In September, Prince Fielder did his bowling-pin routine against the Giants. The next time they faced him, this spring, Fielder was drilled in response.
The Dodgers, apparently, are held to a significantly lower standard.
On Friday, Los Angeles right-hander Vicente Padilla broke Aaron Rowand‘s cheek with a pitch, sending him to the disabled list. To judge by the reaction from the Giants pitching staff—no Dodgers player was hit in response during any point of the three-game series—Fielder’s dance was the more offensive of the two items.
Two days later, in the series finale, Manny Ramirez drilled an eighth-inning, pinch-hit, two-run homer to put his team up, 2-1. The slugger then acknowledged the delirious fans with a curtain call—while Sergio Romo was in the process of pitching to the next hitter.
“Manny being Manny” is a popular refrain around baseball when attempting to describe Ramirez. It’s essentially shorthand for “the guy does what he wants,” which is itself shorthand for “the man is so totally self-absorbed that he doesn’t care how he comes across to the rest of the planet.”
Ramirez’s actions, of course, did nothing more than offend. Padilla’s recklessness cost the Giants their leadoff hitter, with the potential for much greater damage. Padilla swears it was unintentional, and by the Giants’ reaction (or lack thereof), they appear to believe it, too.
This doesn’t change the fact that Padilla is, without exception, the game’s premier head-hunter. He led the American League with 17 hit batsmen in 2006, has finished among the top five in the category four times and was in the top 10 once. He currently leads the National League with three.
(Remember Sean Tracey, the White Sox rookie who was first chewed out, then banished by manager Ozzie Guillen when he failed to drill Hank Blalock in 2006? That Blalock was targeted in the first place was because Padilla [then with the Rangers] had already nailed Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Twice. [A week later, White Sox pitcher Jon Garland received his own tongue-lashing from Guillen when he failed to respond after a teammate was hit . . . again by Padilla.])
If Padilla has a defense, it goes like this: The guy hadn’t made it out of the fifth inning in either of his prior starts this season; drilling Rowand (itself in the fifth inning) came after Padilla had already given up three hits, a walk and two runs in the frame, and served to load the bases. If he wasn’t officially on the ropes, he couldn’t have gotten any closer.
Padilla came to bat again in the game, and wasn’t hit. Ramirez’s act Sunday came during a 2-1 game—far too close to even consider retaliation.
The Giants next play the Dodgers in late June. San Francisco will know two things going into that series: Ramirez’s act was laden with more than enough disrespect to merit retaliation. And whether or not Padilla intended to injure Rowand, he thought so little of the incident that he failed to place a call and check up on his victim—itself an unwritten rule in situations like this.
Rowand should be back on the field by then, and like it or not, his opinion will count when it comes to the Giants’ reaction. For now, we can only wait and see what that will be.