This is what happens when one earns a reputation.
By almost every account, Vicente Padilla’s beaning of Adrian Beltre yesterday was an accident. (Watch it here.) It came in the eighth inning of a 1-1 game, with an 0-2 count and a runner at third. But when a guy has made a career not just of drilling batters—he’s now hit 108 over his 14-year career, third-most of any active pitcher and tied for 64th all-time—but hitting them in the head, one can’t help but think negative thoughts.
Padilla was suspended in 2005 after drilling Vlad Guerrero, then brushing him back in a later at-bat, then drilling Juan Rivera after warnings had been issued—all within a span of two innings. He was suspended again in 2007 for throwing at Nick Swisher. He broke Aaron Rowand’s face with a pitch in 2010.
“I’ve seen him hit people that aren’t even a threat,” said one opponent in 2010. “You get a small, scrawny guy up at the plate and he’ll throw at him just for the hell of it. That’s how he pitches. That’s how he is.”
This is the guy who earned applause from Marlon Byrd when he was released by the Rangers in 2009—and Byrd was his teammate. The release, in fact, came about largely because of Texas players’ demands that Padilla hit fewer opponents, as the tactic frequently ended up members of the Rangers being drilled in response.
Case in point: That June, Padilla hit former teammate Mark Teixeira twice. The first response was Teixeira (cleanly) wiping out Elvis Andrus at second base (“setting off a celebration in the Yankee dugout” according to the New York Daily News). The second was A.J. Burnett coming very up and very in on Nelson Cruz.
Said Teixeria after that game:
The first two at-bats of my career [against Padilla in 2005, when the right-hander was with Philadelphia], I hit home runs. Third at-bat, I got hit. And every time I’ve faced him since there have been balls near my head, near my body. We were teammates for two years. I remember getting hit a lot because he was hitting other players.
Teixera went so far as to ask the pitcher to knock off that kind of behavior. Padilla’s response, according to the first baseman: “Nothing.”
That August, following an intervention by Rangers brass along those same lines, Padilla, facing the A’s, responded to a Scott Hairston homer by hitting Kurt Suzuki. After the A’s retaliated by drilling Michael Young, Padilla was seen laughing on the bench. He was designated for assignment within days.
It’s hardly a stretch to think that no pitcher has been universally less-liked since Padilla came into the league in 1999. All of which is a long way of saying that when it comes to the Code, retaliation is sometimes called for even in response to unintentional actions—but when it comes to Vicente Padilla, it seems merely to be a matter of course.
That Beltre appears to be in fine shape is good news, but probably has no bearing on whatever is to follow. Red Sox and Rangers meet again tonight. Stay tuned.
(Gif via Chad Moriyama.)