Retaliation

Jake Marisnick Is Willing To Put Up With An Awful Lot From The Angels If This Entire Affair Would Just Go Away

Jake Marisnick still feels terrible. That’s the prime takeaway from Tuesday’s Astros-Angels game, which featured the culmination of a string of events in which Marisnick played the heavy. This is why, even after a retaliatory pitch to his head for which few in baseball would have begrudged him some outrage, the guy quietly took his base and then implored his teammates to pipe down.

These are the actions of a guy who wants this entire chapter to end as quickly as possible.

It began last week, when Marisnick violently collided with Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy after altering his route to the plate. The play left Lucroy unconscious, with a concussion and a broken nose that ultimately required surgery and an extended stay on the IL. Replays looked terrible, and Marisnick spent the ensuing days apologetically trying to explain how it had been his intention to avoid Lucroy, not blow him up. There was no mistaking his emotional distress in having caused such damage. He was suspended by MLB, but is still playing while the decision is appealed.

None of this mitigated the certainty that the Angels would retaliate. It was their guy on the ground. It had been, in their eyes, a dirty play … or at least one worthy of response. And Tuesday was the first time Marisnick had faced them since it all went down.

Had the Angels gone about it properly, it’s unlikely that anybody would have paid it further mind. Instead, reliever Noe Ramirez sent a fastball toward Marisnick’s earhole.

The time of reckoning was obvious even before Ramirez let loose. Marisnick’s first two at-bats came in the second and fourth innings, and even though the Angels had put up an unanswered six-spot in the first, there was still too much risk in targeting him so early. Look no further than a day earlier, when Philadelphia’s Yacksel Rios was tossed from a game for hitting Justin Turner with as unintentional a HBP as can be imagined: an offspeed pitch that broke just a little too sharply. Angels manager Brad Ausmus was unwilling to risk a similar outcome for his own starting pitcher, Andrew Heaney, so early in the game, so Marisnick was pitched to, not at. (It’s rare in the modern game for a manager to explicitly order retaliation, but they’re not shy when it comes to telling their pitchers to situationally avoid targeting a guy.)

Heaney, however, departed in the fifth, in favor of Ramirez. With Marisnick leading off the sixth, the Angels—holding a 6-2 lead—could more easily absorb the loss of a middle-innings reliever. The right-hander sent his first pitch to Marisnick, a curveball, wide of the strike zone, clear subterfuge for the up-and-in to follow. Trouble was, plate ump Stu Scheurwater called it a strike. So Ramirez followed it with another bender, this one even further outside.

At that point, had Ramirez opted to put a fastball into Marisnick’s backside, or even his ribcage, it’s doubtful that anyone in the Astros dugout would have reacted. But that’s not what he did. His next pitch, a 90-mph four-seamer, screamed toward Marisnick’s head, deflecting off his shoulder after a jump and a shrug.

By all rights, Marisnick should have been irate. A mound charge, while hardly encouraged, would at least have been understandable. If ever a pitcher should have been ejected without warning, this was the time. None of that happened.

Instead, Marisnick calmly took his base, refusing to so much as glare at the pitcher. That should have been the end of it. As Ron Washington told me many years ago, describing an incident in which Frank Thomas was drilled intentionally: “We have to wait for the reaction of the guy who it happened to. If Frank had charged him, there would have been a fight. If Frank had raised some hell going down to first base, we’d have raised some hell. But Frank took it calmly and went on down there, the umpire checked everything, and we played baseball.”

That’s not what happened on Tuesday. Marisnick’s calm did nothing to dissuade his teammates’ anger, with the Astros—notably Lance McCullers Jr.—chirping so vehemently from their dugout that Angels first baseman Albert Pujols eventually got fed up and walked over to better engage, even as Marisnick himself urged his teammates to pipe down. The video is remarkable.

Afterward, the Astros were understandably upset—not by the retaliation, but by how it was executed.

“If they felt the need to defend their guy, that’s fine,” McCullers said in a Houston Chronicle report, “but I think the way that it was done was horseshit.”

Astros manager A.J. Hinch alluded to a possible continuation of the beef should MLB fail to punish Ramirez. “It’s a confusing time,” he said after the game. “Either the players govern the players on the field like it’s always been, or we legislate it to where none of this crap happens. They got a free shot at him with no warning, no ejection. We’ll see if there’s discipline. And without discipline, there’s going to be no issue doing it the next time. So, if retaliations are in, cool. We’re well aware.”

That’s not how Marisnick feels. The incident served to distract from the fact that earlier in day, the outfielder was presented with the Astros’ Heart and Hustle Award. By all accounts, he’s a good guy with a good heart who made a questionable baseball decision that ended horrifically. And he’s still upset by it.

“There’s no need for that,” Marisnick said after the game, referencing the situation with Pujols. Then he turned the discussion to actual baseball matters, which is clearly where he’d like it to stay.

Update (7-17): Ramirez has been suspended three games for his pitch, which is one more than Marisnick got for leveling Lucroy.

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5 thoughts on “Jake Marisnick Is Willing To Put Up With An Awful Lot From The Angels If This Entire Affair Would Just Go Away

  1. My only problem with Ramirez’ pitch is that it was 5mph too slow and slightly low.

    Marisnick had it coming. And by his reaction he knew it.

    Ramirez drilling Marisnick in the head hard is no more dirty or dangerous than the play Marisnick made. If Ramirez is suspended then Marisnick should have been as well. After all, unlike Lucroy, he walked away from that play.

    1. I’ll join you in a conversation about Marisnick deserving a suspension, but you’re way out of the mainstream in advocating head-hunting. Marisnick WAS expecting to be hit — something below the shoulders, and likely below the waist — and was willing to suck up Ramirez’s atrocious decision making in order to alleviate the situation. There are no baseball circumstances that merit pitching at an opponent’s head.

      1. There are “baseball circumstances” that merit headhunting. For instance, making batters nervous about leaning in and diving across the plate. These are old-school plays that are now considered dirty and are against the rules, because they are dangerous and risk permanently hurting a batter.

        In *exactly* the same way, going several feet out of your way to blow up the catcher when you have a clear lane to the plate is dirty, dangerous, and a risk to the catcher’s career. I would argue that it is exactly the baserunning equivalent of throwing hard at the batter’s head. In fact, I would argue that more catchers in recent years have suffered long-term or permanent injuries than batters getting hit in the head, and so Marisnick’s transgression was much worse than if Ramirez hit him hard in the head. If one play isn’t that bad then neither is the other.

        Furthermore, it seems that the rule about not blowing up the catcher hasn’t taken. Players are willing to do it anyway and then shrug their shoulders. If they knew that they were going to get drilled hard in the head it might focus their attention.

  2. That is a seriously specious false equivalency, Jay. “If one play isn’t that bad then neither is the other” is reaching for an excuse for a reckless pitcher. Never mind that nobody within this space is calling Marisnick’s play acceptable. Also never mind the obvious difference between the premeditation of a beanball and in-the-moment decision making of a footpath to the plate (no matter how faulty the baserunner’s decision making might have been).

    There are many ways a pitcher can prevent a batter from leaning in on outside pitches that have nothing to do with head-high fastballs. An inside pitch at the waist will serve the same purpose. There’s a lot of grey area within baseball’s unwritten rules, but pitches above the neck are firmly outside those boundaries.

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