When it comes to respect on the ballfield, 2020 is a particularly weird time.
We’ve long discussed the myriad ways that players can express displeasure with the opposition through their actions on the field, but have never encountered it being done via muttering from one’s own dugout.
With a deficit of crowd noise, that’s now a thing. Like on Tuesday, when St. Louis manager Mike Shildt nearly inspired a brawl over something he heard the Brewers say.
In started in the bottom of the fifth inning on Tuesday in Milwaukee, when plate ump John Bacon called a strike on a 2-1 pitch to Ryan Braun. The hitter disagreed, saying, “No, no, no, no—that is not a strike, man,” loudly enough to be picked up on the TV broadcast. (Again, not so difficult sans crowd noise.)
Bacon is in his second year as a major league umpire, and Braun appears to have thought that he was being intimidated by St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina. “Just because he gets mad at you,” he continued, “you can’t call that a strike, man.”
Later in the at-bat, Braun’s swing connected with Molina’s outstretched left wrist, resulting in only the third catcher’s interference call of Molina’s 17-year career—the first since 2006. Because the bases were loaded, the ruling brought home a run, extending the Brewers’ lead to 13-2. Even worse, Molina was injured, though he stayed in the game and X-rays later revealed no structural damage. As Shildt was checking on him, he heard something from Milwaukee’s bench that set him off, and he stomped all the way to the top step of the Brewers dugout to confront whoever said it. (What was said has not been disclosed by anybody on either side of the argument.)
“I don’t know where the insult came from,” said Shildt afterward, in an MLB.com report. “I feel like it was more directed to me, quite honestly. Did I do anything to warrant it? Perhaps. I was staring in the dugout. I will accept that. My hearing doesn’t suffer at all with a mask on.”
Shildt made clear that he was leveling no accusations against Braun, and that, above all, he had been frustrated by the interference call against a guy who simply does not draw interference calls. That didn’t make it okay with him, however.
“I’m not going to take it,” the manager said in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report. “I’m not going to take any chirping out of the dugout. We’re not going to start things, but we’re not going to take it. Heard something I didn’t appreciate. I will always have our players’ backs. I will especially have a Hall of Famer and a guy who has the most physical, mental toughness that I’ve ever managed and may ever manage. I will always have his back.”
Moments after Shildt arrived at the Milwaukee dugout, players were littering the field, with Shildt and Molina being particularly expressive in their displeasure.
Nobody ended up fighting, but both managers—Shildt and Craig Counsell—were tossed. By the end of the frame the Brewers led, 17-2.
Shildt was ultimately suspended for second game of yesterday’s doubleheader. As it happened, Cardinals starter Johan Oviedo hit three Milwaukee batters in that game, including Braun. Nothing seemed to come of it, with opinions in the Brewers clubhouse chalking it up to wildness. Brawn even addressed the theory that he’d somehow intentionally hit Molina with his swing.
“I couldn’t do that, literally, even if I tried, and I don’t know any hitter that would or could do that intentionally,” he said. “Certainly, I would never want to see Yadi get hurt. He’s always been one of my favorite players to compete against.”
This all serves to illustrate that the new normal involves people being able to hear things they’d have had no chance of hearing in previous seasons. It might merit a whole new purpose for signs.
Yesterday was the end of a five games-in-three days run for these teams. They close the season with five more games against each other in St. Louis, starting on Sept. 24.
Update: 9/18: For those convinced that Braun somehow intentionally, impossibly hit Yadi on purpose, now there’s this.