Bat tossing, Don't Showboat, Retaliation

Valdespin Pimps, is Plunked by Pittsburgh, Pouts

Valdespin 3Jordany Valdespin likes it flashy. The guy who made waves last year for comportment unbecoming of a rookie was at it again on Friday, hitting a second-deck homer at Citi Field, watching it, watching it some more, slowly sauntering toward first while dismissively flipping his bat, and only then settling into his home run trot.

The blast came in the ninth inning and served only to bring the Mets to within a 7-2 deficit against Pittsburgh. This may not have mattered when it came to the Pirates’ disdain for Valdespin’s display … but it sure didn’t help.

“When you hit the ball, you got to enjoy your hit,” Valdespin told the New York Daily News afterward. “Every time I hit the ball, homer or something, I enjoy that. Every hit, I’m enjoying, my family’s enjoying, my friends enjoying.”

Enjoyment, of course, comes at a cost. An evening of slurping whiskey sours can lead to dry heaves the next morning. An evening of pimping one’s meaningless homer can lead to Bryan Morris throwing a 94-MPH fastball into your arm the following day. (Watch it all here.)

Prior to Saturday’s game, Mets manager Terry Collins professed no idea of what was in store for Valdespin, although he told the New York Daily News that “fifteen years ago, the answer would’ve been yes [Pittsburgh would have thrown at Valdespin in retaliation]. … A lot of teams have long memories.”

To judge by his actions, however, Collins seemed certain of Pittsburgh’s response. He  inserted the targeted 25-year-old as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the seventh inning of a game in which the Mets trailed, 10-1—almost certainly to allow the Pirates a chance to respond directly, enabling both teams to move on without this particular dark cloud overhead.

When it happened, nobody in the Mets dugout appeared to take much issue (unlike Pittsburgh’s bench, which offered Morris hearty congratulations). Valdespin himself, however, was disgusted. He loitered near the plate (though he made no semblance of a move toward the mound) and sauntered slowly toward first. Afterward, he threw a fit in the dugout, hurling his helmet into a corner.

“Whether you like it or not, it’s just the way it is now,” David Wright told the Daily News, after Valdespin’s pimp, but before Pittsburgh’s retaliation. “I’d probably prefer a different way, but each guy has their own individual thing. I’m always with the theory that you don’t want to show anyone up. With that said, it is done a lot by a lot of people, not just by one individual.”

It is safe to assume that Wright is speaking for the team on this point. Valdespin has been causing organizational headaches since he was a minor leaguer—including issues with teammates at Single-A Savannah that led to a two-month exile in extended spring training, and a benching by Binghamton manager Wally Backman for a “lack of intensity,” according to a Metro WNY report.)

It is of particular organizational concern because situations like Friday’s can put Valdespin’s teammates in the crosshairs. (Because Valdespin did not start Saturday’s game, speculation had Wright becoming Pittsburgh’s target in his absence.)

In Newsday, David Lennon wrote that “Not once Saturday did any of the Mets say they don’t like to see one of their own get hit by a pitch—on purpose, no less. The discussion mostly involved talk about lessons learned and growing pains.” Collins was quoted as saying that “if nothing else, he grew by it, and that’s the most beneficial thing that could happen.”

In the New York Post, Wright soft-pedaled the message that, for Valdespin, “toning some of it down might be appropriate.”

Many in the sports world decry this form of baseball justice as unnecessary and brutal. Many of these same voices also bemoan the modern sporting landscape as having become too ego-focused, with too many look-at-me, eye-rolling moments to palate.

No matter how one feels about it, the dance done by the Mets and Pirates over the weekend is the best hope for professional American sports in this regard, a system of players keeping each other in check—no league mandates or threatened fines involved.  The game is to be played pride and respect, and players themselves ensure that this is so.

Whether Valdespin changes his behavior going forward is no sure thing. In 2011, his manager at Triple-A Buffalo, Tim Teuffel, said this about the outfielder: “Sometimes he looks at the ball when he hits it, doesn’t run as fast as his body will allow him. But I think he’s going to learn how to play the game a little bit more up here.”

For some people, information takes time to sink in. The lesson has been delivered; what Valdespin does with it is up to him. 

 

WBC

Celebracion Dominicano Muy Malo for Some Members of U.S. Squad

Dominicans in the WBCSo the Dominicans like to party. They play hard on the field, and they celebrate wins—hell, they celebrate runs—like they just won the lottery. It’s downright un-big league of them, causing their opponents no end of concern.

Following the DR’s 3-1 victory over the United States on Thurday, Brandon Phillips went so far as to say that some American players were less than pleased, and promised to “show out” in a rematch—I assume this is akin to hot dogging—if he got the chance.

Well, the U.S.’s 4-3 loss to Puerto Rico on Friday assured that Phillips will not get his moment, but that’s beside the point. Like many of their brethren from Latin America, DR players have celebrated their achievements with outsized displays on the field. When Erik Aybar drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning on Thursday, his team came streaking onto the field in celebration, despite the fact that the game had not yet ended. When Jose Reyes plated another run moments later, they did it again. And the scene after Fernando Rodney closed out the Americans in the bottom half of the frame put the previous displays to shame. (Emma Span has a collection of highlights in her Sports on Earth column.)

In Major League Baseball, it would all be seen as showing up the opposition, with the offending parties criticized (correctly so), and possibly made an example of by a willing pitcher with a wandering fastball.

This, however, is not Major League Baseball. It is the World Baseball Classic, and the Dominicans are not playing with foreign teammates on the Yankees, Dodgers or Rangers—they’re playing with each other. Representing a country in which such emotional displays are the norm, they have every right to their celebrations.

Baseball is an American game, but it’s long been known that its code doesn’t necessarily translate overseas, be it the Caribbean, Japan or locations in between. When players from there play on teams over here, it is incumbent upon them to learn the local mores, and abide by them. When it comes to national teams, however, not to mention national pride, these players have earned the right to celebrate with enthusiasm.

Should be a heck of a final series.

Don't Showboat, Hanley Ramirez

I See You, Too: Ramirez’s Antics Earn Notice

Thursday, the Dodgers should have known better when it came to dealing with umpires during their game against the Pirates. They didn’t, and it cost them.

In the fourth inning of that same game, Hanley Ramirez homered off of A.J. Burnett. Shortly after rounding second base, he made his by-now-patented “I See You” hand gesture—circles with the index finger and thumb of each hand, placed over his eyes like glasses—aimed at the Los Angeles dugout. (Watch it here.)

His sight line, of course, happened to pass close enough to the pitcher’s mound for one of two possibilities: Burnett misunderstood his intention and took the gesture personally, or the pitcher felt that an opposing player had no business participating in bush-league shenanigans while rounding the bases, intention be damned.

In either case, he’d have been correct.

“If you’re going to hit a homer, act like you’ve hit one before,” Burnett told reporters after the game. “The first batter, [James] Loney, hit one, was very professional about it. Ran hard the whole way.”

Ramirez concocted “I See You” as an update to the “Lo Viste” hand gesture he used in Florida, in which members of the Marlins hold a sideways V made with the index and middle fingers over their eyes (as seen here in a different environment.)

“When I got to the Dodgers, I did ‘Lo Viste’ for [former teammate Emilio] Bonifacio a couple times and it was cool,” Ramirez said in a Miami Herald report. “But then I spoke with [Dodgers shortstop]  Dee Gordon and he said, ‘Let’s do something different. You’re no longer in Miami.’ That’s when we tried to do something new and came up with this. It’s all for fun.”

At least until it ticks off a member of the opposition.

“That’s Hanley,” Ramirez’s former manager, Ozzie Guillen, said in an ESPN.com report. “[If] Hanley hit a home run down by 30 runs, he would pimp it. That’s the way he is . . . It surprised me A.J. didn’t drill him.”

Sure enough, Burnett faced Ramirez with two outs and the bases empty in the sixth, with the Pirates holding an 8-4 lead. There would not be a more opportune moment to make whatever statement he felt necessary, but he did not act.

Then again, Burnett also passed up a similar opportunity earlier this season, despite pointing toward the Reds dugout as a means of warning that just such a thing was imminent after Andrew McCutchen was drilled by Aroldis Chapman, and Josh Harrison was hit, then berated, by Mike Leake the next day.

Reaction, of course, is not the focal point of this subject. That would be “I See You,” which is cute and which keeps things loose and which builds morale on a team in a pennant race. All of this is beneficial. To break it out on the field, in game action, while facing an opposing pitcher, however, is nothing short of inane.

Ramirez left Florida in late July in dubious standing with many of his former teammates. Getting any of his new teammates drilled for an ill-considered on-field decision won’t do much to earn him new friends in Los Angeles.