Appropriate Retaliation, Retaliation, Scott Diamond

Head-Hunting Season in Texas Earns Immediate Consequences

Juuuuust a bit inside.

The real question after Thursday’s head-hunting and Friday’s suspension in Texas is why?

Not why Twins lefty Scott Diamond was ejected, then suspended for six games. That much was obvious: He threw at Josh Hamilton’s head. (Watch it here.)

No, the lingering uncertainty in the wake of it all concerns Roy Oswalt’s motivation for precipitating the affair with a third-inning fastball into Joe Mauer’s back. There were two outs. It was a 3-0 count. There was a runner on second. There was little question about the intent behind it.

Speculation has the runner, Ben Revere, flashing signs, which could understandably perturb Oswalt. Revere had also been on second when Mauer doubled in the first, which may have set some precedent. If nothing else, Mauer has been noted for his proclivity for this kind of activity.

It’s also possible that Oswalt was settling some unknown grudge, or that, with a base open and a 3-0 count, he was simply releasing a bit of pent-up aggression, happy to face the relatively punchless Ryan Doumit hitting next.

That last option is the least likely of the bunch, but still more plausible than Oswalt’s ultimate explanation, offered up after the game:

For some reason, I can’t keep the ball true on the left side. He’s been beating me away, away, away. I was trying to get him out in and just dropped my elbow. I don’t know the reason why the ball is coming back on the left side of the plate. I can keep it true on the right side. The left side I can’t really keep it true and I dropped my elbow and it kind of sailed on me.

A response from Diamond was expected. He probably would have gotten away with a warning had he been better about his execution. Instead of aiming for Hamilton’s hip, he sent a pitch up around the head, forcing the left-handed hitter to duck. Plate ump Wally Bell didn’t hesitate with his ejection.

“Any time in an umpire’s judgment that they go in the head area, we have to take care of business,” Bell said in a statement. “I felt at the time that he had to be ejected for it.”

Ron Gardenhire, who was also tossed, vigorously disagreed with the lack of warning, but it’s difficult to fault an umpire for tamping down immediately on what could be a very dangerous practice—let alone subsequent retaliatory shots. The league backed Bell up on Friday with its suspension.

Hamilton avoided confrontation by claiming later that he didn’t feel Diamond was throwing at him. Gardenhire said that he hopes it doesn’t carry over.

For a series of actions that made increasingly less sense, it seems a fine way to put an end to all of it. Then again two Rangers were hit in the second inning Friday by Minnesota’s Samuel Deduno in the span of four batters. They were part of six straight baserunners allowed that pushed a 1-0 Texas lead to 5-0, so it could have just been a case of wildness. Then again, Deduno walked only one batter over five innings.

Two more games this weekend. Keep your eyes peeled.

Josh Hamilton, Respect Teammates

Hamilton Breaks Arm, Hurts Feelings, Loses Face

Josh Hamilton clearly was not happy with the way things went Tuesday.

With Hamilton on third, third base coach Dave Anderson noticed that nobody was covering the plate as Tigers catcher Victor Martinez went to chase a popup that was ultimately caught in front of the Tigers dugout by Brandon Inge. Anderson urged Hamilton to score, but Inge flipped the ball to Martinez, who beat a diving Hamilton to the plate.

The result: a broken arm and six to eight weeks on the disabled list.

Hamilton was out, he was injured and he was frustrated. And he let it get to him, lashing out at Anderson after the game, essentially blaming his coach for the injury.

“I listened to my third base coach,” he said. “That’s a little too aggressive. The whole time I was watching the play I was listening. [He said], ‘Nobody’s at home, nobody’s at home.’ I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t want to do this. Something’s going to happen.’ But I listened to my coach. And how do you avoid a tag the best, by going in headfirst and get out of the way and get in there. That’s what I did.”

(Watch the play, and hear Hamilton discuss it, here.)

Hamilton is allowed to take issue Anderson’s call, personally or directly to Anderson. What he’s not allowed is to call out a coach in public. It undermines every bit of authority Anderson possesses.

This doesn’t happen frequently, but it’s not it’s never happened before. In 1986, for example, Angels baserunner Bobby Grich, having rounded third on a single by Bob Boone, retreated to the base, only to be thrown out by a relay from Jim Rice to Wade Boggs to Spike Owen.

The Angels were trailing 3-2; Grich would have been the tying run, had he scored. He threw his helmet to the ground and animatedly gestured toward third base coach Moose Stubing, showing him up not just in word, as Hamilton did to Anderson, but in deed.

Afterward, Stubing accepted full responsibility for the blown play, but that’s almost beside the point. No matter how badly he failed at his job, the unwritten rules mandate respect from player to coach, and vice versa—especially on the field. It’s the same section of Code that keeps managers from removing position players in the middle of an inning for anything but injury.

It took some time for Grich to understand this, but after the game he tracked down his coach to apologize.

Hamilton took even longer. He had hardly backed down early Wednesday when he told reporters, “I threw him under the bus by telling the truth about what happened. What do you want me to do, lie about it? People are going to blame who they want to blame.”

Never mind the fact that Hamilton’s status in the game is lofty enough to allow him to do whatever his instincts tell him on the field. He would not have been second-guessed for staying at third, no matter what happened.

Also never mind the fact that players are taught to go feet-first when sliding into home.

Later that same afternoon, however, the slugger had either reconsidered his stance, or had been instructed in no uncertain terms to turn the other cheek. Finally, he apologized to Anderson.

“I see where I need to take responsibility for it,” Hamilton said. “I was just frustrated—more so for getting injured.”

– Jason