Tag Archives: Showing players up

Kiss Me, Al: Tigers Pitcher Turns Baseball into Blarney Stone, Sparks Minor Uproar

A kiss is just a kiss—unless it happens in the ninth inning of a playoff game. Then, all hell breaks loose.

Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque put it to the test on Sunday. With the game tied, runners at the corners and two outs, the right-hander was called upon to face A’s slugger Yoenis Cespedes, who he retired on a comebacker to the mound. Before tossing the ball to first, however, Alburquerque planted a wet one on the horsehide. (Watch it here.)

“Did I see what I just saw?” Tigers catcher Gerald Laird, who had been removed for a pinch-hitter a half-inning earlier, recalled thinking. “Obviously,” he said later, “I did.”

So did the A’s. After the game, outfielder Josh Reddick told reporters that he “didn’t appreciate it,” that he “thought that was immature” and “not very professional.” Cespedes said that he may kiss his bat the next time he connects against Alburquerque.

By Monday afternoon, however, during an off-day at Oakland’s O.co Coliseum, the A’s were downplaying the incident as a non-story.

“What am I going to do, yell at them?” asked Jonny Gomes. “That doesn’t take care of anything. Bash them in the media? That doesn’t take care of anything. Just let the baseball gods take care of it. That’s why the baseball gods are there.”

For his part, Alburquerque, 26, said Monday that he intended no disrespect to Cespedes or the A’s, and that his actions were colored by “the emotion of the game.” Regardless, the second-year pitcher, a native of the Dominican Republic, was pulled aside after the game by Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila and Octavio Dotel, who explained to him the reality of the situation.

“We just talked common sense,” said Avila. “First, you don’t want to kiss a baseball that you’re about to throw to first base, because if he does that and throws it over Prince [Fielder]’s head, it doesn’t look so good. Also, the last thing you want to do is fire the other team up.” (The rest of the Tigers later took to jibing Alburquerque fairly relentlessly, including asking the flummoxed pitcher if the ball kissed him back.)

While this particular antic isn’t exactly commonplace, it does have some historical precedent when it comes to similar showmanship. Perhaps the most prominent example occurred during Game 7 of the 1982 World Series, when St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andujar fielded a grounder by Milwaukee’s Jim Gantner, then held the ball while watching watch Gantner run until the final possible moment, firing the ball to first base just in time.

Gantner turned and called the pitcher a hot dog (among other things), Andujar responded with a parade of his own curse words at high volume, and the pair had to be separated.

Closer to the tenor of Alburquerque’s display was Sammy Sosa, who in a spring training game in 1999 hit two home runs against Arizona’s Todd Stottlemyre, and bowed to the crowd, Japanese-style, after each. Sosa said afterward that his intent was to show respect to the fans.  Stottlemyre didn’t buy it.

“I sure don’t remember Mickey Mantle bowing after home runs,” he told the Associated Press. “I guarantee Joe DiMaggio didn’t bow.”

In neither case did the pitcher retaliate. In fact, the most appropriate form of retaliation is the one utilized by Philadelphia in 1993 against Bryan Hickerson, after the Giants reliever snared a line drive by Wes Chamberlain to end the sixth inning and spiked the ball into the turf.

“That infuriated us,” said Phillies outfielder Milt Thompson. Dusty Baker, then the Giants manager, said that Hickerson’s display was not directed at the opposing dugout, and that if the Phillies wanted to take it personally, it was up to them. They did, and it was; Philadelphia, down 8-3 at the time, came back to win, 9-8, in 10 innings.

This is exactly the type of thing that the A’s, down two games to none, have in mind. “Our best retaliation,” said Brandon Inge,” is to win three in a row.”

Ultimately, Avila had the most concise take on the subject.

“It’s baseball, not a soap opera,” he said. “It’s probably not the best thing to do in a playoff game, but at the same time there are much more important things going on.”

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Filed under Al Alburquerque, Showing Players Up

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!, Chris Perez Edition

Old school, meet new school. On-field celebrations in baseball have become commonplace, mostly in the form of home plate scrums around a guy who has just scored the winning run. It’s gone from unheard of to accepted with the span of just a few years, and, Kendrys Morales aside, nobody has much of a problem with it.

The primary factor in this recent acceptance is that it’s celebration of a victory. (Such a display mid-game would be taken very differently.) It’s also why the one position that can get away with comparable shenanigans is a closer, following the final out of a win. Think Dennis Eckersley’s six-shooters, or Brian Wilson’s crossed-arm salute.

In that regard, Cleveland closer Chris Perez isn’t so unique, freely exuberating on the mound following a job well done.

Well, he did his job on Thursday, and Alex Rios didn’t appreciate it. Perhaps it was because Rios had just made the final out of the game, grounding to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to close Cleveland’s 7-5 victory over the White Sox. Perhaps it was because Perez was not just gesticulating, but yelling in celebration. Maybe it was because the pitcher had also snuck in a self-congratulatory fist pump after striking out A.J. Pierzynski a batter earlier.

No matter, Rios barked at Perez as he returned to the Chicago dugout in a clear display of displeasure and frustration. (Watch it here.)

“Well, I don’t know what was wrong with [Perez],” said Rios after the game, in an MLB.com report. “He just started yelling for no reason. I don’t know why he started yelling, and that’s it. When I hit that ground ball, he was yelling when [Cabrera] was throwing to first. He was yelling the whole way. I couldn’t tell what he was saying. He was just staring and saying something.”

Because Perez does this kind of thing frequently, it’s unlikely that his comments were directed toward Rios or the White Sox. According to Rios, that hardly matters. “If he was celebrating, that was not the right way to do it,” he said.

Which is what makes this juncture in baseball history so interesting. A generation ago, Rios’ sentiment would have been gospel. Eckersley and a few rogue pitchers aside, players generally had better control of their celebratory quirks. Today, with enforcers like Nolan Ryan—who would voice his displeasure through any number of fastballs thrown at an opponent who had just shown him up—increasingly rare, acts like Perez’s are common.

It’s the game as we now know it. Seems like it’d behoove Alex Rios to come to grips with it.

(Via Hardball Talk.)

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Filed under Chris Perez, Showing Players Up

One Man’s Celebration is Another Man’s Disrespect, Chad Qualls Edition

The play that started it all.

There’s a reason that baseball doesn’t have the chest-thumping of the NBA, or the equivalent of a football player leaping up after a two-yard carry with a first-down signal.

Baseball doesn’t have much tolerance for that kind of thing. Save for game-winning plays, look-at-me moments are nearly universally frowned upon.

Which is part of the reason that Andres Torres and the Giants aren’t looking at Chad Qualls in a friendly light today.

With the Giants trailing 5-3 in the seventh, Torres won his first battle with Qualls, working back from a 1-2 count to see 16 pitches—fouling off 11 of them in an at-bat that took more than eight minutes—before drawing a base on balls. He then stole second, and advanced to third on an infield grounder.

That’s where he was when a Qualls pitch squirted away from catcher Nick Hundley; after delaying to assess the situation, Torres belatedly broke for home.

Hundley’s toss to Qualls, covering the plate, was in plenty of time. Qualls went into a bit of a slide while making the tag and essentially sat on the plate to keep Torres from touching it; the putout ended the inning with San Francisco’s best hitter, Pablo Sandoval, up to bat and the tying run at second. (Watch it here.)

It’s understandable that Qualls was pleased with the development, especially in light of the frustration he must have felt after Torres’ marathon at-bat. Which doesn’t diminish the fact that he spiked the baseball and yelled at Torres on his way back to the dugout.

“That’s not professional,” Torres told reporters after the game. “I don’t believe in making a show on the field.”

Torres talked about respect, both for the game itself and for one’s opponents. He got passionate when discussing his own protracted path to the big leagues, intoning that he’s come to far, at too great a price, to be disrespected like that on the field. (Watch the entire exchange here.)

Direct payback for Qualls is unlikely, since, as a reliever, it’s a longshot that he’ll come to bat against the Giants. Retaliation against one of the Padres’ hitters isn’t out of the question but is similarly unlikely unless San Francisco breaks through with a passel of early runs today, giving their pitchers a bit of leeway when it comes to things like settling scores.

Then again, these teams face each other 14 more times this year. There is, as the saying goes, a lot of baseball yet to be played.

Update: This just in from Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, who tracked down Qualls before today’s game: The reliever doesn’t feel good about what he did. “I’m sorry that it happened,” he said. “I meant no disrespect. That’s not what I intended. I play this game with passion and to, me, that situation was as elevated as it gets for my type of inning.”

- Jason

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Filed under Andres Torres, Chad Qualls, Showing Players Up