A lot of things happened last week between the Diamondbacks and Nationals. Jayson Werth was hit three times, and made scary eyes at pitcher Ian Kennedy after the last one. An inning later, Washington’s Jason Marquis drilled Justin Upton for the fourth time in the series, and was tossed—as was his manager, Jim Riggleman. (Watch it here.)
In the eighth, Arizona reliever Esmerling Vasquez hit Danny Espinosa with a clearly intentional fastball (watch it here), bringing Werth to the top step of the dugout with a look that said he wanted nothing more than one more provocation to charge the mound.
It’s can all be dissected down to its core. Marquis denied intent, and while it certainly seemed like he meant it, it must be noted that a 1-0 game is not the time to settle scores. Also, it would have been entirely reasonable for plate ump Rob Drake to give Marquis one shot at response (or even acknowledge that the pitcher probably didn’t want to put anybody else on base) before bringing down the hammer. Still, Marquis drew a five-game suspension.
(To Drake’s benefit, Kennedy hit Michael Morse two batters after he hit Werth, and was not tossed out because it was clearly unintentional.)
Riggleman and D-Backs skipper Kirk Gibson were also suspended. Vasquez drew a three-game ban of his own, which seems well worth it for the third-year pitcher in light of the fact that his teammates appreciate him for having done something others on the staff have shied away from.
Still, despite the drama, it was all very straightforward stuff—you-hit-me, I-hit-you. A standard retaliatory dance.
Wilson Ramos, however, raised the stakes one batter after Espinosa was hit, when he slowed down his home run trot after blasting an eighth-inning bomb, and then slowed it down some more—all the way into the realm of clownishness. (Watch it here.)
Larry Granillo’s Tater Trot Tracker pegged Ramos’ journey at 28 seconds (despite the fact that he ran hard most of the way to first)—more than 20 percent slower than his usually glacial pace.
My first thought, as I watched the home run the first time, was that it looked like Ramos had slowed down into his final walk—you know how trotters tend to slow down those last 10 or 15 feet before home plate—about 250 feet too early.
But it only got worse. At both second and third base, you can see Ramos go into an even slower trot before essentially strolling the last 45 feet.
The truly crazy part? After the game, Ramos said this:
“I didn’t feel bad. I wanted to see those guys angry.”
Admitting one’s sins is a cardinal Code violation (although even in the best circumstances it’s difficult to deny ownership over one’s own jogging pace.) Unlike a pitcher who admits to hitting a batter intentionally, this is not an actionable violation as far as the league office is concerned. It is, however, a stratospheric level of trash talk. And Ramos got his wish in seeing them angry, at least as far as Matt Williams was concerned.
Williams, Arizona’s third-base coach, is one of the premiere Code warriors of his generation. He is the standard-bearer when it comes to circling the bases properly after hitting a homer—head down and quickly.
Also, he’s never been shy about informing players—teammates and opposition alike—should they be so foolish as to violate an unwritten rule in his presence. As Ramos circled the bases, Williams visibly steamed.
(Dan Steinberg has some great screenshots of it over at the Washington Post. He also passes along this quote from TV analyst Mark Grace: “If that look is directed towards you, folks? Go home. I suggest you go home when Matt Williams looks at you like that.”)
Ramos got his reward (his trot) and then got it again (his comments), but he’ll almost certainly pay the price. The teams next meet on Aug. 22. The question now seems less about whether Ramos will be drilled, but when—and maybe even how many times.
Considering that Werth, Upton and their teammates already have a short fuse for this type of thing when it concerns this matchup, there’s plenty to look forward to.