Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Matt, Manny, and the Beanball

Here's a few thoughts about the beaning of Manny Machado that I just had to get off my chest while waiting through an off day and a likely rainout tonight at Fenway:

First of all, I've absolutely had it with the deluge of insufferable tweets, columns, think pieces, and TV show rants that come out of the woodwork every time there's a high-profile beaning in the MLB. You know the ones I'm talking about - beaning is a symbol of the old fashioned Neanderthal macho culture of a sport dominated by men, there's no place in the game any more for beaning, and any time a beanball goes anywhere near the cranium we have to immediately compare it to Tony Conigliaro. Some of these blowhards even went as far as to connect beaning in baseball to rape culture in our society at large, as if hitting a man with a thrown baseball is similar to sexual assault. Good grief.

These are the same soft namby-pambies that cry that fighting should be removed from the NHL, suspensions should be handed out for leaving the dugouts to remove brawls from MLB, and every time a quarterback gets breathed on too heavily it should be a fine and 15-yard penalty in the NFL. Enough. Sometimes you deserve to get punched in the face. Sometimes a man has to stand up for his teammate and fight someone. Sometimes you have to learn to take a beating in response to something stupid you did. Whether Machado meant to or not, when you slide and almost blow out the knee and ankle of the opponent's captain, you're going to get a fastball to the ribs for that. End of story. You know who doesn't whine and cry about beanings? The players themselves. They get it. If these blowhards would stop clutching their pearls for a second at the thought of any form of aggression or violence, they just might see that there are life lessons for young men here.

Manny Machado knew he was going to get beaned on Sunday the minute he woke up and got out of bed. When Machado arrived at the ballpark, he knew he was getting pelted with a 95 mph fastball later that day. Did he avoid it? Ask his manger to take him out of the lineup? No, he manned up, got dressed, and took his beaning that he knew was coming. There's life lesson #1 for anyone who cares to teach lessons rather than scream about the impact of violence on our children watching at home.

The real story here that should have been written about on Twitter, in columns, and screamed about on TV is Manny Machado taking his beaning like a man, then getting up, brushing himself off, stepping back into the batter's box, and ripping an RBI double into the gap.  He didn't whine about it, he didn't start a fight in response, he didn't cry about violence in the sport. There's life lesson #2 for anyone who cares - take your consequences, then come back stronger.

Should Matt Barnes have thrown at Machado's head and potentially seriously injured one of the game's brightest stars? No. Do I believe Barnes meant to hit him in the head? Absolutely not. If Barnes could have walked up to the plate and chosen the exact spot to hit Machado, he would have chosen high up on his back above the numbers and under his name. That's where I believe he was aiming. The combination of the adrenaline flowing knowing that he's beaning someone and might have to fistfight right away if they charge the mound and the fact pitchers never practice throwing pitches to that spot caused it to miss high. I don't understand how this is so hard for people to accept, including Dustin Pedroia.

Speaking of that, what the hell was Pedroia doing? Why would the captain of the team yell from the dugout where his entire team can hear him, essentially saying "my teammate f'd up there Manny, I'm so sorry I love you so much, you know I love you, please don't be mad at me, we're good right Manny?" Hey Dustin, how about just saying you would have hit him in his first at bat and moved on? Why throw your teammate under the bus who is beaning someone and taking a 4-game suspension as retribution for a slide on your knee? How about kissing and making up with Manny in a text conversation after the game out of camera shot?

And finally, of course, it wouldn't be an RSM post by me without a shot at replay in baseball. Replay is ruining the sport of baseball and nobody with any power to do anything about it seems to care. A team can't even bean someone who deserves it then move on with life any more. Both teams had to stand around pissed off at each other, then Machado had to watch Kelly warm up, thinking that Kelly would probably plunk him again. It was the most awkward, inane, and unnecessary scene I've seen on a baseball field in some time. Not because beaning culture needs to be removed from the game - because replay needs to be removed from the game.


  1. 1. This situation couldn't have been handled any worse by the Red Sox. This had a chance to be a team bonding type of moment that could have sent them on a 5 game winning streak, but they totally screwed it up.

    2. They still haven't hit Manny Machado with a pitch yet. Matt Barnes threw a ball near his head that hit his bat and appeared to roll into fair territory, but replay couldn't fix that could it?! Eduardo Rodriquez threw a couple pitches near Manny Machado's knees, but failed to land.

    3. I agree with Brandon 100% that Barnes was trying to put a pitch in the back of Machado and missed high, but nobody is willing to accept that possibility (not even Dustin Pedroia)

    4. Dustin Pedroia is a pussy.

    5. Whenever the Red Sox have been in a bench clearing brawl Pedroia is always dancing around the outside of the scrum looking scared to death to get in the middle of it. For a guy who has built a career out of being a scrappy leader you'd think he'd be willing to put his body on the line for his teammates, but that is certainly not the case. And spare me the argument that he puts his body on the line by making diving plays and sliding into 1B. He does that to make himself look good, to perpetuate his image and also to try and win games which is important, obviously. But, what about putting your team 1st during these important moments where it's us against them? He comes up short.

    6. Replacing David Ortiz is a major story line for the 2017 Red Sox and while they are coming up short in the power department so far, I think the assumption that Dustin Pedroia can slide into his leadership role was a mistake. He lacks the leadership qualities that Big Papi had when it comes to bringing a team together. Pedroia is a lead by example with hustle on the field type of guy, but his leadership has to be brought into question now.

    7. Instant Replay sucks

  2. I'm glad to see Pedroia be called out by you guys. He loves to whine and seems to get a free pass for it. Rob Bradford said Machado is pretty much everything wrong with baseball and Pedroia is usually everything that is right about baseball -- which means, reading between the lines, that Pedroia is a good source for Bradford in the clubhouse (or that Bradford is being racist, which is also a possibility).

    1. Bradford probably looks at Pedroia in the clubhouse and thinks to himself 'I can beat him in a game of 1 on 1' but since Pedroia is a professional athlete he gets this label that he must "be everything that is right with baseball". I don't know if that's racist or not, but it is certainly prejudice.

  3. Great points by both Barry and Matt there. The leadership void on this team is real. Most of the roster is either too young (Xander, Mookie, JBJr, Benny Baseball, Ed Rod, Barnes, Vazquez, etc.) or too new to Boston (Sale, Price, Pomeranz, Kimbrel, Moreland, etc.) to really be the leaders of this team. It really only leaves Pedroia, Joe Kelly, Hanley, and Sandy Leon as veteran guys who have been here for a couple years. This episode of Machado's slide and subsequent beaning could have been the catalyst that brings this team together and cements us to take on the Orioles in battles all year long.

    Instead, if I'm Matt Barnes, I'm left feeling like a piece of crap taking heat from all sides, including my own teammates. If I'm his other teammates, I'm questioning whether Pedroia cares more about me and his team or about his friends such as Machado around the game.

    It's really too bad that I'm left with this sour taste in my mouth towards Pedroia after this episode because after the slide and his post game comments I was jumping up and down talking about how much I loved him. I loved that he doesn't need a f***ing rule and doesn't even know what it is, he's been turning double plays in the bigs for 11 years. Won't be the first or last time he gets hit. I loved the response. Then he turned and sucked up to Manny on Sunday. Disappointing.

  4. I agree with the tone if not every word of the posts above. Most of my fury centers around the character assassination of Matt Barnes. Before I get to some sportswriter blathering, let me get to MLB. First I have no problem with the suspension. Barnes got the pitch around Makchado's head in a probable retaliatory situation. OK. But MLB's official statement said Barnes was suspended for "intentionally" throwing near the head. How in the hell do they know or even guess at that? If I'm stopped going 90 down I95, I may have been jammin to tunes or following traffic not realizing who fast we're all going. I may have said damn I'll never get home in time & push it up to 90 intentionally. But there is no way in hell the officer who pulls me over knows my intent.

    The media bigwigs from Olney to Gammons to Heyman to lesser lights like Yahoo's Jeff Passan harp on the evils of beanings, headhunting, & lies. First lying: MLB forces pitchers to lie. If Barnes had said after the game " I tried to hit Mach ado in the back but I'm not use to trying to hit a batter and the ball sailed". He would have got 12-20 games. Jeff Passan & Jon Heyman would have called for his execution.

    I'll get to Pedroia & more next.

    1. Great points about MLB basically forcing pitchers to lie about this. And ironically Nick Cafardo praised Dustin Pedroia, in the Globe today, for his "honesty" about this situation and thinks that more players should be honest about this stuff. Just lump Cafardo in with the baseball media big wigs, who don't really have a clue about how a locker room works.

  5. About headhunting & beanings. Despite the torrent from social media Matt Barnes is not a headhunter. Baseball has a specific meaning of headhunting, it Is a pitcher with a history of repeated hitting or beaning of batters. We have heard the litany of beanings from Don Zimmer to Tony Conigliaro and beyond. They have nothing to do with what happened Sunday. I was a 12 year old who loved Tony C when he was beaned. It was a tragedy and may or may not have been on purpose, but you will never legislate beanings out of baseball. Most if not all are accidents. For every Tony C there have hundreds of batters hit in the head with little or no effect since.

    As far as Pedroia, this sounds like hindsight but I never bought Pedroia as Ortiz' successor as team leader. Maybe for a brief interim period, but the next leader of this team comes from or a combination of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, or Jackie Bradley Jr. If I had to put my money on one I would say JBJ. The big question for now to me isn't clubhouse chemistry in wake of Pedroia's dumbass statements. It is how badly is Pedroia hurt? Whenever Pedroia has played through injuries his game suffers. Among the stupider things I read from a national sportswriter was Machado only caused " a mild injury". That remains to be seen.