Appropriate Retaliation, Carlos Carrasco, Retaliation

Carlos Carrasco at it Again, After Getting Hammered, Again

Carrasco revisitedThe last time we heard from Carlos Carrasco, the Indians pitcher was throwing at Billy Butler’s head, for the inconsequential reason that Melky Cabrera had just gone deep as the latest in a string of Royals to pound the right-hander.

That was in 2011. Since then he has been ejected (for throwing at Butler), suspended (also for throwing at Butler) and injured (he blew out his elbow during his next appearance, unrelated to throwing at Butler, except possibly karmically).

Well, ‘Los is back. His previous line, against Kansas City in ’11, featured seven runs on seven hits, including three homers, in 3.1 innings. His latest line—his first since the injury—against the Yankees on Tuesday, featured seven runs on seven hits, including two homers, in 3.2 innings.

Also, he threw another beanball.

This one was at Kevin Youkilis, immediately after Robinson Cano—the latest in a string of Yankees to be pounding the right-hander—hit a two-run homer.  The ball connected with the spinning Youkilis high on the shoulder, just below the neck. (Watch it here.)

Youkilis knew what was going on, and glared toward the mound. Plate ump Jordan Baker also knew what was going on, and ejected Carrasco on the spot. Considering that the pitcher earned six games last time he did something like this, more severe consequences are likely headed his way.

“I slipped (on the pitch that hit Youkilis),” said Carrasco after the game in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “That’s the truth. I was throwing 95 to 96 the whole game. I slipped and threw 90 mph.”

Except that’s not the truth. As noted in the broadcast, Carrasco’s follow-through was just fine until it occurred to him that a touch of subterfuge might be beneficial, and he belatedly dropped toward the ground.

“[The pitch] was right in the middle of [Youkilis’] back after a home run,” said an unimpressed Joe Girardi in an report.

(In another coincidence, Butler homered after being thrown at by Carrasco; in his following at-bat, Youkilis did, too.)

Carrasco tracked down manager Terry Francona after the game to apologize, but at this point, and with his record (which now stands at 0-1 with a 17.18 ERA), it probably won’t do much good, with either the team or the league.

On one hand, Carrasco’s the kind of guy who gives the unwritten rules a bad name. On the other, he’s a perfect example of why they exist—because even if the league didn’t tamp down on his tired act, teammates and opponents alike are certain to take care of it in their own way.

Update, 4-10: The Indians, apparently having heard enough, have demoted Carrasco to Triple-A.

Update, 4-12: MLB, also having heard enough, suspended him for eight games.

Drew Hutchison, Kevin Youkilis, Retaliation

The Professor is In: Youkilis Offers Impromptu Code Lecture at Home Plate for Toronto Rookie

When it comes to the unwritten rules, the primary takeaway from Sunday’s game between the Red Sox and Toronto was not Boston starter Daniel Bard hitting two members of the Blue Jays within the span of three batters, nor Toronto pitcher Drew Hutchison drilling two Boston hitters, ostensibly in response.

Those were noteworthy events, sure, but Toronto’s 5-1 victory anointed a new king of the Code—a guy who not only knows how things are supposed to work and is willing to abide by the rules even when it’s his own hide on the line, but has the presence of mind and the strength of character to give impromptu instruction, on the field, to his opponent.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Youkilis.

The third baseman was hit high on the shoulder during his sixth-inning at-bat, and if he didn’t know it was coming, he was at least ready for the possibility. Based on his reaction, he took no umbrage with getting drilled, but was irate over the pitch’s location, too near his head.

Youkilis spun toward the mound, pointed toward his hip, and yelled at Hutchison to “keep it down.” He then gathered his batting helmet and made his way to first base. The closest he came to rubbing the spot was when he pointed to it in response to the Boston trainer’s question about where he had been hit. (Watch it here.)

That Hutchison had a mandate to retaliate in the first place was questionable—though well within the boundaries of reason—given that Bard had never been more wild. The first batter he hit, Yunel Escobar, loaded the bases; the second, Edwin Encarnacion, drove in a run. Bard also issued five bases on balls over the course of one-and-two-thirds innings, along with five earned runs on just one hit. He managed to throw all of six fastballs for strikes. The guy was obviously not making any kind of statement short of the fact that he may well prefer working out of the bullpen, but Encarnacion was sufficiently hurt after being hit on the hand to be pulled from the game before his next turn at bat.

Hutchison saw fit to stand up for his mates—an impressive display for a guywho six weeks ago was working in Double-A. Things could have ended after he hit Kelly Shoppach—Boston’s first hitter after the dual drillings in the third. It’s likely that when Encarnacion left the game in the fifth that further action appeared merited to the pitcher.

“I was trying to go away,’’ Hutchison said after the game, denying intent. “I tried to put a little bit extra on it and I just missed. That’s it.’’

Where this all ends up is Daniel Bard. Because Youkilis expected his drilling, he no doubt pins its point of origin squarely on his teammate. Hutchison’s message was on point—Don’t hit our batters, and we won’t hit yours—and Boston heard it loud and clear. Ten more Blue Jays came to the plate after Youkilis was drilled, and they all emerged unscathed.

As if Bard wasn’t feeling enough pressure to perform, he now has this to chew on, as well.

Bobby Valentine, Kevin Youkilis, Managers Protect Their Players, Sports

Now at Bobby Valentine Sometimes Says Stupid Things

My latest is up over at Sports, involving Bobby Valentine‘s recent comments about Kevin Youkilis. You can click over there to see a full-color photo of Bobby V during game action, or you can save your mouse-clicking finger and just scroll down. (Bonus points for reading it here: The original, un-edited ending!)

One update: Between the time I turned in the copy yesterday and this morning, video of Valentine’s press conference, in which he discusses the situation, has been posted on the Red Sox Web site. In it, the manager says that he talked to Youkilis “during the game” (this after an earlier apology did not appear to go well), and that, instead of everything being fine, “it is what it is.”

If things don’t get better in a hurry over there, it’s pretty clear they’re going to get a lot worse.

On to SI:

Bobby Valentine was brought to Boston as a knee-jerk reaction to a perfect storm of last year’s late-season collapse, wild accusations about allegedly dispassionate players, and a clubhouse culture that allowed such accusations to surface in the first place.

Blaming Terry Francona is one thing, but expecting a guy like Valentine — long on baseball acumen but short on verbal filters — to provide a calming influence to a team in turmoil was, at best, a crapshoot. Not yet two weeks into the the 2012 regular season, Valentine is embroiled in his first controversy.

It may seem innocuous, going on television as Valentine did and saying that Kevin Youkilis is not “as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past.” It was a phrase amid an otherwise complementary comment; Valentine is obviously invested in Youkilis’ success, and he made sure to note that his third baseman’s slow start appears to be turning around.

None of that matters, of course. In baseball, a manager’s primary duty away from the field is to protect his players at any cost, usually from the media, at least until the point that a player leaves him no other option. If Youkilis has somehow already reached that point with Valentine, if his manager felt that calling him out in a local television interview was the only recourse left to reach him, well, that would constitute a newsworthy story. Other than his manager’s off-the-cuff banter, however, there is no indication that this is the case.

Instead, Valentine and the Red Sox are left to deal with the fallout, which serves to illustrate precisely why managers are expected to be measured in public statements about their players. Now, instead of coming to the ballpark and focusing on the game at hand, Youkilis has to answer questions about his manager’s lack of confidence, in addition to questions about his slump. Now, Dustin Pedroia has to step back from his own preparations in order, as a team leader, to defend his compatriot. Now, the rest of Boston’s players have to wonder what it might take before their manager publicly questions them, as well. Now, Valentine, the man brought in to help manage a media circus, has added a ring to the big top, and — inadvertently or not — is forcing his players to dance through hoops before they reach the field.

The unwritten rule to protect your players is why Whitey Herzog refused to admit that Keith Hernandez’s drug use (and his subsequent untruths when discussing it) were motivating factors in his being dealt to the Mets in 1983, even as the manager took considerable grief for the deal.

This rule is why Joe Torre, after Roger Clemens threw a bat shard at Mike Piazza during the 2001 World Series, refrained from storming out of his postgame interview amid a battery of leading questions. He knew Clemens was to follow him in front of the press, and wanted to absorb the difficult queries himself.

This rule is why Tony La Russa defended Jose Canseco long after steroid accusations against him became part of the public dialogue, and it is likely why he continued to defend Mark McGwire against similar charges after even many of his staunchest defenders had long since given up.

This rule is why Arizona manager Bob Brenly so vociferously attacked Ben Davis in the press following the Padres catcher’s bunt single that broke up Curt Schilling‘s perfect game in 2001. It was less because Brenly was angry at Davis, he said, and more because he wanted his pitcher to know that he “was looking out for his interests.”

For a clear comparison, consider two baseball stories, both of which involve pitchers being pulled from games in which their teams led by identical 4-2 scores. In one, A’s manager Ken Macha discussed with the press the fact that Barry Zito removed himself from the penultimate game of the 2004 season, with the division on the line against the Angels, after 114 pitches. Zito logged seven full innings, but Oakland’s bullpen gave up three quick runs, and Anaheim went on to win the game and a spot in the postseason. There was heat for pulling an effective pitcher, and Macha wanted no part of it.

In the other, Tigers manager Mayo Smith opted in 1969 to keep quiet about the fact that he pulled his own starting pitcher, Denny McLain, with one out in the sixth inning, after McLain warned him that he was tiring. Reliever Darryl Patterson came on and gave up, in order, a single, a walk, a sacrifice fly and a three-run homer; Detroit lost, 6-4.

Afterward, with media speculation raging about Smith’s decision to remove his star pitcher so early, the manager refrained from divulging the fact that McLain had effectively removed himself, not to mention that he had left the park altogether by the eighth inning. Smith kept quiet even when telling the truth would have deflected criticism. Valentine didn’t even have that for motivation.

Valentine has publicly apologized to Youkilis, but a question for players in the Boston clubhouse may soon arise—if it hasn’t already—about what kind of manager they want to play for. If the answer is less Ken Macha and more Mayo Smith—or less Bobby Valentine and more anybody—but anybody—else, then the manager has far bigger things to worry about than Kevin Youkilis’ early-season hitting woes.