The Red Sox-Orioles “Brawl”

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The Red Sox and Orioles had what could be described as a “scuffle” last night during the Red Sox 10-3 win at Fenway.

Orioles closer Kevin Gregg threw a few pitches inside at David Ortiz; Ortiz gestured and shouted at Gregg, got back in the batter’s box and after Ortiz popped out, Gregg yelled at Ortiz who then charged the mound. Both threw a few flailing punches—with Gregg failing to remove his glove—and all missed. The bullpens came charging in, there was some pushing and shoving, but no legitimate fighting.

You can see the clip here although it’s only marginally interesting in a rare sort of way.

In fairness, there’s a limited amount of time for two baseball players to get their range to connect. By the time they’ve actually squared off, 60 other people are charging at them and bumping into one another like a CBGB mosh pit.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Yankees-Orioles brawl from 1998 when Armando Benitez had hit Tino Martinez. The benches emptied, players were red-faced and barking, but things had quieted down without a punch before Graeme Lloyd threw a series of haymakers at Benitez. Not one connected, but Lloyd was seen after the game in front of his locker exchanging high-fives with teammates.

It was due to solidarity more than success.

I also thought back to the ludicrousness of a famous confrontation Carlton Fisk had with Deion Sanders when Sanders was playing for the Yankees in 1990. Sanders was behaving as the young, flashy Deion often did with his at bat histrionics and drawing in the dirt with his bat; Fisk took exception to Sanders not running out a popup. They had a chat and both benches and bullpens emptied.

All this did was cement Fisk’s image as an old-school player who said what needed to be said and Deion’s reputation as a prima donna.

In other words, it was stupid.

Yankees reliever Greg Cadaret expressed his thoughts on the matter here in Sports Illustrated:

“It was kind of silly,” said Yankee reliever Greg Cadaret afterward. “Here we are, running out of the bullpen alongside the guys from Chicago’s bullpen, and we’re supposed to fight them when we get to the plate?”

It’s all about being a “good teammate”. Whatever that means.

Most players don’t want to fight, but don’t want to be perceived as shying from one either—you have to defend your teammates.

Perception is more important than reality. If you let the little things go, they can quickly turn into big things that extend to on the field as opposing players take liberties with crowding the plate, pitching inside and hard slides into bases.

No matter how idiotic they seem in the logical sense, these things are real and have to be nipped in the bud.

There are always a few players who can and like to fight. Kyle Farnsworth has the rep and the skills. Darryl Strawberry was one; Dave Parker another. The Mets of the mid-1980s not only looked for fights, they had players like Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight who wouldn’t hesitate with abilities honed in different arenas. Mitchell’s in the San Diego streets; Knight’s in Golden Gloves boxing rings.

It didn’t appear as if Gregg and Ortiz shared their pugilistic talents.

Gregg sounded like he was whining after the game with the comment: “We’re not scared of them — them and their $180 million payroll.”

Gregg would undoubtedly have loved to have been courted by the Red Sox whether he got the opportunity to close games or not.

He wasn’t. He wound up with the Orioles because the Orioles aren’t any good and didn’t have anyone better who was willing to sign with them for the money they were offering. And he’s able to accumulate saves which some still see as a valuable determination of reliever effectiveness.

What I’m wondering is whether those who feel free to scream at Gregg such well-thought-out analytical statements like, “you suck!!” realize that he’s 6’6″, 230 lbs.

It’s doubtful anyone would pull an Ortiz and charge at Gregg given the opportunity; nor would they say it to him in a one-on-one circumstance.

They might say it on Twitter though.

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