Don't Steal with a Big Lead, Retaliation

Lack of Respect in the Windy City? De Aza Pays for Rios’ Mistake

Alejandro De Aza contemplates just having been hit with a pitch.

There is a persistent debate about the point at which a team should stop playing aggressively—the lead size that constitutes a blowout, and when it begins to matter.

According the Cubs, those numbers are six runs and the seventh inning, respectively—at least if Alajandro De Aza is to be believed.

De Aza, the White Sox center fielder, was drilled by the first pitch from Cubs reliever Manny Corpas leading off the eighth inning on Wednesday. It wasn’t that he and Corpas had any beef—to the contrary, said De Aza in a CBS Chicago report, “we’re cool, we’re friends, I’ve known him for a long time.”

The inspiration for the pitch—which De Aza felt was intentional (it certainly looked that way; watch it here)—was likely White Sox right fielder Alex Rios’ decision, after he led off the seventh inning with a single, to take off for second while his club led, 6-0.

Rios never made it, getting forced out on A.J. Pierzynski’s grounder, but the action was unmistakable—as was the response. De Aza said he thought Corpas was told simply “to hit the first guy.” (Watch some of his comments here.)

After the game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum played coy. “I don’t know,” he said in an MLB.com report. “He hit him. It happens sometimes.”

Especially when somebody is paying scant attention to the score. Rios has stolen 171 bases across his nine-year career, so he should have a pretty good idea of what’s appropriate in that regard. It’s also possible that the order came from the bench, probably as a hedge against the double-play more than as a straight steal. If that’s the case, it’s less likely that Robin Ventura simply lost track of the score than that he was insufficiently comfortable with a six-run lead at that point in the game. (Why he would feel that way when facing a Cubs offense that ranks in the bottom five of the National League in hits, runs, doubles, homers, OBP, OPS and slugging is another question.)

Either way, it was the final meeting of the season for the Chicago clubs, so we won’t see a response any time soon. And if De Aza and Corpas meet up during the off-season—you know, like friends do—they’ll hopefully come to the conclusion that the incident was strictly the business of the unwritten rules.

Chris Perez, Showing Players Up

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!, Chris Perez Edition

Old school, meet new school. On-field celebrations in baseball have become commonplace, mostly in the form of home plate scrums around a guy who has just scored the winning run. It’s gone from unheard of to accepted with the span of just a few years, and, Kendrys Morales aside, nobody has much of a problem with it.

The primary factor in this recent acceptance is that it’s celebration of a victory. (Such a display mid-game would be taken very differently.) It’s also why the one position that can get away with comparable shenanigans is a closer, following the final out of a win. Think Dennis Eckersley’s six-shooters, or Brian Wilson’s crossed-arm salute.

In that regard, Cleveland closer Chris Perez isn’t so unique, freely exuberating on the mound following a job well done.

Well, he did his job on Thursday, and Alex Rios didn’t appreciate it. Perhaps it was because Rios had just made the final out of the game, grounding to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to close Cleveland’s 7-5 victory over the White Sox. Perhaps it was because Perez was not just gesticulating, but yelling in celebration. Maybe it was because the pitcher had also snuck in a self-congratulatory fist pump after striking out A.J. Pierzynski a batter earlier.

No matter, Rios barked at Perez as he returned to the Chicago dugout in a clear display of displeasure and frustration. (Watch it here.)

“Well, I don’t know what was wrong with [Perez],” said Rios after the game, in an MLB.com report. “He just started yelling for no reason. I don’t know why he started yelling, and that’s it. When I hit that ground ball, he was yelling when [Cabrera] was throwing to first. He was yelling the whole way. I couldn’t tell what he was saying. He was just staring and saying something.”

Because Perez does this kind of thing frequently, it’s unlikely that his comments were directed toward Rios or the White Sox. According to Rios, that hardly matters. “If he was celebrating, that was not the right way to do it,” he said.

Which is what makes this juncture in baseball history so interesting. A generation ago, Rios’ sentiment would have been gospel. Eckersley and a few rogue pitchers aside, players generally had better control of their celebratory quirks. Today, with enforcers like Nolan Ryan—who would voice his displeasure through any number of fastballs thrown at an opponent who had just shown him up—increasingly rare, acts like Perez’s are common.

It’s the game as we now know it. Seems like it’d behoove Alex Rios to come to grips with it.

(Via Hardball Talk.)