Predictably, the Indians targeted David Ortiz for retaliation; in the seventh inning, Justin Germano threw a ball behind him.
Should a pitcher fail to hit a batter in situations like this, where retaliation is clearly the intent, there can be only two possibilities: The near miss was intended to serve as sufficient warning, or the pitcher missed his spot.
In this case, the Red Sox clearly thought it was the latter. So when reliever Jensen Lewis kicked off the eighth with a pitch that shot behind Adrian Beltre, the Boston dugout deemed it to be overkill. Benches emptied; Beckett in particular was chock full of fury. (Watch it here.)
“If you’re going to retaliate and you feel like you want to protect your players, we know how this game goes, and we would respect it if you’d have got the job done in the first or second attempt,” said Red Sox left fielder Bill Hall in the Boston Globe. “But five attempts is a little too much. You’ve got balls flying over people’s heads. That’s a danger to our careers. So if you’re going to do it, get the job done the right way, and get it done as quick as possible. You can’t keep trying in the same game to retaliate. Obviously we got a little fed up with that.”
Hall’s stance is firmly in the mainstream. Retaliation is often tolerated, but teams usually get only one shot. It’s what made Shawn Estes’ miss of Roger Clemens at the tail end of the Clemens-Piazza-beanball-thrown-bat imbroglio in 2002 so anticlimactic; Mets fans wanted blood, and Clemens wasn’t so much as grazed by his designated driller. Still, a message (however watered down) was sent, and both teams moved on.
Not so Tuesday. The Indians wanted a piece of somebody wearing a home uniform at Fenway Park, and overextended to get it. They took one too many shots, and justifiably pushed the Red Sox over the edge.
The Code—just like many savvy umpires—gives a team one shot at retaliation. If they fail to execute, that’s their own fault, not that of their opponents, and it’s time to let things go.
Update: Six players were disciplined following the fracas, including Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury, all of whom were on the DL and all of whom charged the field—a no-no according to league rules. But hey, everybody joins a fight.