FIGHT! 2018

As we ramp up to the beginning of the 2019 season, one thing Baseball players have demonstrated over and over is that they’re good at keeping grudges (Lest we forget that in 2017 Hunter Strickland plunked Bryce Harper in retaliation for an admired home run hit off him in 2014).  With that in mind let’s take a (totally non-violence condoning) look back at the brawls of 2018 and consider if they might spill over into 2019.

Tyler Austin (New York Yankees) v  Joe Kelly (Boston Red Sox)

The set-up:  It’s the top of the third inning Tyler Wade lays down a bunt scoring Sanchez.  Tyler Austin darts from first to second and slides breaking up the double play.  Realistically Wade has the wheels to beat it out anyway but Austin wants to make sure.  He’s aggressive with his slide and debatably comes off his line with his studs up catching Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt.  Words are had, the benches clear.  Much peacocking results in everyone sitting back down.

Fast forward to the top of the 7th inning, BF&N bespectacled favourite Joe Kelly is on the mound and looking for revenge for his second baseman.  He fires a fastball into Austin’s ribs which triggers the fracas.

The approach: Austin pauses for a brief second before destroying his bat on home plate and charging the mound.  Kelly knows it’s a possibility and is ready.  Retreating a couple of steps Kelly pulls Austin to the floor and rains down a barrage of seemingly toddler strength blows on the much larger man’s back.

The melee: Generic pushing and shoving covers up the action at the centre of the meat-cluster, only those deep inside will ever know what actually happened shielded from the cameras.  The surviving image of the brawl is likely Aaron Judge wedged in the middle of the fight calm as a millpond towering over the other belligerents like a totem pole.

The fallout: Kelly earned himself a 6 game suspension and Austin 5.  Several others incurred fines including Red Sox Manager Alex Cora, Yankees 3rd base coach Phil Nevin, Yankee CC Sebathia and Red Sox Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia and Marco Hernandez.  The unease between the Bosox and the Yanks never quite spilled over in the rest of the season to the extent that this fateful day did, but the old rivalry continued throughout the rest of the season as both teams finished with 100+ wins and a trip to the off-season. 

The verdict: A right old barney.

Luis Perdomo (San Diego Padres)  v Nolan Aranado (Colorado Rockies)

The set-up: Bad blood has been simmering between the Padres and the Rockies throughout the early season as tit for tat plunkings have mixed their way regularly into play.  Just days beforehand Padres centre fielder Manuel Margot ended up on the DL…or…IL…uh…how do we refer to this historically? Meh, he was injured and couldn’t play due to a pitched ball hitting him. Superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado settles in for the bottom of the third with his usual intensity.  The Pitcher, rather than targeting the strike zone opts for the batter’s flank.  Whilst he makes a decent fist of dodging the projectile, Nolan is clipped by the ball in the ribs.

The approach: Be it an anticipation of the pitch or lightning reactions Arenado doesn’t miss a beat as he drops his bat sprints at Perdomo.  The man on man confrontation is going to be a miss match, and the more slender pitcher knows it.  Perdomo appears to set himself for the confrontation, however rather than standing his ground he opts instead to launch his glove (Ed – Probably his hardest throw of the season).  The glove sails high over both Nolan and Catcher AJ Ellis in hot pursuit, but the toss bought him a fraction of a second to make his next move.

The melee: The glove toss provides Luis with the moment he needs to backpedal away from the swiftly approaching third baseman. The rest of the teams take a moment to arrive as the two combatants are moving so quickly. Arenado swings for Perdomo as he flies past a wall of Padres which closes in around their pitcher.

Unlike most Baseball fights, this one still carries some venom once the reinforcements arrive.  Arms flail in from all quarters.  Arenado is pulled away by Padres Bench Coach Mark McGwire before flaring up again and going after Ellis.  Both are eventually restrained.

The fallout: Both Perdomo and Arenado were suspended for 5 days and fined. Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra and Padres Pitcher Buddy Baumann received 1 day suspensions.  Fines were handed out to AJ Ellis and German Marquez.  Bad blood simmered for a while between the NL West rivals but no further incidents of this calibre arose though the rest of the season.

The verdict: A proper scrap

Torey Lovullo (Arizona Diamondbacks) v Yadier Molina (St Louis Cardinals)

The set-up: We’ve all seen it happen, our team keeps leaving off balls below the zone and keeps getting bad calls against them.  The D-Backs are having one of those games.  Cardinals Catcher Yadier Molina has umpire Tim Timmons’ totally fooled by repeatedly ‘framing’ pitches well below the knee.  Peralta and Pollock both have bad strike three calls against them and Pollock doesn’t go. 

The approach: Enter manager Torey Lovullo.  Pollock is a sentence or two away from getting himself ejected and Lovullo rightly wants to keep one of his star players in the game.  As per the rules Lovullo is tossed instantly, but hangs around to give Timmons a mouthful and get his point across.  Using what could be construed as a poor choice of words Lovullo allegedly points out that Molina is perhaps stealing strikes off of Timmons.

You can’t let that mother****r make balls into strikes’

Naturally Molina takes some offence.

The melee:  Molina goes for Lovullo but Timmons puts himself in-between them.  The umpire does a good job of using his position to hold off Molina until the rest of the teams reach the flashpoint. 

Can we call this a fight?  Perhaps not as a mixture of Timmons and the cleared benches prevents anyone actually hitting anyone else.  The usual pushing and shoving continues for a couple of minutes before everything dies down again.

The fallout: In the days after the incident Lovullo admitted that he had referred to Molina wrongly and claimed that he wasn’t having a dig at him.  A short exchange during batting practice a couple of months later contained a Lovullo apology a fist bump and a pat on the shoulder. Awwww.  Both men got a one game suspension.

The verdict: Handbags

Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers) v Nick Hundley (San Francisco Giants)

The set-up: The San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers are known for not being particularly fond of each other.  This is probably largely due to having both been heavyweights in the sport in recent years. Come this mid-August game the division is tight with only 5 games covering the top 4 and both teams trailing the Rockies and Diamondbacks.  Yasiel Puig went 0 for 4 the night before and has already struck out twice tonight.  Clearly annoyed he vents his frustration as he fouls off a 1-1 pitch from Giants Pitcher Tony Watson.

The approach: Hundley looks like he’s ready to carry on, however he’s clearly saying something that Puig can hear.  Is it a throw away comment?  Is it something designed to get Puig riled up? We have no way of knowing but if it’s the latter, it’s worked.  Puig turns back to Hundley apparently questioning what was just said.  Hudley gets up and meets the bigger man nose to nose.  They have an extended exchange of words which is suddenly punctuated by a shove from Puig.

The melee:  The push is the spark that lights the powder keg.   Two tense teams that were ready to go charge out of their respective dugouts got the signal.  Puig gets off another shove to the shoulder before his team mates led by Manager Dave Roberts retrain him.  Only after Puig is restrained does Hundley try to get at him.  Puig impressively forces his way through a crowd of his colleagues only to deliver a dainty fingertip slap to Hundley’s mask. 

Puig is pulled away back to the dugout and Hundley instead ends up wrestling on the floor with Dodgers first base coach George Lombard whilst pushing and shoving continues all around them.  The Giants catcher finally leaves the engagement via a jaunty dance with Hunter Pence.

The fallout: Puig went on to explain his upset saying

“When I missed the pitch, I knew that was the best pitch Watson was going to throw me, so I was a little upset,” Puig said. “[Hundley] told me to stop complaining and get back into the box, and when I got into his face he told me to also get out of his face, so that’s when I got upset.”

“I didn’t like that he was telling me what to do, and then he said some words to me in English that I really can’t repeat, that’s why I was upset.”

Huntley refused to say what it was actually said and just brushed the incident off.

“I was defending myself. He was defending himself, I don’t see why it should go any further than that.”

Both men were tossed from the game.  Puig was fined and suspended for two games, and Hundley was fined.

The verdict: Big man with your friends behind you

Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers) v Robinson Chirinos (Texas Rangers)

The set up: It’s the 3rd inning in an inter-league game in the middle of June.  The Rangers are having a poor season that was widely anticipated and the Dodgers aren’t the force they were expected to be sitting only a couple of games over .500.  Los Angeles are up by two with a man on second when Hernandez pokes a ball the other way into right field.  Kemp (not a small or particularly speedy man) makes the turn at third and lumbers towards home.  Mazara’s throw from right field is there in plenty of time but pulls catcher Robinson Chirinos directly into Kemp’s path.  The Los Angeles man drops a shoulder (in self-defence?) and ploughs through Chirinos like a train through an abandoned shopping trolley.

The approach: Chirinos tags Kemp out but that’s not really what’s going on now. Kemp leans into Chirinos as he gets up.  It’s unclear if it’s deliberate but the Rangers Catcher shows some annoyance and shoves the larger man away.  As Kemp turns on Chirinos to retaliate, teammates burst out of the dugouts in support, but not before Kemp shoves his opponent back. 

The melee:  Chirinos attempts a left jab with his glove hand that appears to connect as the teammates arrive.  Hammels carries Kemp through the blow and out the back leaving Chirinos (who may have his eyes closed) swinging wildly at Cody Bellinger.  The bewildered looking catcher struggles to break free of his George Lombard hug (remember him from the Puig Hundley affair) wildly looking for a target.  Kemp is surrounded by several colleagues who calmly prevent the large man from witnessing the main altercation as if calming a spooked horse.  The rest of the personnel on the field seem calm and quickly bring the altercation to an end.

The Fallout: Both men received a 1 game suspension.  Kemp appealed his but lost.  A lot of people argued for a long time about who was in the wrong in this situation.

Chirinos said

“I got mad. When he was starting to get up, he kind of leaned into me with his shoulder. That’s when I pushed him. Part of the game. Sorry for the fans that are watching that. It’s not supposed to happen, but it happens, man. I guess he got mad when I pushed him when he kind of went after me with his shoulder. After that, it was emotion and kind of happened.”

Whilst Kemp mostly protested his innocence on the play.

The verdict: Heart wasn’t in it.

So that’s it.  That was the lairy end of angry baseballists in 2018.  Hopefully the 2019 season will be full of good natured high quality baseball, but given that some teams have no hope of providing that (we’re looking at you Orioles, Royals and Marlins) perhaps we’ll get a bit of afters instead.


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