Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman drilled New York’s Brett Gardner with his first pitch of Wednesday night’s game, clear retaliation for Gardner’s takeout slide that injured Carlos Guillen on Monday. (Watch it here.)
(“If anyone over there thought it was a clean slide, we had a different opinion on that,” said Johnny Damon afterward, putting to rest any doubt about Bonderman’s intentions. That the response came two days later might be explained by the diagnosis that came down in the interim, confirming that what had been thought to be merely a ding was a deep bone bruise that would need weeks to heal.)
An immediate warning was issued by umpire Eric Cooper, in an effort to keep things from spiraling out of control.
Except that Miguel Cabrera then had to go and hit a pair of homers, possibly inspiring Yankees reliever Chad Gaudin to hit him in the ribs with a 91 mph fastball.
There was, apparently, sufficient doubt behind the intent for Gaudin to be allowed to stay in the game. (Tigers manager Jim Leyland disagreed, getting tossed after arguing for the merits of warning enforcement. “They’re going to the playoffs—we’re not going anywhere,” he said to Cooper, in comments picked up on the Fox Sports Detroit telecast and reported in the Detroit Free Press. Somebody is going to get hurt.”)
It evened out somewhat, when Detroit’s Enrique Gonzalez put a pitch behind Derek Jeter‘s back, and ran inside to both Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira (each of whom hit first-inning homers).
After Cooper declined to identify Gaudin’s pitch as having intent, it would have been difficult for him to implicate Gonzalez on similar charges. There was also the fact that by drilling Cabrera, Gaudin had reignited a controversy that by all rights should have died. The Tigers were entitled to a response, and Cooper gave it to them.
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One of the most entertaining pieces of any tit-for-tat beanball war is the creativity involved in blanket denials that come sweeping in from both sides. (Ozzie Guillen might be the only big league manager to steadfastly refuse to play the game—”Maybe people don’t believe that, but every time I get something done, I let you guys know who did it,” Guillen said about the concept of retaliation in the Chicago Sun-Times. ”And I got a lot of money paid to Major League Baseball because I say, ‘Yes, I did it’ “—although his admissions end up being far more amusing than anything he could fabricate.)
Yankees manager Joe Girardi did his part in the Bronx, insisting that Gaudin’s drilling of Cabrera made little strategic sense, eventually leading as it did to Girardi burning both David Robertson and Mariano Rivera in a game that New York would win, 9-5.
The players involved similarly chimed in:
- “I don’t know. I don’t care,” said Cabrera in an MLB.com report, in response to a question about whether he felt he had been hit on purpose.
- “I don’t know if it was [intentional] or not. That’s not for me to judge. It doesn’t really matter,” said Gardner about the pitch that hit him.
- “I think guys can tell when you’re doing it on purpose. I didn’t,” said Gaudin, in denial. “This is baseball. It happens.”
- “Next question,” said Bonderman, declining to discuss his pitch to Gardner. Of course, Bonderman was been suspended to start the season after drilling Minnesota’s Delmon Young at the end of last year.
Admission of intent, of course, is tantamount to signing your own suspension notice, so denials are status quo.
Although he was short with his answer, Bonderman opted for the most noble solution to the problem. While the public would enjoy a full dissertation on his actual motivation, the consequences for frankness in this situation won’t allow it. (Just ask Ozzie Guillen.) So rather than lying about the pitch in question getting away, Bonderman simply refused to discuss it.
Which is just fine by us.