When Jordany Valdespin went full pimp after hitting a meaningless late-game homer last week that served merely to pull the Mets to within a 7-2 deficit of Pittsburgh, it was clear that the Pirates were not pleased—as evidenced by Bryan Morris drilling Valdespin the following day.
Turns out his his own teammates didn’t much care for it, either.
“I couldn’t believe he did that,” Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “We were all dumbfounded. It was a bonehead thing to do. And to do that against [pitcher] Jose Contreras? [Contreras] is old enough to be his father, and one of the nicest guys in the world.”
This, it seems, was only the beginning of the problem. As was quickly evidenced by the ensuing firestorm of Valdespin’s angry tweets and Mets fans wondering why New York pitchers never responded to Morris’s blow—how Valdespin’s teammates didn’t have his back, as it were—the idea of protecting a teammate who doesn’t deserve protection became all too real.
During the reporting for The Baseball Codes, current Brewers manager Ron Roenicke put it this way: “You’ve got [a guy], who is doing stuff that you are not happy about, and now he gets hit because of it. You’re sitting here going, ‘I don’t want to fight for him. He deserves what he gets.’ And I think that came into play a lot. ‘Hey, he deserves to get hit, let him handle it.’ ”
Hawkins put it similarly for the Mets, about Valdespin.
“What were we supposed to do there?” he said. “We were down six runs, he hits a home run and he acts like it’s a walk-off. This isn’t Little League. What, now we’re supposed to get into a fight for that? We’re supposed to throw at somebody because he did a bonehead thing? Now, if they throw at him for no reason, that’s a different story. We protect our team. But to do what he did put us in a bad spot, a real bad spot.”
This is a public statement made by a veteran player as a last resort, the kind of thing a guy says only after every other effort to reach his teammate has failed. It’s a measure of desperation, of being fearful that Valdespin’s actions could put an innocent Met in an opponent’s crosshairs, or put put a pitcher in the unenviable position of defending actions that deserve no defense. But Hawkins didn’t stop there.
“He showed absolutely no respect,” he went on to say. “If you’re going to pimp it, you’re going to suffer the consequences. I have no problem defending my teammates, but some things, you just can’t defend against. He’s created a lot of unnecessary tension around here.”
According to Nightengale, Hawkins wasn’t alone in his feelings.
Outfielder Marlon Byrd: “The Pirates did what you were supposed to do.”
Manager Terry Collins: “We’re getting beat 7-1 with a 12-year veteran on the mound. Come on. I don’t care what the fans think. This is the big leagues. It’s a big-man’s game. I told him, ‘Look, it’s not about you. It’s about us. It’s about the team. We’re all trying to teach you a lesson here.’
David Wright called the entire incident “stupid.”
The harshest criticism, however, came from Hawkins, a 40-year-old who over 19 big league seasons has played for 10 teams. If anybody in baseball has earned the mantle of having seen it all, he is the guy.
“Sometimes you have to look yourself in the mirror,” he said. “[Valdespin] has got to ask himself, ‘What can I do to gain the respect back from my teammates?’ And he’s got to come up with that answer on his own. For some reason, he doesn’t want to do things the right way. He wants to do it the hard way. Hopefully, he’ll figure it out, because he’s got a chance to be a damn good ballplayer.”
Operation Public Shaming is officially underway. Never has a passing down of the Code been on more blatant display.