Red Sox Get Better End of Bench-Clearing Deal in Loss to Angels
The Red Sox, specifically Josh Beckett, were the catalyst for baseball’s first bench-clearing affair of the 2009 season. It started with one pitch up and around Bobby Abreu’s head, and ended up with the ejection scorecard reading: Angels 4, Red Sox 0. Vladimir Guerrero’s eighth-inning home run turned out to be the difference in the Angels’ 5-4 victory over the Red Sox, which of course is more important than winning any bench-clearing brawl. But that very incident is the one that begs closer examination.
It was the first inning, game scoreless. Chone Figgins was on second, and Beckett was working on Abreu at the plate. Overly cautious of the speedy Figgins, Beckett held the 1-2 pitch for a very long time, looking back between second and home several times and remaining locked in the stretch position. Abreu clearly didn’t like this, as evidenced by his calling of time just as Beckett went into his windup.
Considering the situation the game was in, it is difficult to say this pitch from Beckett was truly intended to be around Abreu’s head; it could just as easily have slipped out of his hand upon release. But what is clear is that Beckett didn’t show any effort to restrain himself from letting that pitch go. In the moment, Abreu took exception to Beckett’s actions, started pointing fingers, and soon enough Beckett started barking and the benches cleared.
“I’ve never hit anybody in the head, and it’s not really on my list of stuff to accomplish. But people can think what they want to think,” Beckett said at a press conference following the game. “I know Bobby Abreu. He knows I’m not trying to hit him in the head. Obviously, there’s been a lot of emotion in this series with them — not only facing us, but obviously the tragedy that all of them went through.”
Mike Scioscia obviously felt the pitch was intentional. But I need to question his logic here. Did Beckett have some kind of personal vendetta against Abreu? Otherwise, it’s hard to find a good reason for why Beckett would be throwing at Abreu’s head and risking his own ejection in the very first inning of that game.
“Usually the pitcher will show a little bit of remorse and say that wasn’t a part of it. But obviously, we didn’t see any of that with Beckett,” Scioscia said. “That was as blatant as anything I’ve seen in this game. What happened today absolutely crossed the line, and I think it was inexcusable. I really feel the league has to look at it.”
Apparently, he expected an apology from Beckett for that pitch. I don’t think Beckett was obligated to do any such thing. He let a pitch fly for sure, and he probably could have done more to stop himself. But he’s not about to apologize for head-hunting when that was not his intention.
It’s unknown what Torii Hunter, Justin Speier, Scioscia and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said to the umpires. Their words are the only things they could have raised to get themselves ejected, because their fists were not. None were, in fact, as the incident was defused before it got out of control.
The Red Sox clearly got away scot-free from this incident, getting no one ejected while the Angels lost their manager, hitting coach and center fielder/five-hitter, plus a middle reliever. But it seems pretty clear from the video that Hunter and Speier let some strong words slip that sent them overboard and back to the clubhouse. Scioscia and Hatcher could have certainly said some bad things as well, but it’s just hard to believe they were letting the profanities fly while the Red Sox were on their best behavior. According to the umpires, though, this is exactly what happened.
In an incident in which no punches were thrown and tempers were simply flaring up a bit, it’s amazing that anyone was given anything more than a warning. Scioscia’s ejection came in the next half-inning, when he appeared to wait for one pitch to be thrown to run back out and argue with the umpire. He had a right to be upset that four guys, including himself, were tossed while the Red Sox lost nobody, but his anger clearly stemmed from a misunderstanding. It surprised me that someone as seasoned as Scioscia would see intent to injure in Beckett’s pitch. Considering the situation, it was an absurd notion.
Beckett’s extended stretch before the 1-2 pitch was not illegal, nor was Abreu’s calling of time. But the extremely late call by Abreu combined with Beckett’s hurling of the 94-mph pitch near his head was the trigger for this incident. Considering how well the tempers of both sides were subdued in this situation, it’s a surprise that the ejection tallies were there at all, let alone so lop-sided.
Nonetheless, baseball’s first bench-clearer of 2009 was a tad underwhelming for the liking of fans, including myself, looking to be entertained by the mass chaos that ensues from them. But it’s good that baseball was resumed quickly before it got out of hand, and the remainder of the game went smoothly. Abreu got his revenge against Beckett with a two-run single, the Angels’ bullpen got by without Speier, and Anaheim won in the end. Ultimately, that’s all that counts for these teams.
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