If John Danks’ girlfriend broke up with him last season, when he won 15 games for the White Sox with a 3.72 ERA and finished seventh in the American League in WAR, he probably would have taken it a lot better than if she broke up with him sometime in the last two months.*
Which is to say, dealing with adversity is much easier when you’re on top of the world than it is when you’re getting your head kicked in every five days.
The latter scenario pretty aptly describes Danks this season, especially after giving up nine earned runs over four innings to Toronto on Sunday to run his record to 0-8 with a 5.25 ERA. Which is why it shouldn’t be too surprising that he’d show some thin skin when, having just retired the best hitter in baseball on a 3-2 pitch, said best hitter in baseball gave him an earful.
Never mind that Jose Bautista was cursing at himself, not Danks. He was cursing, and Danks was the pitcher, so of course Danks took it poorly. (Watch it here.)
Toughen up, one might tell Danks; Bautista didn’t mean to disrespect you. But think about it this way: Was Bautista frustrated by hitting a popup because he consistently expects better from himself, or was he frustrated because he had just seen two fat two-seamers from a pitcher who had given up four runs over the course of the previous two hitters, including a two-run homer to Corey Patterson—only to have watched the first for a called strike, then failed to hit the second past shortstop?
In other words, is Bautista that ferocious a competitor, or was he saying—in an extremely visible way—I can’t believe this chump just got me out?
It’s clearly possible that it’s the latter, which is all Danks needs to be justified in his reaction. Danks started shouting down Bautista from the moment he spiked the bat, and Bautista had a word or two in response.
“He was out there acting like a clown,” Danks said after the game. “He’s had a great year and a half—no doubt. He’s one of the best players in the league. But he’s out there acting like he’s Babe Ruth or something. . . . He isn’t that good to be acting like he needs to hit every ball out of the ballpark.”
Retaliation in the future: Likely.
This isn’t always the case, of course. Last May, Carlos Lee reacted similarly after popping up against Chris Carpenter, and heard about it from the St. Louis pitcher. One difference: Carpenter was 4-0 with a 2.80 ERA at the time, and though he was clearly frustrated in having just given up the game’s first run a batter earlier, he was (and still is) too good to take things as personally as he did (and does). Danks, at least right now, is nowhere near that point.
The lesson of the day: Play it safe and keep your frustrations to yourself, big leaguers, at least until you find your way back to the dugout.
* I should probably note that I don’t have the foggiest idea if John Danks even has a girlfriend, let alone if he’s married, and certainly possess no information about his potential relationship issues outside of the purely hypothetical situation described above. I wish John Danks nothing but many years of avid bachelorhood or wedded bliss, whichever suits him better.
9 thoughts on “Frustration Night in Canada: Bautista Sparks Showdown of the Irritated”
“is Bautista that ferocious a competitor, or was he saying—in an extremely visible way—I can’t believe this chump just got me out?”
Anyone who has seen Jose play will tell you it is the former.
That may well be the case. But no matter Bautista’s intentions, one can’t fault a struggling pitcher like Danks for seeing the possibilities of the latter scenario.
It seems to me that Jose was just mad at himself for missing the pitch. I will admit that he was a little too boisterous in his anger by spiking the bat (most hitters would yell out a single expletive as they run to first base), but it mostly seems to me that Danks was being hypersensitive because he was already in a foul mood losing 9-2 at the time.
I think after emotions cooled, the White Sox realised that Jose was more angry at himself for missing hittable pitches than showing Danks up. After all, the White Sox were down 11-1 by the end of the fifth inning in the following game yesterday and didn’t send him one in the back. I suppose there are plenty of opportunities in the future for them to send a message in future games, but an 11-1 game would have been a perfect opportunity to do so while the event was fresh in their minds.
Oh, right. Once the score was 11-1, he only had one at-bat before being pulled for a pinch-hitter. But at that point, even that one at-bat would be a good time to send a fastball in, right?
Danks faced one hitter after Bautista, and was pulled. It’s conceivable that he’d have a particularly empathetic teammate willing to take up his fight, but this seems like something Danks is going to have to deal with on his own, if at all.
It does raise an interesting question, however, about whether members of the White Sox staff would have been more inclined to respond on his behalf had Danks been 8-0 instead of 0-8.
Bah… of course the pitchers in yesterday’s game wouldn’t stick up for Danks, even during an 11-1 game, because it was the *Indians*, not the White Sox they were playing…
But yeah, you’re right, in this particular game, Danks only faced one more batter, and none of the relievers stuck up for him in the rest of what turned out to be a bit of a laugher. And yeah, I also wonder how they would have responded for an 8-0 pitcher instead of an 0-8 pitcher.
Danks’ 0-8 record isn’t entirely his fault. He’s put up something like 6 quality starts and was arguably the team’s most reliable pitcher through the first month and a half of the season. If his teammates failed to stand up for him, it probably wasn’t because of his record.
I’ve never once seen JD vent any frustration on his teammates, even though a bit of venting would arguably be justified. He’s had a lot of hard luck losses; the bullpen has blown a lot of saves; he’s had a pitiful level of run support (2.6 runs/game, if I recall correctly), and the defense behind him has been error-prone all season long. (Juan Pierre, for example, has been rechristened by certain wags in the White Sox fan-base as “Juan Pee-Error.” Me, I just call him “E7.”)
So Danks’ outburst against Bautista was probably really just displaced frustration at his own teammates. In all likelihood, the White Sox knew that, which is probably why nobody threw at Bautista. Why throw at an opposing player when you know that, at bottom, the real cause of your pitcher’s aggravation is you and your own history of crappy play?
Also, if there was going to be any team-sanctioned payback, we would have seen it in that same game. Ozzie is big on the Code, as we all know. (Just ask Sean Tracy.) The fact that there was no retaliation that night probably means that Danks will have to follow through on his own, if he decides to nurse the grudge.
Awesome comments, James – thanks. I honestly have nothing else to add.
Thank YOU, Jason. I’m a big fan of the book, and I always look forward to your posts. Keep up the great work!