Luke Hochevar, Retaliation

How Very Hochevarian: Even Merited Retaliation Manages to go Awry

Sometimes, a pitcher has to do what a pitcher has to do. When things aren’t going well for him, of course, those things he does don’t always turn out like he might otherwise expect.

During the course of the first three innings against the Royals yesterday, Jered Weaver threw pitches up and in, above the shoulders to both Alcides Escobar and Jeff Francoeur, and drilled Lorenzo Cain twice. Neither of the balls that hit Cain appeared to be intentional, but Weaver is a guy who has been known to get squirrely with the opposition, and a response was in order.

It came from Royals starter Luke Hochevar in the fourth. This being Luke Hochevar, of course, he had already given up eight runs, including a home run by Bobby Wilson to open the frame.

So when the right-hander drilled the next hitter, Mike Trout, on the left hand with a 3-0 fastball (the pitch was aimed at his thigh, but Trout dropped his arm before it could connect) it left little question about intent—especially for plate ump Bob Davidson, who ejected the pitcher on the spot. (Watch it here.)

Had Hochevar opted for pure retaliation rather than waiting until just after somebody took him deep, would he have gotten away with it? It seems likely, based on his comments after the game.

“I just asked [Davidson] why I was run and he said, ‘Because the guy before hit a home run, and then you hit the next guy,’ ” Hochevar said in the Los Angeles Times.

It just goes to show that when things go wrong, they go really wrong—pitch selection, pitch location, and when to execute a well-deserved retaliatory pitch that everybody in the stadium expects you to make.

Maybe next time, Luke. Maybe next time.

Jered Weaver, No-Hitter Etiquette

Jered Weaver Didn’t Need Relief Last Night … Until he Did

From the don’t change anything file: While players typically opt for keeping the same spot on the bench throughout a no-hitter, Jered Weaver willingly gave his up in the eighth inning yesterday, three outs from no-hitting the Twins.

“I had to pee so bad it was unbelievable,” he told the MLB Network after the game. “I didn’t know whether to sit down or go do it or what, but I had to go relieve myself.”

(Broadcaster and former pitcher Mitch Williams, in response: “My pants would have been wet, because I ain’t changing a thing in that spot.”)

Not quite Michael Bourne, but it’ll do.

Appropriate Retaliation, Carlos Guillen, Jered Weaver, Retaliation

How Not to Retaliate, No Matter How Much a Guy Deserves it, Anaheim Edition

Yesterday’s Jered WeaverCarlos Guillen histrionics seemed to mesmerize the nation. I wrote about it for Sports, tying it in to last week’s Carlos CarrascoBilly Butler fiasco. Both had the same trigger—a player watching a home run longer than the pitcher would have liked—and wildly inappropriate retaliation: head-high fastballs. (Watch Weaver-Guillen here.)

Also included: A quick roundup of other Code violations recently in the news.

Click over to SI for a nicely formatted version and a full-color photograph of Weaver and Guillen. Or, if you’re lazy, just scroll down.

– Jason

Jered, meet Carlos. Carlos, Jered.

Insult me once, shame on you. Insult me twice, duck and cover.

In Detroit on Sunday, Angels pitcher Jered Weaver took matters into his own hands after two incidents of Tigers showboating after hitting home runs. Weaver stewed after Magglio Ordoñez paused to admire his two-run homer in the third, going so far as to say something to Miguel Cabrera about it after retiring him for the inning’s third out.

Whatever message Cabrera relayed in the Detroit dugout did not earn Weaver the respect to which he felt entitled. In fact, it had the opposite effect. In the seventh inning, Carlos Guillen watched his blast for several beats, flipped his bat, then made glaring eye contact with Weaver as he took five slow steps toward first followed by two sideways hops. Only then did he start his trot — by which point he was already halfway up the line.

“I’ve never done that before like that,” Guillen said in an report. “The way he reacted to Magglio, he’s my teammate. We’re a team.”

Weaver immediately began shouting at Guillen and home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt quickly stepped in and warned both benches against retaliation.

Weaver wasted little time ignoring him. The guy can’t be faulted much for wanting to take care of things quickly; he had already thrown 110 pitches and wasn’t going to be in the game much longer no matter what happened. The message he sent with his very next pitch, however, was anything but perfect. If Ordoñez and Guillen violated baseball’s unwritten rules with their increasingly provocative displays of showmanship, Weaver one-upped them with a 92-mph fastball aimed at the head of Alex Avila.

That Avila ducked under it was beneficial not just for himself, but for Weaver as well. Had the pitch connected, one of the AL’s top Cy Young candidates would now be bearing a label he might never be able to shed.

The move was all the more quizzical considering that just two days earlier, nearly identical circumstances precipitated nearly identical results — and a similar outcry against the pitcher.

The hitter was Kansas City’s Melky Cabrera, who after launching a grand slam off Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, watched it sail before he ran. Carrasco, already on the line for seven runs in 3 1/3 innings, threw his next pitch at — and over — the head of Billy Butler.

Carrasco was ejected and benches emptied. Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur could be seen gesturing angrily toward his hip as he yelled at Carrasco, indicating where the pitch should have gone.

“I understand the game,” Francoeur told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “If he thought [Cabrera] pimped the home run, fine. Hit [Butler] in the side. Don’t hit him in the head. That’s why I was yelling at him.”

Francoeur was spot on. Several Royals, including Butler himself, said that an appropriately placed retaliatory pitch would have raised nary a hackle on their bench. Instead, Carrasco is now a marked man.

The same can be said for Weaver. The Angels and Tigers won’t see each other again this season unless they meet in the playoffs. The next time they do, however, Weaver will have to do some explaining to his teammates should Detroit pitchers decide that his action merits further response.


Weaver and the Tigers’ twin showmen weren’t the only ones taking a run at the unwritten rulebook during the course of Sunday’s game. Justin Verlander was in the middle of a no-hitter when Erick Aybar led off the eighth inning with a bunt.

There are situations in which the unwritten rules forbid such a display. Had the Tigers’ 3-0 lead been a few runs greater, Aybar’s endeavor would have been universally assailed by Code adherents. As it was, even as he brought the tying run into the on-deck circle, he still surprised many.

The concept holds that a no-hitter deserves nothing less than a hitter’s best effort to break it up. In many cases, bunting does not qualify.

The best-known instance of this came in 2001, when Padres catcher Ben Davis ruined Curt Schilling’s perfect game with a bunt single in the eighth inning. Part of the reason Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly was so vocally upset about the play is that bunting for hits was not part of Davis’ offensive repertoire; the one against Schilling was the first of his career.

Aybar, however, has 41 bunt hits since the beginning of the 2009 season. Not to mention the fact that he didn’t actually break up the no-hitter, as Verlander was charged with a throwing error on the play. Three batters later, Macier Itzuris punctured Verlander’s balloon by singling — on a full swing.

If Verlander is upset with anybody, it should be Guillen. The Code stipulates that nothing should change when a pitcher is racing toward perfection. There are many ways to view this rule, but one of the pitcher’s own teammates intentionally initiating bad blood with the opposition and disrupting the flow of the game is inexcusable.

Guillen likely hasn’t heard the last of this from the Angels. If he’s lucky, he won’t hear it from within his own clubhouse, as well.

Elsewhere in the unwritten rules:

• In Boston, John Lackey continues to lead the league in on-field gesticulations made in response to mistakes by his fielders. Spurred primarily by two miscues from shortstop Marco Scutaro — one of which was charged an error — Lackey alternately pounded his glove and threw his hands into the air as he gave up three first-inning runs to Tampa Bay on July 16.

• Also in Boston, Red Sox reliever Alfredo Aceves hit Kansas City’s Billy Butler on July 26 — possibly in response to a brushback pitch thrown to Dustin Pedroia earlier in the game; or possibly because Butler had homered, doubled and singled in the game. It also could have been unintentional. No matter; Blake Wood then drilled Adrian Gonzalez in apparent retaliation, both benches were warned and everybody went on their merry way. (Well, Boston went on its merry way in a 13-9 victory, in which Royals outfielder Mitch Maier was forced to take the mound.)

• In Florida, Mr. Marlin himself, Jeff Conine (currently a special assistant to the team president) said on the radio that Hanley Ramirez doesn’t play as hard as he should, and if it was up to Conine he’d probably trade the shortstop. Five days later Ramirez shot back in the Miami Herald, calling Conine “chicken” for not saying it to his face, and proclaiming that he would “make it to the Hall of Fame being in a Marlins uniform.”

• In Kansas City, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar was on the business end of a hard slide by Tampa Bay’s Sam Fuld, and ended up taking spikes to the shin. “That’s a dirty slide, man,” he told the Kansas City Star.

• In Atlanta, Journal-Constitution columnist Mark Bradley recalled the time the retired former Braves ace Greg Maddux waited through parts of two seasons before he could retaliate against then-Diamondbacks pitcher Andy Benes.