Saltalamacchia, who has all of three sacrifice bunts in his career—all in 2007—took him up on the offer. (Watch it here, starting at the 1:03 mark.)

If the theory behind the governing rule is that a team’s first hit should be above board, with no gimmickry involved, then it should only follow that the defensive positioning of the pitcher’s team should follow suit. When Melvin opted not to play things straight up—despite holding a 5-0 lead—his opposition can hardly be faulted for acting similarly.

Melvin acknowledged as much after the game. “I probably should have had the third baseman in,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

To Griffin’s credit, the pitcher appeared to not hold any grudges. “It’s a good way to try to get momentum for your team,” he said. “There’s not anything I can do about it except try to get the next guy. Whatever.” (Bobby Valentine, who has far bigger controversies to consider than this one, added the sentiment, “Who cares?”)

There’s lots of blame to go around for Boston’s misery this season, but not on this play. If Griffin has a beef with anybody, it should be Bob Melvin.

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Filed under Don't Bunt to Break Up a No-Hitter, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Bringing New Meaning to ‘Beantown’: Padilla’s Drilling of Beltre Nothing New

Click for GIF

This is what happens when one earns a reputation.

By almost every account, Vicente Padilla’s beaning of Adrian Beltre yesterday was an accident. (Watch it here.) It came in the eighth inning of a 1-1 game, with an 0-2 count and a runner at third. But when a guy has made a career not just of drilling batters—he’s now hit 108 over his 14-year career, third-most of any active pitcher and tied for 64th all-time—but hitting them in the head, one can’t help but think negative thoughts.

Padilla was suspended in 2005 after drilling Vlad Guerrero, then brushing him back in a later at-bat, then drilling Juan Rivera after warnings had been issued—all within a span of two innings. He was suspended again in 2007 for throwing at Nick Swisher. He broke Aaron Rowand’s face with a pitch in 2010.

“I’ve seen him hit people that aren’t even a threat,” said one opponent in 2010. “You get a small, scrawny guy up at the plate and he’ll throw at him just for the hell of it. That’s how he pitches. That’s how he is.”

This is the guy who earned applause from Marlon Byrd when he was released by the Rangers in 2009—and Byrd was his teammate. The release, in fact, came about largely because of Texas players’ demands that Padilla hit fewer opponents, as the tactic frequently ended up members of the Rangers being drilled in response.

Case in point: That June, Padilla hit former teammate Mark Teixeira twice. The first response was Teixeira (cleanly) wiping out Elvis Andrus at second base (“setting off a celebration in the Yankee dugout” according to the New York Daily News). The second was A.J. Burnett coming very up and very in on Nelson Cruz.

Said Teixeria after that game:

The first two at-bats of my career [against Padilla in 2005, when the right-hander was with Philadelphia], I hit home runs. Third at-bat, I got hit. And every time I’ve faced him since there have been balls near my head, near my body. We were teammates for two years. I remember getting hit a lot because he was hitting other players.

Teixera went so far as to ask the pitcher to knock off that kind of behavior. Padilla’s response, according to the first baseman: “Nothing.”

That August, following an intervention by Rangers brass along those same lines, Padilla, facing the A’s, responded to a Scott Hairston homer by hitting Kurt Suzuki. After the A’s retaliated by drilling Michael Young, Padilla was seen laughing on the bench. He was designated for assignment within days.

It’s hardly a stretch to think that no pitcher has been universally less-liked since Padilla came into the league in 1999. All of which is a long way of saying that when it comes to the Code, retaliation is sometimes called for even in response to unintentional actions—but when it comes to Vicente Padilla, it seems merely to be a matter of course.

That Beltre appears to be in fine shape is good news, but probably has no bearing on whatever is to follow. Red Sox and Rangers meet again tonight. Stay tuned.

(Gif via Chad Moriyama.)

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Filed under Retaliation, Vicente Padilla