Mark Teixeira vs Vicente Padilla: Do Charges of Racism, Cowardice Have Any Legs?
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At this rate, it won't be long before the war of words between Boston Red Sox reliever Vicente Padilla and New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira escalates into a Thunderdome situation.
If you happened to miss any of it, Teixeira kicked off the verbal warfare after he helped the Yankees top the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday night with a key two-run triple off of Padilla in the seventh inning.
While speaking to reporters after the game, Teixeira made it clear that he felt particularly good about the hit exactly because it came against Padilla.
The guy throws at people, fact of the matter. I'm not saying anything that is news. It is what it is. I've always been someone who wants to play the game the right way. You play hard, but you don't play cheap. I've always lived that way, too. Some guys decide to take matters into their own hands. In the NFL, he would probably be suspended by Roger Goodell eight games or a whole season. This is baseball.
Bam. Shots fired. Mr. Padilla, your response please.
Padilla delivered his response in Spanish to NESN.com on Saturday. In a nutshell, he accused Teixeira of being a scaredy-cat, a woman, and a racist. As far as rants go, it was a dandy.
Here's the scaredy-cat part:
I just think he's scared to face me. I don't throw at people to hit them on purpose. I throw inside, and I've always thrown inside. It's not my problem if the ball hits someone. I'm worried about throwing strikes, and I'm going to keep playing my game.
And the womanly part:
In this sport, as competitive ball players, we get pretty fired up. So I think, maybe, [Teixeira] picked the wrong profession. I think he'd be better off playing a women's sport.
And lastly, the racist part, in which Padilla references the time he spent as Teixeira's teammate when the two were on the Texas Rangers:
The problem is he talks about all the wrong things that others have done, but the things he's done -- against the Latinos [on the Rangers] -- he doesn't open his mouth about. He once threatened me and said he was going to hit me with a bat, and that's when we were playing on the same team.
And then, he also had problems with Frank Francisco, our closer back then. But he doesn't talk about that, does he? Then, of course, he goes on and makes those comments about me.
Yeah, Padilla brought out the big guns, alright.
Teixeira's response to Padilla's response? It was something along the lines of, "Those are clown comments, bro."
"That's just comedy," Teixeira said prior to Sunday night's game, via ESPNNewYork.com. "It's funny. It really is."
In all, a pretty messy situation. It's not every day that head-hunting accusations come along, and head-hunting accusations aren't typically met with accusations of cowardice and racism.
So then, who's the in the right here? Was Teixeira right to call out Padilla for being a head-hunter and generally a bad person? Was Padilla right to call out Teixeira for being a racist and a coward?
Is neither of them right?
Well, right off the bat, the facts support Teixeira's side of the story. Padilla has plunked him three times in their head-to-head matchups, including once after Teixeira hit two home runs off him in a game all the way back in 2005. Teixeira has only logged 11 at-bats against him, so we're talking about a pretty small sample size. Those three beanballs therefore stand out.
And yes, Padilla does have a history of throwing at batters. Between 2002 and 2008, Padilla plunked a grand total of 90 batters. According to FanGraphs, no other pitched plunked more than 75 over that span.
Padilla has never had great control, but you can only chalk so many of those beanballs up to bad control. It's not like we're talking about Leela from Futurama trying to play blernsball.
Padilla plunked 49 hitters in three and a half seasons with the Rangers between 2006 and 2009, and Teixeira says those beanballs got him and Michael Young in trouble. Opposing pitchers typically respond to beanballs by plunking the other team's best hitters. In those days, that meant Teixeira and Young.
In early August of 2009, the Rangers got into a beanball war with the Oakland A's, and Padilla was caught laughing on the bench after Young got hit by a pitch.
"That was the last straw in Texas and he got released that day," said Teixeira, per The Boston Globe.
Records on Baseball-Reference.com show that Padilla was actually released a little while later on August 17, but one thing that's for sure is that his teammates weren't sad to see him go. Teixeira's comments from this weekend make that clear enough, and Marlon Byrd's comments from a few years ago back up Teixeira's line of thinking.
Here's what Byrd said upon Padilla's release, via the Los Angeles Times:
About time. It's absolutely a positive for this team. We have to get rid of the negatives to make a positive, and I believe this is a huge positive for this team.
You have to be a good teammate. You have to help teach younger guys the right things. He wasn't a positive influence on the young guys. You started questioning his character and about how much he cared.
It's worth noting that Padilla went on to plunk Byrd when his Cubs faced Padilla's Dodgers in 2010. Go figure.
All of this corroborates the general message of Teixeira's comments. Padilla is not just a head-hunter. He's a bit of a hothead too.
The question is whether there's any support out there for Padilla's claims about Teixeira. Did he really threaten Padilla with a bat? Is he a coward? Worse, is he a racist?
First things first, the racist charge doesn't appear to have any legs. Padilla brought that up out of the blue, and it came as a bit of a surprise seeing as how Teixeira isn't exactly infamous for having cold relationships with Latin players. If Teixeira really was a racist who went out of his way to cause problems with Latin players, that's the kind of thing that would find it's way into the public spotlight in this day and age. He deserves the benefit of the doubt.
It would be one thing if Francisco corroborated Padilla's claim that Teixeira had an issue with him and Padilla, but he has yet to be heard from.
Two guys who have commented on the matter are none other than Robinson Cano and Freddy Garcia, two Latin teammates of Teixeira's on the Yankees. They both came to his defense.
"I judge guys by the way they are with me," Cano told Newsday, which noted that Cano and Teixeira shared a playful chest bump on their way into the clubhouse after Sunday's game. "I don't have any problem with him. He's one of the coolest guys on the team. Every day we're joking."
Garcia was equally supportive: "Tex is a great guy. Last year, I play with him and never had an issue. He's a really great guy, a good player, a family guy. I see he respects everybody."
All the more reason Teixeira deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Padilla's bit about the bat threat also came out of the blue. Truth be told, we'll never know what really went on there. It's possible that Teixeira did indeed run a threat past Padilla as part of an attempt to get through to him. It's also possible that something was lost in translation.
What's funny is that the guy who supposedly threatened Padilla with violence is the same guy that Padilla thinks is a girly man who's afraid of pain. Just sayin'.
As for Padilla's remarks about Teixeira being a coward who would be better off playing a "women's sport," well, let me just put it this way:
If not liking being hit by pitches is cowardly, then there are a lot of cowards in Major League Baseball.
Whose side are you on?
You don't need to be a major league ballplayer to know for a fact that getting hit by a pitch hurts pretty bad, and 95-mile-per-hour fastballs hurt particularly bad. Pitches like that are weapons, and they can do some serious damage.
Padilla can insist all he wants that he doesn't throw inside in order to actually hit players, but his track record suggests otherwise. And though he's hit just eight batters since he was released by the Rangers in 2009, a track record like that doesn't go away so quickly.
Padilla definitely came out with the big guns in response to Teixeira's head-hunting charges, but his words ring pretty hollow in the grand scheme of things. There's a lot of evidence that suggests that Teixeira was in the right calling out Padilla, and there's very little evidence/support for Padilla's side of things.
And let's be honest. Between the two of them, Padilla came off sounding like the bigger jerk. Indications are that this is because he actually is a jerk.
I suppose he deserves credit for being true to himself.
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