Don't Showboat

Whether ’tis Nobler in the Mind to Suffer the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune, or Just to Act Like an A-Hole Closer

Pujols arrowAt his very best, Fernando Rodney is ludicrous. His pre-scripted bow-and-arrow routine following saves—during which he pulls an imaginary arrow from an imaginary quiver and shoots it with his imaginary bow—is one of the sorriest sights in the sport. He says he does it for the fans, but is there a bigger cry for attention in the big leagues? More pertinently, is anybody short of those who would be cheering for him anyway entertained by his hack act?

Still, it’s easy enough to ignore. He does it after games have ended, when people are either celebrating or walking somberly off the field. On Sunday, however, Rodney took things a step farther, bow-and-arrowing not toward his usual spot in center field, but toward the Angels dugout (or, he said, the fans sitting above) … and not at the end of the ninth inning, but after protecting a one-run lead at the end of the eighth. In so doing, he broke new ground in the art of closer show-boatery.

Suffice it to say that the Angels weren’t pleased. “He woke up our dugout,” said Grant Green in an MLB.com report.

When Rodney came back out for the ninth, Mike Trout greeted him by drawing a walk, then scored the tying run on Albert Pujols’ follow-up double. Pujols responded by shooting an imaginary arrow at Trout, and Trout returned fire right back at Pujols. It was as fine an in-your-face moment as can be found on a big league diamond short of actual game play. (Two singles and two intentional walks later, the Angels took care of that, too, with a walk-off, 6-5 victory, courtesy of Green’s game-ending single. Rodney did not reach for his quiver again at that point.)

It must be accepted that closers have their shtick. Sergio Romo does a little dance. Rafael Soriano untucks his shirt. Jose Valverde just kind of loses his mind. One time, Aroldis Chapman even rolled. It goes all the way back to Brad “The Animal” Leslie’s crazed yelps following saves in the early 1980s.

Closer to the Rodney situation was when Brian Wilson did his typical arms-crossed-point-to-the-sky move against the Dodgers in 2009, after which Los Angeles third baseman Casey Blake mocked him for it in the dugout … then took it back when he found out it was a tribute to Wilson’s late father. If you’re going to do it on the field, however, it’s gonna be in play.

All of which is a leadup to some simple advice: If as a closer you’re going to act like a goon, save it until the game’s actually finished.

 

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Practical Jokes

Rodney’s Bathroom Breather Hardly Breaks New Ground

Rodney trappedRays reliever Fernando Rodney got stuck in the visitors’ dugout bathroom at Oakland’s O.co Coliseum on Sunday, and was trapped for about 15 minutes until a rescue crew could open the door.

He emerged triumphantly, met by jubilant teammates.

“They got two runs when I was locked inside,” Rodney said in an Associated Press report. “They broke the lock. It was hot inside. I can only hear the crowd but can’t see game. So I don’t know what’s going on. I let them know and tried getting a key but couldn’t. I kept yelling, ‘Get me out!’”

(Check it out at the bottom of the page, or watch the extended clip here.)

“It was a kind of a fun moment,” added Rays manager Joe Maddon. “We kind of rallied then—we should have kept him in there. A lot of the commotion in the dugout in the eighth inning and part of the rally was someone beating on the door. Finally someone broke the door knob with a bat to get him out. I don’t even know who the hero was getting him out.”

While there’s no unwritten rule to cover Rodney’s escapade, there was one involved in another locked-in-the-bathroom incident covered in The Baseball Codes. Unlike Rodney’s predicament, that one was all about practical jokes—keeping things loose in the clubhouse.

From TBC:

Bob McClure was a fun-loving reliever for the Brewers in the 1970s, some­one who proved, if nothing else, that he could take as good as he gave. The story started with his Sunday routine before day games, for which he holed up with a newspaper in the long cinderblock outhouse behind the outfield fence at Milwaukee County Stadium. It was a cool place for an American League pitcher to pass the morning in the shade of the bleach­ers, escaping the summer heat while his teammates took batting practice.

When the door slammed shut on McClure in the middle of one of these siestas, the pitcher attributed it to a gust of wind. But when he tried to exit, the door wouldn’t budge, even though it had no lock. With just a hint of panic, the pitcher pushed again . . . and again. Soon he was exert­ing so much energy in his frantic bid to escape that he had to stop for peri­odic breathers. The day was growing increasingly more sultry, and McClure worked up a sweat; eventually he kicked the air vents from the walls and stripped down to his underwear. “I bet I lost about seven or eight pounds in there,” he said. “It was hot.”

After a half-hour, the pitcher was able to wedge the door open just enough to squeeze through (“I still remember the scrapes across my chest”), whereupon he saw that someone had taken the rope from a flag­pole on the other side of the outhouse and pulled it so taut to reach the doorknob that the pole had bowed under the pressure. Once it was affixed to the handle, the rope’s tension kept the door from opening; it was only as the fibers started to give that McClure was able, finally, to free himself. (He found out later that members of the visiting Minnesota Twins, com­ing out for their own batting practice, had been told by his mystery assailant to watch the flagpole, that someone was locked in the lavatory and it would bounce every time he tried to get out.) He put on his clothes and returned directly to the clubhouse, as if nothing had ever happened. “I would say that, if someone gets you, never let them know that they got you,” he said. “I think it’s inappropriate, if someone really gets you good, to overreact. Don’t get mad, just get even.” The problem was that he had no idea upon whom to visit his revenge.

Before a game several days later, McClure got his answer. As the pitcher loitered in the outfield during BP, a fan called him over to the bleachers. “Do you want to know who locked you in that room?” she asked. His instinct was to play dumb, but when the woman told him she had pictures, he couldn’t resist. She handed them over in exchange for a ball autographed by Robin Yount, and McClure saw exactly what hap­pened: It had taken two men to pull the flagpole rope tight enough to trap him, and their uniforms were clearly visible. It was pitchers Mike Cald­well and Reggie Cleveland.

McClure immediately set to plotting his revenge. Six weeks later, when the Brew­ers had an off-day in Kansas City before a series with the Royals, he struck.

While many players, including Caldwell and Cleveland, spent the after­noon golfing, McClure opted for a hunting trip with a local friend. On the way back they stopped by a farm, where the pitcher bought a small, live— and exceptionally filthy—pig. “It had so much pig dung on it that you couldn’t even hardly tell it was a pig,” McClure said. “It was perfect. We put it in a burlap sack in the back of my buddy’s pickup.”

When the pitcher returned to the hotel, he saw that his teammates hadn’t returned, and figured they’d be out until the wee hours. McClure bribed his way into the room that Caldwell and Cleveland conveniently shared, and let the pig loose atop the bed. “When that pig hit the sheet, it looked up at me and started projectile shitting everywhere, like a shot­gun,” he said. “That pig was alive. It jumps off the bed, and it’s squealing and going nutty. There’s shit on the bed, on the floor, on the curtains. It was so loud that I had to get out of the room.”

He was staying just across the hall, and hours later was roused by the sounds of his returning teammates. Caldwell was the first to enter, and nearly as quickly lit back into the hallway, shouting, “There’s someone in there!” As McClure listened with delight, his teammates rushed the room, then spent the better part of an hour trying to corner the pig. Finally, the noise quieted and McClure went back to sleep.

The next morning, the pitcher veritably bounced across the hall to see how his victims had held up. He entered the room under the pretense of rounding up breakfast companionship, but wasn’t at all prepared for what he saw. The place was spotless. The walls, the drapes, the bedspread, and the carpet had all been cleaned. Caldwell was lying on his back in bed, shirtless. Also on its back, in the crook of Caldwell’s right arm, was a freshly washed pig. It sported a red dog collar. Caldwell was feeding it French fries dipped in ketchup.

Feigning ignorance, McClure asked why there was a pig in the room and was told the entire story, up to and including an early-morning trip to a nearby pet store, where Caldwell bought collar, leash, and industrial-grade pet shampoo. The pig joined the team at the ballpark that day, serv­ing as the Brewers’ mascot. It ended up living on Cleveland’s farm, of all places, dreaming recurrently, no doubt, of room service and burlap.

Intimidation, Retaliation

Inside the Mind of Miggy – Cabrera Buzzed, then Fanned, then Steams

Cabrera unhappyIt was a classic misdirection. With an 0-2 count on Miguel Cabrera to open the 10th inning on Saturday, Fernando Rodney sent a 100-mph pitch so outside the strike zone that catcher Jose Molina could not get a glove on it. Wildness thus established, he followed it up with a pitch near Cabrera’s head.

In many respects, the pitch was perfectly placed. It tailed in at the last moment, but was easily trackable by the batter and was never in danger of hitting him. Cabrera leaned back to avoid it, but it would not have made contact even had he remained still.

The strategy was also sound. The previous day, Cabrera had homered twice (and didn’t help matters by celebrating that game’s final out by performing what appeared to be an imitation of Rodney’s archer pose, which the closer strikes following saves). Cabrera leads the major leagues in batting average, RBIs and OPS, and is second in home runs. It was without doubt in Rodney’s best interest to make him as uncomfortable at the plate as possible.

And it worked. Cabrera flailed at the next pitch, a down-and-in changeup, for strike three.

Perhaps Cabrera’s displeasure was compounded by the result of his at-bat, but upon reaching the dugout he spent a considerable amount of time gesturing toward, and yelling at, Rodney. (Watch it all here.)

The pitcher was obviously not trying to hit Cabrera during extra innings of a 3-3 game. Even if he was, it is given wisdom that such a strike is far easier to execute when aiming at the torso than at the head, which is a smaller and more maneuverable target. Much more likely was that Rodney wanted to crimp Cabrera’s style—get him out of the dangerous space in which he’s resided all season—and either A) misjudged the height of his inside pitch, or B) didn’t care.

Cabrera didn’t comment afterward, but his manager, Jim Leyland, did.

“I don’t care about throwing inside but I don’t like it up there,” Leyland said in an MLB.com report, referring to Cabrera’s head. “We will not tolerate that. You can take that to the bank. We won’t tolerate that up to the head to anybody. … That will cause a lot of problems for people.”

It caused problems for Ben Zobrist on Sunday, when, with two outs and nobody on base in the first inning, Tigers starter Rick Porcello drilled him in the back with a 94-mph fastball. It was intentional and it was expected. Plate ump Vic Carapazza quickly warned both benches.

Cabrera got his own measure of revenge three innings later, when he crushed a homer into the Rays Touch Tank—only the second such blast in the ballpark’s history.

Despite Cabrera being “a little sensitive,” according to Zobrist, the Rays left it at that. Except of course, for the final explanation offered by Maddon for their lack of further response. Via Twitter:

Maddon tweetTo gauge it by the wisdom of the author of The Godfather, the Rays, apparently, will not forget this slight. Considering that they won’t face Detroit until next season (or in the playoffs), however, their memories will have to hold for a while.