On Friday night in San Francisco, the Giants’ pitcher, Ramon Martinez, hit Phillies CF Shane Victorino, which, in short order, caused a bench-clearing brawl for the forty-seven-thousandth time in MLB history. Martinez’s pitch apparently was no accident; rather, it was some sort of response to the decision by Philly’s previous batter, Jimmy Rollins, to steal second after his two-RBI single put the visitors up 8-2 in the sixth.
I don’t know whether this episode is dumber than the Angels-Tigers spat about which I wrote last week. It’s a tough call: benches didn’t clear in the Detroit incident (hardly an “incident” by that town’s standards), but the unwritten rules supposedly violated– admiring a home run and bunting during a no hitter– were much tougher to justify in the circumstances; in SF, benches did clear, but stealing second up six in the sixth at least is closer to jerk-move territory.
When I was a kid, I loved bench-clearing brawls in baseball the way kids love anything seemingly wild and crazy and unpredictable, like the show Wild and Crazy Kids. There must be something important at stake for all of these grownups to do this, I assumed, and even then it was so humorously over the top. Empty the bullpen! Get the batboys out there! Come on ankle-taper from way back in the clubhouse, we need you too! But now it’s like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown: tired. And I love Peanuts.
Baseball is a team sport, and teammates support each other. If something happens, you have to have your teammate’s back. Support is important in a sport– a job– with 162-game regular seasons. But is it really necessary to have everybody, including the AA affiliate’s starting rotation, out to push and shove to do so?
It might be, if the triggering events weren’t so suspect. I’m a Hamiltonian. Offenses against honor mean something to me. But admiring home runs, bunting for your team’s first hit in a tight game, and stealing second (second, not third or home) with a six-run lead in the sixth isn’t exactly the stuff of Code Duello.
Maybe fighting in sports never is justified (excepting hockey, of course). I’m not an athletic peacenik. This situation doesn’t require a just war theory. Baseball players probably need to lighten up, though, and realize that neither the fans, nor, I suspect, a good number of the players and staff compelled by dubious custom to dutifully jog out onto the field when there’s been a violation of one of the game’s many unwritten rules, really care too much for these 45-man scrums. Just play ball. Signed, George Will. (But seriously, this is baseball’s best “fight” ever, and “Yakety Sax” very reasonably and appropriately is dubbed over the game audio. That should be all you need to know.)