With Hamilton on third, third base coach Dave Anderson noticed that nobody was covering the plate as Tigers catcher Victor Martinez went to chase a popup that was ultimately caught in front of the Tigers dugout by Brandon Inge. Anderson urged Hamilton to score, but Inge flipped the ball to Martinez, who beat a diving Hamilton to the plate.
The result: a broken arm and six to eight weeks on the disabled list.
Hamilton was out, he was injured and he was frustrated. And he let it get to him, lashing out at Anderson after the game, essentially blaming his coach for the injury.
“I listened to my third base coach,” he said. “That’s a little too aggressive. The whole time I was watching the play I was listening. [He said], ‘Nobody’s at home, nobody’s at home.’ I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t want to do this. Something’s going to happen.’ But I listened to my coach. And how do you avoid a tag the best, by going in headfirst and get out of the way and get in there. That’s what I did.”
(Watch the play, and hear Hamilton discuss it, here.)
Hamilton is allowed to take issue Anderson’s call, personally or directly to Anderson. What he’s not allowed is to call out a coach in public. It undermines every bit of authority Anderson possesses.
This doesn’t happen frequently, but it’s not it’s never happened before. In 1986, for example, Angels baserunner Bobby Grich, having rounded third on a single by Bob Boone, retreated to the base, only to be thrown out by a relay from Jim Rice to Wade Boggs to Spike Owen.
The Angels were trailing 3-2; Grich would have been the tying run, had he scored. He threw his helmet to the ground and animatedly gestured toward third base coach Moose Stubing, showing him up not just in word, as Hamilton did to Anderson, but in deed.
Afterward, Stubing accepted full responsibility for the blown play, but that’s almost beside the point. No matter how badly he failed at his job, the unwritten rules mandate respect from player to coach, and vice versa—especially on the field. It’s the same section of Code that keeps managers from removing position players in the middle of an inning for anything but injury.
It took some time for Grich to understand this, but after the game he tracked down his coach to apologize.
Hamilton took even longer. He had hardly backed down early Wednesday when he told reporters, “I threw him under the bus by telling the truth about what happened. What do you want me to do, lie about it? People are going to blame who they want to blame.”
Never mind the fact that Hamilton’s status in the game is lofty enough to allow him to do whatever his instincts tell him on the field. He would not have been second-guessed for staying at third, no matter what happened.
Also never mind the fact that players are taught to go feet-first when sliding into home.
Later that same afternoon, however, the slugger had either reconsidered his stance, or had been instructed in no uncertain terms to turn the other cheek. Finally, he apologized to Anderson.
“I see where I need to take responsibility for it,” Hamilton said. “I was just frustrated—more so for getting injured.”