A.J. Pierzynski, Felipe Lopez, Joe Maddon, Ozzie Guillen, Retaliation

Lopez Bat Toss Sparks Quick Confrontation, String of Ludicrous Denials and, Ultimately, an Apology

A.J. Pierzynski is less than appreciative of Felipe Lopez's bat toss Saturday.

Most baseball retaliation looks the same: a pitcher throwing a ball as hard as he can at the backside, legs or ribs of an opposing batter.

Sometimes, though, batters get theirs, too. Unfortunately for them, their actions rarely hold the same weight; whereas a vengeance-minded pitcher can be seen as sticking up for his teammates, his counterpart at the plate is often looking out only for himself. Such displays frequently resemble hot-headed reaction far more than they do retaliation.

Case in point: Felipe Lopez. On Saturday, the Rays’ third baseman took an inside pitch in the ninth inning from White Sox reliever Chris Sale that apparently didn’t meet his liking.

Lopez hit the next pitch out of the park, and as part of his follow-through whipped his bat toward the mound. (Watch it here.)

Needless to say, this was not taken well by pretty much anybody on the field. Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski was waiting for him when he crossed the plate, delivering a sternly worded message while gesturing toward the mound. Lopez’s body language looked as if he was trying to deny intent; had he been aggressive, it’s not difficult to picture a fight breaking out.

The Sox weren’t the only ones upset.

“That’s not who we are. That’s not how we play,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said Sunday in the St. Petersburg Times . “I’m not into the end zone demonstration that much. I think we’ve really morphed into this, I believe, very classy group over the last several years and I want to maintain that kind of thought about us. I don’t even want to say image—you think about the Rays, you think these guys handle themselves in a certain way. So we don’t do that here.”

It’s a point that Maddon had to make. Forget the image he’s trying to maintain—outbursts like Lopez’s can lead not just to his own potential peril, but can put his teammates in danger, as well.

It’s difficult to believe that Lopez, who’s in his 11th season, didn’t understand the potential repercussions of his actions. Then again he’s with his eighth team (not counting two stints with St. Louis), and was cut by the Cardinals last year after ongoing bouts of unprofessionalism. With that in mind, selfish behavior shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. (He couldn’t have had much of an issue with Sale, who’s in just his second season and who has now faced Lopez all of twice.)

Such is the power of Joe Maddon that Lopez took the surest available path to absolution, calling Ozzie Guillen after the game to apologize. (Maddon even went also recalled that Roy Halladay once called him to apologize after some inflammatory comments he inadvertently made, and that the gesture was appreciated.)

If any part of this affair went according to the Code, it was the entire array of responses. As in, outside of Maddon decrying the general spectacle of it all, everybody denied pretty much everything.

“It was unfortunate, but I wasn’t trying to do that,” Lopez said in the St. Petersburg Times. “I wasn’t mad at anything. The bat, it slipped, and it went over there. I think if I tried to do that, it wouldn’t happen.”

Pierzynski denied there was a confrontation at the plate, saying, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I just said hi. He lives down the street from me in Orlando, and I was asking how his house was.”

Guillen, after receiving Lopez’s call: “I don’t think he meant to throw (the bat) to the pitcher.”

Still, in order to give heads some time to cool, Maddon held Lopez out of yesterday’s game. It only buys about a week; the Rays visit Chicago on April 18.

– Jason

Thanks to reader Russ Buker in St. Petersburg for the heads up.

12 thoughts on “Lopez Bat Toss Sparks Quick Confrontation, String of Ludicrous Denials and, Ultimately, an Apology

  1. If a player throws a bat with intent, that’s a big problem. Maybe we can trust pitchers to throw potentially life-threatening fastballs at a batters fleshy parts, but batters don’t exactly practice accurate bat-throwing all the time.

    The best part about knowing about The Code is that I can watch next week’s series with the Rays and ChiSox and show off when I predict a dusting or two.

    1. Lopez clearly didn’t mean to injure the pitcher as much as send him a message. There have been instances of actual bat throwing (see: Campaneris, Bert, for example) with intent to injure, but as is detailed in the book, hitting someone with a thrown bat is apparently much more difficult than it looks. For all his faults, I wouldn’t yet put Lopez in that category.

  2. “It’s baseball, man. I’m a … man. Whatever happens, happens. At least I know I didn’t do it on purpose.” This is a quote I found from Lopez. At least he knows it’s coming. The last sentence might be suspect, but at least he’s following the code, as I see it. I’ll be at the game Tue. so I hope Maddon waits ’till then to start Lopez.

    1. Please check in if there’s anything worth checking in about. I’d love to get a first-hand account …

      1. Phenomenal. You’re officially TBC’s first correspondent. Welcome to the family.

  3. I would think hitting the first pitch after being knocked down out of the yard is the perfect response. Why not just set the bat down and round the bases with just a touch of smirk on your face?

    1. That’s exactly the point. These rules have a lot of carryover away from the diamond; let your actions do your talking, respect others and you’ll inevitably be fine.

  4. Earlier in the game the Rays starter Wade Davis ( I think? ) threw some inside heaters that just missed hitting a few batters but I think they were acidental condsidering Davis’s control during certain innings, but still it might have ruffled up the Sox.

  5. Poor on Lopez’ part. I remember back in the peak of the “steroid era” when it seemed like every (alleged) juice head (and some otherwise colorful players) had an almost signature bat toss.(Canseco,Brett Boone, Sosa, Bichette,Sierra) Pitchers finally had enough of it & just started preemptive plunkings. The bat tosses started disappearing.

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