Spring training is a grand old time for pitchers to let off some steam. Be they perturbed by an event from the game in front of them or harboring long memories from seasons past, the allure of repercussion-free retaliation (who cares if runs score during an exhibition game?) is felt at least a few times each season.
Look no farther than this week’s matchup between Cole Hamels and Bill Hall.
Hall, now with the Astros, was unhappy that Hamels appeared to be quick-pitching him, throwing the ball before he was fully ready. (How this tactic would help Hamels prepare for the regular season, I’m not sure.)
So Hall stepped out in an effort to slow Hamels. The pitcher’s response was to send his next offering inside, which was sufficient to send Hall from zero to boiling. According to the Houston Chronicle, he had to be restrained by plate ump Laz Diaz.
After the game, Hall called Hamels a “marked man”—not so much, he explained later, as it pertains to the left-hander’s physical wellbeing, but to the on-field respect he receives. Translation: Expect Hall to show Hamels up at the earliest available opportunity.
From the Chronicle:
I don’t know if he was mad because he gave up a homer (to Carlos Lee in the previous at-bat) or if he was mad because the umpire gave me time. But I’m not going to let him speed-pitch me. Obviously, he threw a pitch in, and I’m not going to let him disrespect me either. He kind of said something that I didn’t like too much. It’s over with. He’s definitely a marked man for me now, so when I do some damage off him, I’m going to let him know I did some damage off him. I can guarantee that.
I don’t feel like I do a lot of things to have pitchers mad at me for doing things on the field. I feel like I play the game the right way. But if you disrespect me, I’m going to do my best to disrespect you back. Obviously not in a way to disrespect the game, but obviously I’m going to let him know when I face him.
Well, okay. Houston opens with three games at Philadelphia, starting April 1. With Hamels scheduled to be Philadelphia’s No. 4 starter, however, Hall will likely have to wait until September—September!—for a chance to disrespect him back.
Elsewhere in the Grapefruit League, Nyjer Morgan was hit by Ricky Nolasco and wasted no time in accusing the pitcher of intent. Then again, after Morgan’s protracted saga against the Marlins last season—partial tally: he separated the shoulder of catcher Brett Hayes in a play at the plate; he reacted to being hit the following day by stealing two bases with his team down big (as clear an insult to the Marlins as could be delivered); he charged the mound when he was hit again later in retaliation for the stolen bases—one could hardly blame Nolasco.
Again, this is spring training—a time when many of these sorts of grudges get handled like this.
Rather than go on a near-meltdown-level tirade like last season, however, Morgan should be commended for his level-headed approach this time around. Instead of getting bothered, he stole second, advanced to third, then scored. (Watch the drilling here.)
“No question, without a doubt,” said Morgan when asked if he felt Nolasco hit him on purpose Sunday. “It’s obvious because of what happened last year. Obviously, they haven’t turned the page. But I’m going to be a stronger player, better person. I’m not going to react to it. I felt better by going out there and being able to steal that bag, getting myself over to third and generating a run. I felt more satisfied after that than staring at him and putting on my mean mug.”
The “mean mug,” of course, is a time-tested part of on-field intimidation. It’s what Morgan does with the rest of his body that truly counts.
He’s off to a good start.
Update: Yahoo’s David Brown recently spoke to Florida’s Logan Morrison for his Answer Man column. Included in the conversation was the following exchange:
DB: Can there be peace between the Marlins and Nyjer Morgan?
LoMo: Yeah, absolutely there can be. You want me to expound on that?
LoMo: Just don’t steal second base and third down by 10 runs.
DB: He was just fighting for that run. Trying to get back into the game.
LoMo: You could call it that.
DB: Nobody overreacted?
LoMo: I’m going to say everybody overreacted. … But … there’s baseball etiquette and baseball rules that need to be followed and they weren’t followed.
Update 2: Nolasco continues to deny intent.