And you thought these last days of spring training wouldn't be interesting.
It was mostly about final roster decisions for most teams in Major League Baseball over the weekend, but not in Scottsdale, Ariz., where play got a bit feisty between the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies on Sunday.
More specifically, things got chippy between former teammates Ubaldo Jimenez and Troy Tulowitzki.
As described by the Denver Post's Troy Renck and Patrick Saunders, Jimenez hit Tulowitzki in the first pitch of his at-bat, drilling him in the left elbow.
Immediately after throwing the pitch, the Indians pitcher then stepped off the mound, tossed his glove aside and challenged Tulowitzki to fight. He motioned with his arms several times for Tulowitzki to come at him.
The Rockies shortstop dropped his bat and walked toward Jimenez, but Indians catcher Lou Marson and home plate umpire Clint Fagan stepped him in front of him. Both benches emptied from there.
If the two had only waited a few hours, maybe they could've settled this at WrestleMania in Miami Sunday night.
Video of the confrontation wasn't initially available after the game, but a clip eventually turned up on YouTube.
(via Purple Row)
Deadspin has the traditional center field camera view, shown on Sunday night's SportsCenter.
Tulowitzki was pulled from the game to have his elbow checked out, and was taken to a local hospital for X-rays. Exams were negative, showing no structural damage. The elbow is swollen, according to Renck. Yet Tulowitzki is expected to be ready for the Rockies' season opener Friday at Houston.
Inexplicably, Jimenez was allowed to keep pitching. Apparently, Fagan didn't perceive intent. Maybe he just wasn't aware of the recent history between Jimenez and his former team.
Earlier this spring, Jimenez told the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes that pitching for the Tribe was like "being in heaven." That was probably the first time anyone has referred to Cleveland as heaven. OK, he was talking about the team he's playing for, but it's still a rare statement.
Jimenez went on to say that it "was hard being with the Rockies." Evidently, his major beef was that Colorado gave long-term, big-money contract extensions to Carlos Gonzalez and Tulowitzki before last season, far greater deals than the one Jimenez had signed with the Rockies in 2009.
After hearing about Jimenez's remarks, Gonzalez and Tulowitzki responded to CBSSports.com's Scott Miller, saying that Jimenez should have accepted that he signed the contract that was offered to him.
Furthermore, Tulowitzki said that Jimenez had checked out on his teammates, refusing to talk to them about what was bothering him.
Back to the present, Jimenez told the Post's Saunders that he didn't intend to hit Tulowitzki, but an inside pitch got away from him. Yet does anyone believe that?
Reports had Jimenez pounding his chest as he was yelling at Tulowitzki, beckoning him to fight, as mentioned before. But he also claims that Tulowitzki provoked him by shouting insults.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy isn't buying Jimenez's explanation either.
“It’s the most gutless act I have seen in 35 years of professional baseball," Tracy said to reporters after the game. "I have lost all respect for him. To do something like that and walk down off the mound, and if there’s any suggestion whatsoever that the ball got away, I don’t want to hear any of that (expletive). He intentionally threw at him. He should be suspended."
They don't call it the Cactus League for nothing, folks. Those plants have needles!
Calling Jimenez's judgment further into question is that he plunked Tulowitzki and ignited a bench-clearing incident with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig in attendance at Salt River Fields. Nothing like committing an infraction in front of the guy who has the authority to suspend you for it.
There's some thought that Selig won't overrule his umpires, who didn't eject Jimenez from the game. So if Fagan didn't see intent in Jimenez's actions, how can the commissioner?
However, Selig has the benefit of hindsight. He also has access to the video and Jimenez's behavior, something Fagan may not have seen while he was holding Tulowitzki back and turned away from the pitching mound.
Suspensions are also about sending a message, which is why Selig has to come down on Jimenez.
Baseball players can mete out their own justice within the game, plunking a batter or taking out an infielder with a hard slide for some perceived indignity. But this incident stemmed from remarks that took place off the field, leading to an action that certainly looked premeditated.
This is where the commissioner's office steps in. Plunking a guy because of an opinion he expressed sets a terrible precedent if it's not punished. Selig must suspend Jimenez.
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