In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: what and what not to do when your team holds a big lead late in the game — starting with swinging at a 3-0 pitch.
With the Expos holding a 10-0 lead over the Mets in the sixth inning of a game in 2001, New York reliever Turk Wendell, with a 2-0 count on Vladimir Guerrero, delivered a pitch that Guerrero felt was too far inside, even though it posed no danger of hitting him. He glared at the mound. Then he responded by unloading on Wendell’s 3-0 offering, taking out his frustration with a mighty hack that resulted in an fly ball so incredibly high that it nearly hit the roof of Olympic Stadium before falling to the base of the center field wall, where Tsuyoshi Shinjo caught it for the third out of the inning. As Wendell headed for the Mets dugout, he shouted at the slugger, who attempted to stare him down.
“What is he staring at?” Wendell told the New York Post after the game. “If he wants to stare at something, I’ll give him something to stare at. I could see if the ball had hit him in the back, or the ball was at his face or something, but the ball was not even close to hitting him. The more he complains about it, the more people are going to pitch him inside.”
Expos manager Felipe Alou pulled Guerrero from the game, and later was contrite on his behalf, saying that Guerrero knew he “committed a sin.”
“Vladimir wanted me to apologize to the Mets and to the game of baseball for what he did …” Alou said, explaining that nobody’s bigger than the game and that “Even before I was playing there were no 3-0 swings [in a blowout].” Once a lead is seven runs, he said, “no stolen bases and no 3-0 swings.”
The following day, Wendell was called into the game in the seventh inning with his team trailing 4-2. The first batter he faced was Guerrero, and when the count reached 3-2, Wendell sent a pitch into the outfielder’s left shoulder blade. Again Guerrero stared at the mound and cursed some in Spanish before being corralled by plate umpire Tim Tschida. As Guerrero walked to first base, the pitcher called out, “Let’s go!”
“He’s too chickenshit,” said Wendell after the game. “He’s a tough guy. He tries to play like a tough guy. You throw anywhere near him and he glares at you. Well, you’re that tough, come on, let’s see it.”
Guerrero ended up showing him in another way. The two faced each other three times more before Wendell retired. The first time, Guerrero hit a line-drive single. The second he stroked an RBI double. The third, unable to take any more, perhaps, Wendell hit him with a pitch and was immediately ejected.