Ramon Ramirez, Retaliation, Shane Victorino

Rollins Steals, Ramirez Stews, Victorino Fumes, Polanco Charges. Just Another Day at the Yard

Much of the intrigue in the Code is looking at something like last night’s brawl between the Phillies and Giants and being far more interested in the causation of the event than the event itself.

Images from the fight are vivid: Shane Victorino getting plunked in in the lower back in the top of the sixth, then taking steps toward the mound; catcher Eli Whiteside tackling a charging Placido Polanco around the legs; Victorino charging into the scrum and belting Giants hitting coach Hensley Muellens. (Watch it here.)

But what led up to it?

Well, the pitch from Ramon Ramirez that hit Victorino, for one. It certainly seemed intentional. But why?

Popular sentiment holds that Ramirez was spurred by Jimmy Rollins‘  steal of second base moments earlier, with his team holding an 8-2 advantage. In many cases, a six-run lead in the sixth inning is firmly within the Code’s gray area when it comes to propriety for such a play. But for these Giants, who are last in the National League in runs scored and who had scored more than twice in only four of their previous 14 games, a six-run deficit may as well be 12.

So why wait until after Polanco singled to drill a guy? Simple frustration, perhaps; Rollins advanced to third on the play, and second base was open with two outs.

In the clubhouse prior to today’s game, I asked a number of Giants players about whether Rollins’ steal garnered notice in the San Francisco dugout. While nobody was interested in fanning these particular flames, let alone implicating Ramirez as having intentionally drilled Victorino, the only guy to deny taking note of Rollins’ steal was Jeremy Affeldt, and that was because he was in the bullpen, warming up, when it happened.

“We noticed,” one player told me, referring to Rollins. “I don’t want to speak for everybody, but a lot of us noticed.”

Another player went so far as to say that Rollins’ steal was simply the final factor in a string of things “that you just don’t do in somebody else’s ballpark.” He declined to elaborate, but little happened prior to the steal to draw the notice of the broadcast crew or people in the press box. One guess is that the Phillies were doing their share of chirping, which was enough—combined with San Francisco’s frustration over its recent losing streak, and Ramirez’s frustration over giving up four hits, a walk, a wild pitch and three runs over two-thirds of an inning—to push the pitcher over the edge.

The fact that it was Jonathan Sanchez’s first start against Philadelphia since last year’s dustup with Chase Utley in the NLCS could also have raised the tension.

When it came to the fight itself, none of it would have happened had Victorino not started toward the mound. As it was, he quickly reconsidered his action, slowing up after an aggressive first step, then stopping altogether to wipe his mouth with his shirt. This was clearly not a man with violence on his mind.

(“He hit Vic, then he came after Vic. Vic almost has to go unless he wants his teammates to call him chicken,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel in an AP report. “I think (Ramirez) was getting hit and he got mad and he was going to plunk somebody. He was going to send a message.”)

Polanco, however, was racing toward the mound until being waylaid by Whiteside. That was the moment at which things got testy. (That Victorino charged into the scrum in a second wave of anger will not play in his favor in the league office, nor will the fact that he pushed aside umpire Mike Muchlinski in his quest to do so.)

One more item of interest from the fight: Giants outfielder Pat Burrell, while abiding by the unwritten rule mandating that all players take the field during a fight, broke an actual rule when he did so. (Players not on the active roster are barred even from the dugout during games.)

Today’s contest was quiet (especially from the standpoint of San Francisco’s offense), and the bad blood appears to have subsided. All it takes, however, is one angry reliever to reignite things as if they had never abated, and to possibly set the Hawaiian flyin’ again.

– Jason

7 thoughts on “Rollins Steals, Ramirez Stews, Victorino Fumes, Polanco Charges. Just Another Day at the Yard

    1. Great stuff. That’s part of the reason that Burrell has such clubhouse presence, even when he’s not playing.

  1. Yeah ~ Burrell learned that in Philly. I’m surprised and disappointed in your take on this Jason. I have serveral points of contention with your viewpoint. 1.) Jimmy was being held on so stealing in the 6th wasn’t the issue. Besides, Beltran saying he wouldn’t have stolen is meaningless. He can’t steal regardless of the circumstances and he has a long history of whining about the Phillies. Recall his moaning about Utley’s take out slide at second last year. Clean play, he complains. So what else is new from that particular piece of clubhouse cancer? 2.) Polly was running for Shane at the plate to keep him out of trouble. Had he been running towards the mound he would have been alone as the pitcher was also charging the plate. 3.) Causation pretty simple ~ a pitcher frustrated with his lousy perfomance and a manager trying to inspire a slumping team. I really never thought that it was okay to plunk a guy just because you’re losing. If that’s apart of the unwritten rules, then I don’t want any part of it.

    Phillies were playing good baseball. Didn’t show anyone up on their homeruns. I’m just glad that this tactic of the Giants, causing a scrum to get out of a jam, didn’t work this time like it did in the NLCS last year. Had the Phillies bench not cleared in the NLCS, it’s likely they would have won that game against the Giants when they had Sanchez on the ropes. Instead, Bochy calls for a beaning to give his relief guy time to warm up. Bush League. Glad it backfired. Perhaps Shane will take his suspension against the Diamondbacks. Maybe Charlie can rest his all stars then too. How would that play in the unwritten rules?

    1. Holding a runner on base is no way clears said runner of responsibility in situations like this. I’ve not accused Rollins of doing anything out of line, but it’s entirely reasonable to see how his action might have pissed off the pitcher—who had nothing to do with the decision to hold him on.

      A question for you: How do you know where Polanco was headed? He certainly appeared to be headed toward the pitcher, especially in the view of many of those in the press box. In a way, it doesn’t even matter; he was running full-steam toward something when Whiteside saw him peripherally, and executed a graceless but obviously defensive tackle. That’s a catcher’s job in that situation: protect his pitcher.

      I’ll agree with you that drilling a hitter strictly out of frustration is bush league. If that was Ramirez’s motivation, he has a lot to learn. The problem here is that there are other reasonable explanations for his motivation. He’s not talking (he politely turned me down when I asked if he had noticed Rollins’ stolen base, citing an insufficient grasp of English), so we’ve probably learned all we’re going to about this.

      The one place you’re way off here is thinking that Sanchez’s display last October somehow came under orders from Bochy. The pitcher was unraveling quite nicely on his own, thank you. One thing I’ve found through a number of very frank conversations is that modern managers don’t call for retaliation nearly as frequently as their counterparts from previous eras—if at all. They’ll applaud it should it happen (when appropriate), but outside of Tony La Russa there simply aren’t a lot of guys who play that way.

      The Phillies should be fired up about this weekend, both good (three wins) and bad (some genuine animosity being built up). It’s shaping into a terrific rivalry that may well play out again in the NLCS.

  2. Jason ~ thanks for your reasoned response. I was really angry when I wrote that (and, unfortunately, am pretty outraged all over again having learned of MLB’s lopsided sanctions).

    In any event, I’ll concede that holding a guy on doesn’t have any bearing on the situation. What does count is the game was far from over. It was only the top of the 6th and the Phils entered it with just a 3 run lead. If it were the 9th, that would be a save situation. So the Phils tacked on 3 more runs and Jimmy swipes a bag with two outs. Ramirez then decides to drill Victorino instead of trying to get one more out? Did he really think the lead was insurmountable at that point? If so, then more’s the pity. The Giants still had 12 outs to play. Whether he was frustrated by his own performance or by his team’s performance, it still doesn’t justify his actions.

    In terms of Polly, I certainly don’t pretend to know more than the guys in the press box, but I would bet that the guys that cover the Phils thought he was likely going out to protect Vic from himself. That’s what Polly does, like when he comically tried to hold back Ryan Howard last year in the Scott Barry debacle. You couldn’t really see Polly on the replays, so maybe I’m wrong, but based on history I’m thinking he’s going for Shane there.

    Lastly, about Bochy; maybe you’re right and he just lets his pitchers make these decisions by themselves. I still think it’s wrong to throw at a guy because you’re in a pickle, and if that’s the kind of clubhouse Bochy runs, then he’s culpable.

    Thanks again for the response. I really did enjoy your book!

    1. Well, we’re in agreement about not appreciating hot-headed hitters drilling guys out of frustration.

      I’ll take gentle issue with you about the six-run lead, though — at least as it pertains to this Giants team, which has scored as many as six runs all of once (once!) in its last 21 games. (Factor in that there were two games of five runs and three of four during that streak and you start to get a picture about how pathetic it’s been by the Bay. Seriously, a six-run lead is virtually insurmountable to these guys.)

      As for Victorino’s suspension, it had far less to do with his actions up to and during the fight than it did his manhandling of the umpire en route to the scrum. Coming as it did on the heels of Yadier Molina’s display, the league office almost couldn’t help but hand down punishment. (Never mind that, unlike Molina, Victorino’s actions were not directed at the umpire.)

      Thanks for the kind words about the book. Enjoy this season with your team; the Phils are clearly the class of the league.

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