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