The next time there's drama between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, Major League Baseball will get to share in the blame.
Yup, we're taking it for granted that there will be more drama. It's gotten to be a pretty safe bet over the years with these two clubs, and MLB raised the odds with its response to their most recent dust-up.
The latest news, via MLB.com, is that Red Sox right-hander Brandon Workman has been suspended Tuesday for six games for throwing at Rays third baseman Evan Longoria last Friday.
Given that a warning had been issued, the pitch was a bit too close to Longoria's head and Workman was ejected from the game, his suspension (which he is appealing) is neither surprising nor totally unwarranted.
But it's still hard to ignore how Workman would not have targeted Longoria had it not been for the actions of David Price. For what he did earlier in the game, he also deserved to be punished.
Remarkably, he was not.
For those who missed it, it was Price who kicked off a heated evening at Fenway Park by drilling Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz with a fastball in the first inning:
Last I checked, intentional beanballs are against the rules. And while the pitch Price eventually got Mike Carp with in the fourth inning can be rationally explained as unintentional, it's a lot harder to do that with the pitch that got Ortiz.
Brooks Baseball can show that it was by far the biggest outlier on a night when the Rays lefty was staying away from Boston's left-handed batters. But even more important than that is how, as Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe noted, Price "essentially admitted" to throwing at Big Papi on purpose.
And that might even be an understatement.
In a chat with Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, Price indicated he was channeling old-school sensibilities in going after Ortiz:
More from Price: "Nobody's bigger than the game of baseball. You ask pitchers from 10-15-20 years ago. That's normal. Part of the game."— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 31, 2014
You can't read this without thinking not only of Ortiz's showboating routines on virtually all his dingers, but more specifically of the two homers he hit off Price in Game 2 of the ALDS last October.
It was the second of those that irked Price, as Ortiz took a while in getting out of the batter's box (that may or may not have been due to him not being sure the ball would stay fair). Price made it clear to reporters after the game that he wasn't happy about that.
The ol' unwritten rules would indeed say that drilling Ortiz was the way for Price to get even. And in doing so, he boasted to Rosenthal about earning plenty of approval from around the league:
#Rays' Price: "For as many people as I quote-unquote lost respect from, I gained respect from a lot more. I know that's a fact."— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 31, 2014
These comments should have been grounds for MLB to punish Price alongside Workman.
Unprecedented, you say? Nah. Don't say that. There's precedent, all right.
Remember what happened with Cole Hamels and Bryce Harper in 2012?
Here's the short version: Hamels plunked Harper with the fastball, wasn't ejected, but didn't bother denying after the game that he hit Harper on purpose. Hamels' eyeroll-worthy justification was that he was trying to "continue the old baseball."
Evidently, MLB heard him. Because a day later, Hamels was suspended for five games.
Thus Hamels was punished not for having the nerve to bean a player at an opportune moment, but for having the nerve to issue the beaning and then boast about it after the fact.
Since Price did the same thing, the Red Sox have every right to be upset that he wasn't given the Hamels treatment.
And from the sound of things, they are.
Here's Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe:
Red Sox baffled by no suspension for David Price.— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) June 3, 2014
The most baffled of all? That would be Big Papi.
Having already called Price, via CSNNE.com, "a little girl," "a little [bleep]" and saying Price "better bring the gloves" next time, the news of Price escaping punishment hasn't made Ortiz any less angry.
Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald has the (slightly NSFW) quotes:
"I don't even know what to say, you know? I mean, he started everything up and we've got to pay for it, basically," Ortiz also said, via WEEI.com's DJ Bean. "That’s the message that I’m getting, right?"
Would Ortiz have been 100 percent satisfied if Price had gotten suspended?
Likely not, no, but he surely would have been more than 0 percent satisfied. This is Ortiz at his Incredible Hulk-iest, and you better believe that's not lost on his teammates.
Ortiz isn't some scrub. He's the Red Sox's best hitter, their longest-tenured member and the biggest, baddest presence in their clubhouse. If ever there was a guy the Red Sox were going to back in a dispute, it's him. Especially one the Red Sox aren't winning.
And the score says they're not winning this one. They hit no Rays while Price hit two Red Sox. Their guy was ejected while Price wasn't. Their guy was punished while Price escaped punishment. And at all of this, their biggest star is very much annoyed.
Maybe Ortiz and the Red Sox would have let the whole thing go if Price was suspended. Perhaps that would have been proper justice in their eyes and an excuse to move on.
But since the powers that be exacted no justice, vigilante justice is bound to happen.
Look for the Red Sox to take matters into their own hands next time they come across Price and the Rays at the end of July (25-27) at Tropicana Field. There's liable to be beanballs, hard slides into second base or both.
I don't want to see it, nor do I think anybody should. Baseball will be better off when all the unwritten gladiatorial nonsense goes away for good. All that will be left is just, well, baseball.
But consider yourself warned anyway. No thanks to MLB, the Red Sox have a score to settle.
If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.