John Danks, Jose Bautista, Showing Players Up

Frustration Night in Canada: Bautista Sparks Showdown of the Irritated

Jose, meet John. John, Jose.

If John Danks’ girlfriend broke up with him last season, when he won 15 games for the White Sox with a 3.72 ERA and finished seventh in the American League in WAR, he probably would have taken it a lot better than if she broke up with him sometime in the last two months.*

Which is to say, dealing with adversity is much easier when you’re on top of the world than it is when you’re getting your head kicked in every five days.

The latter scenario pretty aptly describes Danks this season, especially after giving up nine earned runs over four innings to Toronto on Sunday to run his record to 0-8 with a 5.25 ERA. Which is why it shouldn’t be too surprising that he’d show some thin skin when, having just retired the best hitter in baseball on a 3-2 pitch, said best hitter in baseball gave him an earful.

Never mind that Jose Bautista was cursing at himself, not Danks. He was cursing, and Danks was the pitcher, so of course Danks took it poorly. (Watch it here.)

Toughen up, one might tell Danks; Bautista didn’t mean to disrespect you. But think about it this way: Was Bautista frustrated by hitting a popup because he consistently expects better from himself, or was he frustrated because he had just seen two fat two-seamers from a pitcher who had given up four runs over the course of the previous two hitters, including a two-run homer to Corey Patterson—only to have watched the first for a called strike, then failed to hit the second past shortstop?

In other words, is Bautista that ferocious a competitor, or was he saying—in an extremely visible way—I can’t believe this chump just got me out?

It’s clearly possible that it’s the latter, which is all Danks needs to be justified in his reaction. Danks started shouting down Bautista from the moment he spiked the bat, and Bautista had a word or two in response.

“He was out there acting like a clown,” Danks said after the game. “He’s had a great year and a half—no doubt. He’s one of the best players in the league. But he’s out there acting like he’s Babe Ruth or something. . . . He isn’t that good to be acting like he needs to hit every ball out of the ballpark.”

Retaliation in the future: Likely.

This isn’t always the case, of course. Last May, Carlos Lee reacted similarly after popping up against Chris Carpenter, and heard about it from the St. Louis pitcher. One difference: Carpenter was 4-0 with a 2.80 ERA at the time, and though he was clearly frustrated in having just given up the game’s first run a batter earlier, he was (and still is) too good to take things as personally as he did (and does). Danks, at least right now, is nowhere near that point.

The lesson of the day: Play it safe and keep your frustrations to yourself, big leaguers, at least until you find your way back to the dugout.

– Jason

* I should probably note that I don’t have the foggiest idea if John Danks even has a girlfriend, let alone if he’s married, and certainly possess no information about his potential relationship issues outside of the purely hypothetical situation described above. I wish John Danks nothing but many years of avid bachelorhood or wedded bliss, whichever suits him better.

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Matt Diaz, Showing Players Up

When Bad Things Happen to Good Players

Chalk one up for the good guys.

Matt Diaz hit a game-tying, two-run homer for the Braves on Sunday, then flipped his bat in celebration. In cases like this, players are usually granted a degree of leeway, for celebratory purposes.

A degree.

It wasn’t until he rounded the bases and took a gander at exactly how far he’d flipped it, however, that Diaz realized his actions might have been a bit too enthusiastic.

“Coming around third you see the dugout and you see the bat boy picking up the bat over by the dugout, like wow, did I do that?” Diaz told the Atlanta Journal Constitution after the game. “I didn’t know how far. It was ugly. There was a Sammy Sosa hop involved, with a Bret Boone bat flip, with a Paul O’Neill head-down-not-look-at-it but then look at it later.” (Watch it here.)

It wasn’t quite an apology to the pitcher, Leo Nunez, but it was certainly an admission of guilt—which can go a long way toward mollifying sensitive feelings, especially since the teams play again this weekend.

Then again, Diaz and Nunez were once teammates in Kansas City, and Diaz thinks he has a handle on the pitcher’s state of mind.

“Leo is a high emotional pitcher anyway, and when he has a big strikeout, he’ll let you know it,” he said. “Those guys usually understand guys who get caught up in emotion and do something like I did yesterday.”

It wasn’t recognition of the Code quite along the lines exhibited by Michael Saunders earlier in the year, but the guy dropped a Paul O’Neill reference. What more can one reasonably ask?

– Jason

Carlos Lee, Chris Carpenter, Houston Astros, Showing Players Up, St. Louis Cardinals

The Best Way to Beat Chris Carpenter: Disrespect Him

Chris Carpenter is proving to have thin skin, and it’s costing him.

In the third inning of yesterday’s game, Carlos Lee popped up a pitch to shortstop with runners at first and second base, and responded by slamming his bat to the ground and yelling at himself in frustration. It took less than two seconds, and his gaze was fixed nowhere near the mound. (Watch it here.)

Still, Carpenter took it personally.

The St. Louis pitcher started into a surprised Lee, who slowly approached the mound to continue the conversation. Benches and bullpens emptied, although nobody came close to throwing a punch.

Did Carpenter have reason to be annoyed? Absolutely.

Should he have reacted as he did? No way.

There’s such thing as overkill when it comes to the respect afforded by baseball’s unwritten rules, and Carpenter offered up a clear example. Immediately following the incident, the right-hander gave up a three-run homer to Hunter Pence, as part of a four-run inning. In the seven other frames that Carpenter completed, he gave up three hits and no runs.

St. Louis lost, 4-1.

Up to that point, Pence was 0-for-9 lifetime against Carpenter. To judge by the box score, the pitcher effectively psyched himself out.

(St. Louis manager Tony La Russa did have Carpenter’s back, saying, “Routinely now, hitters pop up a pitch they think they should do [something] with, and they start making noises, and that really is disrespectful to the pitcher.” With any other manager, this would clearly be an effort to deflect attention from the pitcher. La Russa, however, probably believes it.)

This is the second time this season that the Cardinals might have paid a price for Carpenter’s sensitivities.

On April 21, he was hit by a pitch from Arizona’s Edwin Jackson, and then took the unusual tack of seeking retribution from the basepaths, not the mound, going out of his way to take out second baseman Kelly Johnson on an ensuing double-play grounder. (He ultimately rattled cages but did no damage, and after the game called it “an unprofessional move.” “I shouldn’t have done it . . .” he said. “I was in a position where I didn’t control my emotions enough to not do something stupid.”)

Carpenter threw shutout ball that day, save for the two runs he gave up two innings after his basepath meltdown. It’s impossible to say that one led to the other, but the possibility exists.

Carpenter, of course, is hardly alone in demonstrating the downside to being a stickler for the unwritten rules. Take an example from 2006, in which Toronto’s Ted Lilly hit A’s DH Frank Thomas in retaliation for Oakland pitcher Joe Blanton’s plunking of Troy Glaus an inning earlier.

Lilly got Thomas with the first pitch, his intentions clear. And Thomas took it like a pro, trotting to first base without emotion, as if he’d merely drawn a walk.

Lilly, however, was thrown off his game. Six of the next eleven batters reached base, including a Jay Payton home run.

“When he hit Big Frank, he wasn’t so sure that Big Frank wasn’t coming out to get him,” said a member of the A’s. “He thinks he helped his team by hitting Big Frank, but I’ll tell you what—his heart was pumping a mile a minute until he realized that Frank was just going to take first base. And after that, Lilly couldn’t find the strike zone. He was all over the place.”

A pitcher as good as Chris Carpenter is rarely all over the place, but the emotions that accompany perceived disrespect have managed to expose a chink in his armor.

He’d be well served to cover that up.

– Jason