Celebrations, Pandemic Baseball

Mr. September: That Time When Reggie Swaggered His Way Into John Denny’s Doghouse

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: showboating and celebrations These old stories help show just how far baseball has come.

In 1981, Reggie Jackson was already on edge from a number of brushback pitches he’d been forced to avoid a week earlier. So when, in Yankee Stadium, Cleveland Indians pitcher John Denny threw a fastball up and in, again making the New York star duck and cover, then compounded the frustration by striking him out two pitches later, it did not sit well with the star. Jackson ran toward Denny, clearing the benches, though though no punches were thrown. Jackson was carried from the fray by teammates Oscar Gamble and Bobby Brown.

Jackson exacted the best possible revenge in his next at-bat, taking Denny deep in the fourth inning with a man aboard to give New York a 6-1 advantage. That was only the beginning.

Reggie was already known for admiring his home runs, but he took things to the next level. He flung his bat and watched the ball, then pumped his fist in Denny’s direction before starting a slow trot around the bases. After rounding third he tipped his cap to the crowd.

Denny was not enthralled by this, glaring as Jackson circled the bases, then descending the mound to yell at his antagonist. Once Reggie crossed home plate, instead of turning for the dugout he spun and charged the mound for the second time on the day, this time pulling Denny to the ground, sparking a multiple-player fracas. Gamble and Brown again had to drag Jackson from the field, literally picking him up off the ground to do so. Never one to pass up attention, Jackson began clapping and inciting the fans as he was borne away.

He wasn’t done for the night, however. Moments later he reemerged from the dugout, this time with his jersey removed, to take another crack at the Indians. Cleveland catcher Ron Hassey took up the challenge but was intercepted by security guards, who maintained order.

Both Jackson and Denny were thrown out of the game.

Celebrations, Pandemic Baseball

Josh Beckett Will Harbor None Of Your Malice, Good Sir

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: showboating and celebrations These old stories help show just how far baseball has come.

One of the supreme red-asses of the 2000s was Marlins/Red Sox/Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett, who harbored no tolerance for celebration on his watch. During a spring training game in 2006, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was slow to leave the batter’s box on a fly ball that ended up being caught on the warning track. Beckett shouted at Howard to, in order: run, quit acting like a pussy, and sit his ass back down.

“I wanted to make a point,” Beckett explained later that day. “You look like a jackass whenever you hit the ball like that and you’re pimping it, and you’re out. I’m kind of about respecting the game, and I’m not the type of guy to not say anything.”

Howard said later that he’d simply lost sight of the ball and was trying to figure out where it was. He also said that he opted to ignore his profane antagonist. Which only made Beckett angrier.

The next inning, as Howard played the field, Beckett kept up the verbal assault from the nearby first-base dugout, then moved toward the stairs as if to engage on the field. That was all it took. Howard dropped his glove and approached the rail, arms spread wide in invitation. Beckett tried to oblige but was pulled back by teammates. (For what it’s worth, Beckett—at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, one of the larger men in the big leagues—found one guy he couldn’t be accused of picking on: Howard was 6-foot-4, 250.)

That was only one of the things Beckett didn’t tolerate. He once screamed at Toronto’s Shea Hillenbrand for jogging to first base on what he thought was ball four, before having to return to the box after the umpire called the pitch a strike. He also shouted at Kenny Lofton for flipping his bat following a walk, leading benches to empty.

Celebrations, Pandemic Baseball

Stick Around, Why Don’t You, And Take Care Of Some Business?

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: showboating and celebrations These old stories help show just how far baseball has come.

In the final game of a homestand in July 1997, Angels slugger Jim Edmonds hit a mammoth home run against Cleveland’s Charles Nagy, stood at the plate, screamed in celebration, then took his time circling the bases.

When he next batted it was the eighth inning. Indians manager Mike Hargrove had decided after the seventh that Nagy was finished, but with Edmonds leading off, sent the right-hander out to start the eighth. Nagy promptly drilled Edmonds, and the two exchanged heated words.

“It was the first sign of life the Indians had shown in two weeks,” reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Hargrove orchestrated it, but how many noticed?”

Celebrations, Pandemic Baseball

Don’t Ever Laugh At Whitlow Wyatt

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: showboating and celebrations These old stories help show just how far baseball has come.

Marty Marion once took his time in the batter’s box, smoothing out the dirt while Whitlow Wyatt stood on the mound and waited. When Marion finally finished, the indignant Wyatt shouted in, “You ready?”

With his next pitch, Wyatt knocked Marion down. The hitter, fully expecting it, got up laughing. One pitch later, Wyatt hit him in the ribs. “Jesus Christ, Whit!” Marion yelled.

The pitcher had a ready response. “Don’t laugh when I’m on the mound,” he said.

Celebrations, Pandemic Baseball

Rookie High-Fives Ire Giants Nine

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: showboating and celebrations These old stories help show just how far baseball has come.

In 2006, 21-year-old Mets rookie Lastings Milledge hit his first-ever home run, against the Giants, then high-fived the front row of fans at Shea Stadium as he ran to his position in right field to begin the following inning.

The outcry from San Francisco players was swift. “We weren’t too happy about that,” said Giants pitcher Steve Kline afterward. “I think he genuinely knows he did wrong.”

To avoid further bad blood, Mets manager Willie Randolph said publicly that he would talk to Milledge to assure that such behavior would not be repeated. Teammate Cliff Floyd also mentioned the potential consequences of such actions, telling reporters, “If that’s what you want to do, you do that. But at the same time, if you want guys throwing at your head constantly, you proceed to do it that way.”

At the very least, a guy across town had Milledge’s back. “I was so happy when I hit my first home run,” Derek Jeter told the Morrisown Daily Record. “If there were fans on the way back to shortstop I would have high-fived them. I don’t blame the kid.”

Celebrations, Let The Kids Play

Key, Late-Game Homers Let Braves, Reds Provide Contrast In Ways To Celebrate … Or Not

So I don’t much mention bat flipping much in this space anymore because the bat flip is becoming so thoroughly integrated within the fabric of baseball that calling it out within the context of the unwritten rules is akin calling out curveballs or double plays — things that happen as a standard part of baseball practice.

Sometimes, however, a flip just cries out for attention. With that, feast your eyes on Ronald Acuna Jr.

This is fun on a few levels. It was a two-run shot that tied the game, 3-3, in the ninth. Also, he hit it off of Amir Garrett, spurring some obvious jokes, after last week’s events, about Garrett going after Acuna in response. Also, it gave us a clear distinction between the Let The Kids Play generation and the kind of non-celebration for which old-school fans continue to pine.

That’s because Acuna’s blow wasn’t actually a walk-off. The Braves couldn’t push across their necessary fourth run until it was too late, and lost in the 10th when Cincinnati’s Tucker Barnhart hit a three-run homer of his own … and did this — which is to say, not much — to celebrate:

(For a better look at Barnhart’s non-pimp job, go here.)

There are a couple of things to consider. Barnhart’s blast may have been close enough to the wall that he had initial doubts that it was gone. Plus, the game was in Atlanta, negating any desire to celebrate in front of the hometown fans. Also, like Acuna’s homer, it wasn’t a game-winner; the Reds still had to close things out in the bottom half of the frame.

Still, Acuna is only 21 years old, falling well within Elvis Andrus’ delineation that the Kids we want to Let Play be under 30. Then again, Barnhart is 28, so who the hell knows about anything anymore?

Ultimately, Acuna’s celebration left nobody worse for the wear: He was happy, the fans were happy and his teammates were happy, at least for a while. And the Reds were so unaffected by it that they came back to win the damn game. Seems like we’ve reached some semblance of balance in baseball’s new celebratory order … until another red-assed pitcher decides to get grumpy about something or other and we have to have the same discussion all over again.

Celebrations

Stroman’s Celebration Irks Eck, And People Have Opinions

A lot’s being made over Dennis Eckersley’s comments about Marcus Stroman’s on-field celebration on Sunday to close out the sixth inning against Boston, during which the broadcaster called Stroman’s actions “tired.” You know, hypocrisy and all, what with Eck having pretty much set the standard for pitcher gesticulation back in his day. Let’s let Twitter tell the tale.

There’s something to the fact that Stroman’s initial response appears to have been intended for the Boston dugout, but for me, there’s a different takeaway — not from the game itself, or even its aftermath, but from the Tim Anderson affair back in April, when the White Sox slugger infuriated the Royals by hurling his bat following a home run. Asked about it, Stroman was concise: “I could care less if someone pimps a homer off me. I gave it up. Showing emotion is part of the game.”

There it is. Love the guy or hate him, at least he’s consistent. The moment that Stroman takes issue with a home run pimp job, please alert Rob Friedman.

Celebrations, Retaliation, The Baseball Codes

Lotta Staring, Lotta Talking, And Just A Touch Of Benches-Clearing Confrontation As Twins-Rays Close Out Season’s First Half

Dozier dances

Before we move into the season’s second half, let’s clear out some pre-All-Star business. Like, for example, what happened in Minnesota over the weekend. It started during Saturday’s game, with the Rays trailing 6-4 heading into the top of the seventh inning. They emerged, two walks, three singles, a triple and a wild pitch later, leading, 9-6. Tampa added five more in the eighth to build the lead to 14-6. It’s what happened in the ninth, though, that drew my attention.

With Minnesota’s rookie utility infielder Willians Astudillo on the mound to save a taxed bullpen, Tampa Bay’s first three hitters went homer, double, single. No problems yet. The Twins led by nine, and were playing station-to-station ball—advancing one base on a single, two on a double, etc.—as teams do in blowouts. (For all the disagreement about when a lead can officially be considered safe, nine runs in the ninth meets every definition … never mind that Minnesota had already cried uncle with the insertion of Astudillo.)

Kevin Kiermaier then scored Smith with a ground ball to first base that was initially mishandled by Ehire Adrianza, who recovered in time to get the out at first but had no hope of making the play at the plate. This was acceptable under the rule of thumb that if no play is imminent—if a runner can go into a base standing up—he should do so. Ten-run lead.

What came next, however, was curious. Daniel Robertson singled on a soft bouncer to center field, and Adeiny Hechavarria never hesitated from second, motoring home with Tampa Bay’s 17th run, taking an extra base when such tactics had long since become excessive. (The Rays’ 18th and 19th runs came shortly thereafter on Jake Bauers’ two-run homer.)

Maybe the Rays were excited by their late-game explosion. Or maybe, as was pointed out via e-mail by longtime reader and avid Rays fan Road Dog Russ, “the Rays don’t feel any lead they have is safe. (Hangs head and sighs.)”

Minnesota players refrained from commenting publicly about it as far as I’ve seen, but if we’ve learned anything about this year’s Twins, it’s that at least a few of them (step on up, Brian Dozier) take the unwritten rules to heart (sometimes in not such productive ways). If I noticed the play from my office in California, the Twins almost certainly noticed it from across the field.

Which leads us to Sunday. While it’s possible that Saturday’s incident is unrelated to what came next—I’ve seen no accounts linking them—carryover is always possible.

With the score tied 4-4 in the seventh and the Twins in a shift against batter Eduardo Escobar, the aforementioned Dozier took an enormous lead off of third base, and, in no danger of being picked off (what with the third baseman being stationed in the shortstop’s spot), began dancing back and forth like a lunatic. It was enough to distract rookie Rays reliever Diego Castillo into a balk, sending a jubilant, fist-pumping Dozier home with the lead run. The play was, by every indication, a response to Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario, who had done something similar from third base on Saturday.

Castillo’s next pitch to Escobar came in at 101 miles per hour, low and inside, but not close enough to cause the hitter to so much as move his feet. When Escobar backed out of the box to collect himself, Twins third baseman Daniel Robertson yelled at him to step back in. That was pretty much that: Benches cleared, and hostilities were on. (As usual, no punches were thrown.)

 

“I wasn’t upset with the pitcher,” Escobar said after the game in an MLB.com report. “I never said anything to the pitcher or the dugout. I got upset and frustrated with Robertson, the third baseman. I didn’t know why he was yelling at me. The previous pitch before everything happened, it was kind of close to me. I wasn’t upset about that either. Robertson just started opening his arm and yelling stuff at me, which I couldn’t hear very well. That’s why I got frustrated.”

Escobar had been hit by a pitch an inning earlier. According to various Rays, after Castillo’s inside pitch, Twins reliever Ryan Pressly began shouting from the dugout that Tampa Bay had put a target on Escobar. Rays manager Kevin Cash began heatedly shouting across the field for somebody in Minnesota’s to shut the fuck up.

After the game, Robertson explained that he felt Escobar was trying to stare down the pitcher, and had done the same to reliever Ryan Yarbrough following an inside pitch earlier in the game. The fact that he also called Escobar “a good dude,” and pointed out that they both like to eat at Fogo de Chao doesn’t much mask the fact that getting upset over the way a player looks at somebody is ridiculous. Brazilian-style meat may build bridges, but this ain’t that.

(Robertson’s exact explanation: “When Castillo went down and low on [Escobar’s] ankles, he stared at him again. There was already a lot of chatter going on as far as the balk that happened right before that. Everyone was yelling at each other. He was looking back up at our pitcher again, and I just told him, ‘Hey, quit staring at our pitcher. Nobody’s trying to hit you; just get back in the box and hit.’ That’s about it, man. Then he kind of came back at me.”)

Escobar struck out on the next pitch, at which point Robertson was still talking. The hitter again took exception, this time as he walked past the Twins dugout, and again benches cleared. This time Escobar was ejected.

There’s a lot of fault to go around. Dozier did a mess of hollering all the way down the line as he was sent home on that balk, but he never directed it toward the pitcher or Tampa Bay’s dugout. If the Rays don’t like stuff like that, their best bet is to avoid balking in runs.

If Escobar was rattled by an inside pitch that was closer to being a strike than it was to hitting him, he’ll either need to fix that mentality or find a new line of work.

Kevin Cash decided that it was a good idea to repeatedly curse at his opponents. If he’s legitimately wondering why things got heated, there are a number of people he can see about that.

If David Robertson is really able to get bench-clearingly annoyed at the way an opponent looks at his teammate, he’d make an awesome nightclub bouncer, but might be a touch too sensitive for his sport of choice.

Also, don’t score from second on a single while up by double digits in the ninth. Who knows? That might have solved everything right there.

Celebrations, Showing Players Up

Javier Baez Is In No Mood For Your Gesticulations, Mr. Pitcher

Baez v Garrett

Turnabout is fair play. The shoe’s on the other foot. Something about geese and ganders. When a player like Javier Baez takes exception to an opponent’s display of emotion on the field, one can’t help but think about such phrases. Also, hypocrisy.

On Saturday, Reds reliever Amir Garrett whiffed Baez to close out the top of the seventh, and grew somewhat animated on his way down the hill, loosing what Cubs manager Joe Maddon later called “a Lion King’s type of roar.”

There is, of course, some history. On May 18, 2017—one day short of one year earlier—Baez touched Garrett for a grand slam at Wrigley Field, and did just a touch of home run pimping.

As is the way of big leaguers, Garrett has a long memory and an overt willingness to respond in kind. Baez didn’t appreciate it. Following his strikeout, he and the pitcher had words, and benches emptied. The surprising part about it is that Baez, the guy behind this:

… and this:

… and oh hell yeah this:

… even took the time to consider his opponent’s reaction.

Baez (and some of his teammates) pointed out after the game that Cubs celebrations are strictly intramural, and not in any way directed at the opposition. So how about Garrett, a guy also known to occasionally show some emotion on the mound? Even if the pitcher’s Lion Kinging was directed at Baez (which it was probably was), there’s plenty of gray area when it comes to Baez’s own roaring. At some point, when a player is simply howling into the wind, it becomes difficult to draw too many distinctions.

Mostly, this seems like protracted frustration drawn quickly to the surface. At the time of the incident, Baez was 2-for-his-last-22, with nine strikeouts. The slugger has hit only .226 since April 26, watching his batting average fall from .310 to .265 in the process, with a meager .410 slugging percentage. He hasn’t drawn a walk since April 11. Suffice it to say that he’s in no mood for these types of shenanigans.

None of that, however, is particularly relevant. Javier Baez has rightly become a prominent face in the Let Ballplayers Celebrate movement, which is predicated on playing with emotion. Even if some of his points about Saturday’s game have merit, the overall optics of a guy like that calling out a response like Garrett’s doesn’t do much to further the cause.

Garrett himself said it perfectly after the game, in a Chicago Tribune report: “You dish it, you have to take it.”