Buckley: Despite mutual animosity, expect Red Sox, Orioles to play nice
If dim-bulb comedian Kathy Griffin is looking for a safe house for the next couple of days while hoping the furor dies down regarding her mock presidential “decapitation,” I have the perfect suggestion.
The batter’s box at Camden Yards.
Nobody’s going to hurt her there. I’ll take it a step further: During the next four days, there will not be a safer place in America than the Camden Yards batter’s boxes — ultra-left or far-right.
The Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles tonight open a four-game series at the House That Larry Lucchino Built, and sure, some are hoping it’ll be a festive, fun-filled weekend of beanballs, over-aggressive slides and home run trots than can be timed with a sundial.
As the play-by-play guys like to say, these teams don’t like each other much.
The Sox got upset because of what happened in the eighth inning of their May 21 game against the O’s at Camden, when second baseman Dustin Pedroia was injured on an aggressive, spikes-up slide by Baltimore’s Manny Machado.
The Orioles got upset when it took the clueless Red Sox two days to mete out punishment in the form of a Matt Barnes pitch that bore in on Machado’s head. (It wound up hitting Manny’s bat.)
The two sides met up a week later at Fenway Park, with things getting so out of hand that Major League Baseball commissioner Ron Manfred felt compelled to sit everyone down for a conference call that essentially boiled down to these three words: Knock it off.
What hasn’t changed, and isn’t expected to change for the remainder of this season and perhaps beyond, is the old line from the play-by-play guys: These teams don’t like each other much. This is old-timey Sox-Yankees stuff, and on some level, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After nearly two decades of watching David Ortiz hug opposing players during batting practice, it’s nice to see some nostrils flaring.
But the past two series did get over-the-top ugly, which usually happens when fastballs get delivered to batters’ ear flaps. And it won’t make a difference if Machado drills a home run tonight and then stops at each base to take a selfie. In the court of public opinion, the Sox suffered a knockout in this one. They need to move on.
But something else happened this week that makes it doubly important for the Orioles and Sox to play nice, or to at least play make-pretend. It’s this business from Monday afternoon in San Francisco, where 6-foot-4, 220-pound Giants reliever Hunter Strickland touched off an ugly brawl when he drilled Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper.
Apparently still smarting after giving up two home runs to Harper in the 2014 National League Division Series, Strickland thought this would be a good time to .?.?. to what? Get some revenge? So he threw heat at Harper’s body. Naturally, Harper charged the mound. There was a brawl. Suspensions have been handed down, Harper for four games (reduced to three following an appeal) and Strickland for six.
As rock heads go, Strickland is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. To put it another way, he’s what scouts are talking about when they say, “He has a million-dollar arm but a 10-cent head.” But even tall dummies, it turns out, have long memories. It took him nearly three years, but he got his payback.
It matters zilch that Harper celebrated those playoff home runs in a way that, you know, hurt Strickland’s feelings. Let me say this for the thousandth time: Baseball, if it is to survive, needs more players who play the game the way Bryce Harper does. Baseball is the only game in which creating a big offensive moment — in this case, a home run — seemingly needs be treated as a sad, solemn event, with heads bowed.
No. Players should go nuts the way Gronk does after scoring a touchdown, the way every NBA player does after drilling a 3-pointer. In the NHL, a player scores a goal and there’s a veritable dog pile right in front of the net.
As for Giants catcher Buster Posey, who has been mocked for not rushing to the defense of his dopey pitcher, good for him. That wasn’t a Giants moment. It was a Hunter Strickland moment. And Posey wanted no part of it. To borrow a line from the film “As Good as it Gets,” delivered by Jack Nicholson, “Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.”
To bring this back to the Red Sox and their upcoming four-game series against the Orioles, another dumb brawl won’t go over well at MLB headquarters.
Rob Manfred and his dean of discipline, Joe Torre, are no doubt in a bad mood right about now. If they get a phone call from Baltimore this weekend, it’ll get ugly.