Jeez. You go away for a long Memorial Day weekend, and all heck breaks loose. The nice thing about looking at situations like this in retrospect is the clarity afforded by the long view, in which the reactions to a given kerfluffle end up being more entertaining than the kerfluffle itself.
If there was smart money laid down on a weekend eruption, it would have been on the Rays and the Red Sox, two teams with no love lost, who just last week seized headlines when Adrian Gonzalez promised to hit a homer, and was by appearances drilled for it, by Rays rookie Matt Moore. (Retaliation was collected by Boston’s Felix Doubront, who drilled Luke Scott—a player whose name will be featured again prominently in this report, only two sentences from now.)
This latest round came in the sixth inning Friday, when Rays righty Burke Badenhop hit Dustin Pedroia. It was a stretch to consider it intentional, given that it brought David Ortiz to the plate as the tying run, but that didn’t keep Sox pitcher Franklin Morales from hitting Scott in the knee three innings later, two pitches after putting an offering behind his head. It might merely have been the spot in the order—Morales waited until there were two outs in the ninth, with nobody on—or it could have been Scott’s comments last month in which he called Fenway Park “a dump.” (Heck, maybe it’s that Morales, despite being from someplace other than the United States, is an Obama supporter.)
Or perhaps good fortune handed Morales the guy he wanted, precisely when he wanted him.
Players streamed from the dugouts, did a bit of shoving and tugging—Boston coaches Bob McClure and Tim Bogar, as well as manager Bobby Valentine, appeared to be more agitated than most players—and went on their ways. (Watch it here.) The Red Sox held on to win, 7-4.
Afterward, each manager had choice words for the other.
Rays skipper Joe Maddon, in addition to calling it a really weak, cowardly effort on the part of the Red Sox:
I’m kind of curious regarding who put out the hit, because I know it wasn’t one of their players. By the way their players reacted to the entire situation, I knew it did not come from them. It’s kind of incompetent behavior, it’s the kind of behavior that gets people hurt on your own side by choosing to do something so ridiculous.
Pedroia gets hit, not because we’re trying to hit him, he just got hit. We don’t want Papi coming up there with two guys on, are you kidding me? I don’t care who’s pitching for us. That’s truly somebody flexing their muscles on the other side that really needs to put them in their back pocket and understand that they can’t hurt their own team by doing something like that. . . .
To be really carelessly incompetent on their side, to truly, intentionally hit somebody, throwing behind somebody, then hitting them in the leg, for all the wrong reasons, whereas eventually they can get their own guys hurt with that kind of behavior . . . I think it’s ridiculous, I think it’s absurd, idiotic, I’ll use all those different words.
Maddon later tweeted, “Very proud of our effort 2nite. What occurred in the 9th reeked of intent. Was ridiculous, absurd, idiotic, incompetent, cowardly behavior.’’
Valentine, in addition to suggesting the culprit to blame for Morales’ fastball was the Ghost of Fenway, guiding the ball in response to Scott’s “dump” comment:
I thought their coaches were really aggressive; as a matter of fact, I took offense to the aggressiveness of their coaches. I thought it was really unprofessional. . . . [Rays coaches] seemed very immature and out of control. Coaches are supposed to stop those things from happening and their coaches were aggravating, agitating, and instigating the situation.
Given all of this—plus the fact that Scott offered the warning, “At the end of the day, you reap what you sow”—it was a bit surprising that umpire Ed Rapuano declined to issue warnings prior to Saturday’s game. Turns out he didn’t need it; nothing incendiary happened. On Sunday, in fact, Matt Joyce wiped out Mike Aviles on a double play, and received a pat on the back for his efforts as he got up.
The Rays-Red Sox rivalry dates back to 2000, when Pedro Martinez hit Gerald Williams, and has since been fierce enough and consistent enough to merit its own section in The Baseball Codes. The teams meet again in July; we’ll see if we can’t add another chapter then.