Retaliation, Teammate Relations

When Bad Things Happen To New Teammates: Welcome To Philly, Bryce Harper

Hamels vs. Harper

Remember back in 2012, Bryce Harper’s rookie year, when the guy was the most hyped teenage phenom baseball had seen in a generation? Remember when, in his first at-bat in his eighth game ever, Cole Hammels drilled him, just because?

Hamels admitted to it and everything, as reported right on this here blog, as a way of putting the upstart rookie in his place.

This is relevant today because, while Hamels has moved on (first to Texas, then to the Cubs), the Phillies manager then, Charlie Manuel, is still a special advisor with the club … which, as of last Saturday, has a new superstar right fielder. So of course the incident came to mind, and the former skipper made sure to get out in front of the situation.

“I didn’t tell Hamels to hit you,” Manuel told Harper prior to his introductory press conference, according to The Athletic’s Matt Gelb.

Okay, then. I guess that’s that.

***

Actually, baseball history is rife with examples of guys who have beefed having to join forces in the same clubhouse. Inevitably, players manage to put aside their differences, or at least lower the volume a little bit. In 1940, for example, Cardinals catcher Mickey Owens went after Dodgers player-manager Leo Durocher after the infielder started jawing at him following a play at second base. The full-fledged fistfight was the culmination of a series of events that included the beaning and subsequent hospitalization of Dodgers second baseman Joe Medwick a day earlier, and a near brawl between Durocher and Cardinals manager Billy Southworth over breakfast that morning. Owens, who was fined $50 for his actions by commissioner Ford Frick, could not have been more firm in his ill feelings about Durocher.

Less than six months later, he was traded to Brooklyn. Somehow, Owen and his new skipper existed copacetically for the next five seasons.

In 1975, after Rangers second baseman Dave Nelson bunted on Gaylord Perry for a base hit, the pitcher exacted revenge by throwing a ball at his head, which missed its mark only because Nelson deflected it with his arm. Later that season Perry was traded to Texas, and Nelson was notably cool upon the pitcher’s arrival. Eventually Perry approached his new teammate. “Hey, Dave,” he said. “I enjoyed the competition.” Nelson couldn’t believe it. He exploded about the right-hander’s head-hunting ways, and Perry took the time to explain his mindset. Nelson didn’t agree, but he at least appreciated the response. “I didn’t have much respect for him until he became a teammate,” Nelson said later.

Much more fun than either of those instances was Mike Piazza’s reaction following the incident during the 2000 World Series when Roger Clemens threw a shard of bat at him. Piazza opted against going after the pitcher at the time, and perhaps regretted having missed the opportunity. In 2004, he got another chance, teaming with Clemens (who had since joined the Houston Astros) on the National League All-Star roster. The rest comes straight from The Baseball Codes:

The National League’s starting battery was Clemens and Piazza; despite sharing the home clubhouse, the pair was noteworthy for their avoidance of each other. Not only did a public reconciliation fail to materialize, but the two shared not so much as a handshake, and Clemens spent much of his pre­game time on the field warming up in the bullpen with someone other than Piazza.

Then the fireworks started. Clemens lasted just one inning in his home ballpark, giving up six runs on a single, double, triple, and two home runs. Through it all, Piazza never once visited the mound to calm him. After­ward, the theorists started in: Had Piazza attained a measure of revenge by tipping the hitters to what was coming? The chance to embarrass Clemens in front of his hometown fans had to be appealing. But Piazza’s not talking. Neither are the American League hitters. The plate umpire, Ed Montague, swears that he didn’t hear a thing. And as far as Roger Clemens is concerned, the less he knows the better.

The pressure Bryce Harper will face over the next 13 seasons in Philadelphia will be significant, but,  none of it should resemble any of that. At least he has that much going for him.

Teammate Relations

Going, Going, Gone … Or Not

On Saturday, in the process of trying to reel back a home run, Yankees outfielder Chris Young lost his glove over the center field wall at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Brett Gardner leaped into action, literally, scaling the fence to go get it. Joe Girardi was not pleased (“We’ve seen guys hit a home run, jump up and land on the plate and break an ankle,” he said in a Newsday report), but all’s well that ends well.

Girardi, of course, had the downside of such an action in mind. There is immeasurable upside to such a plan, however, as Rex Hudler—who was seeking a ball, not a glove—related in The Baseball Codes.

In 1996, Angels utility man Rex Hudler viciously lit into rookie teammate Todd Greene for boarding the team plane ahead of some veterans. It didn’t make much difference to Hudler that Greene couldn’t have been greener—it was his first day as a major-leaguer—but the following evening, when the young catcher connected for his first-ever home run, Hudler atoned. The game was at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium, and as soon as the inning ended, Hudler—out of the game and with a baseball in each hand—dashed to the outfield fence near the bleachers where the ball landed and offered a two-for-one deal to whoever caught Greene’s homer. Before he could get a response, though, the inning break ended and Hudler found himself urged back to the dugout by center fielder Jim Edmonds. Rather than give up his quest, however, the player vaulted into the stands and watched the Tigers’ half of the inning from the bleachers. It was more than enough to win over the locals, and Greene’s ball was offered up in short order. “When I came back in, everyone was going, ‘What the hell were you doing out there?’ ” said Hudler. “I went up to Greene and said, ‘Greenie, I got your ball for you, man!’ You’d have thought I gave him a ten-carat diamond. And now every time I see him he tells someone, ‘Hud went out into the center-field stands and got my ball for me.’ He never forgets—it’s a form of love.”

[HT/Big League Stew]