Baseball is a game that has its dark side, and bench-clearing brawls are a part of that.
First, let me say that we, as fans, do enjoy seeing the batter hit by a pitch, the players charging the mound, the bullpen running in to join the fight, and the aftermath as the players are pulled apart. Brawls are a part of baseball, almost part of the strategy of the game.
But what happened in the bottom of the 4th inning on Thursday, May 8th, between the Seattle Mariners and visiting Texas Rangers, was simply not necessary.
Let me set the situation. Felix Hernandez, the Mariners' 22 year-old wonder pitcher, struggled with command in the first inning. In the second inning, an inside fastball got away from him, and he beaned Rangers catcher Gerald Laird.
From my perspective, no foul, the pitch just got away. Ian Kinsler would turn that mistake into a two-run homer that increased the Rangers lead to 4-0.
In Kinsler's next at-bat in the fourth, Hernandez's inside pitch struck him on the arm. No foul and no warnings from the umpires.
However, in the bottom of the fourth with two outs and nobody on, Rangers starting pitcher Kason Gabbard threw a high fastball to Richie Sexson, still struggling in a three-year slump. The pitch was not inside and IT DIDN'T HIT HIM, but Sexson charged the mound.
Sexson, instead of throwing punches or tackling Gabbard, decided to throw his helmet. Taking from a similar line from an Austin Powers movie, "Who throws a helmet?"
Richie Sexson, who the Mariners are having to pay $15.5 million this season, is batting .209 and .158 in the last seven games. Normally, that would be considered a slump, but as baseball fans will tell you, those are normal numbers for Sexson.
Around baseball he is arguably the most overrated player three years running.
Now I did hear that he had a minor family emergency involving his two-year old son's health yesterday, and I wish the family and his son the best. Possibly the incident was built up emotion exploding from the family issue, team slumping, and personal numbers at the bottom of the majors, again.
But none of that excuses the behavior displayed by Sexson on Thursday night. I hope that in the morning Sexson will look in the mirror feel ashamed and apologize for his actions.
The worst part of this whole brawl is what happened to Rangers starter Kason Gabbard. Gabbard, just activated from the DL the same afternoon, had a one-hit shutout through 3.2 innings. After the benches returned to their dugouts and Sexson was the only player ejected, Gabbard tried to come his nerves and return to pitching.
But after only one batter, something wasn't flowing right, Gabbard was favoring his ankle. After a visit from manager Ron Washington and trainer Jaime Reed, it was determined that Gabbard should leave the game. So now a young pitcher returning from the DL might be heading back because of the cowardly acts of Richie Sexson.
Incidents like this spark emotions from players, managers, even the fans. I won't lie to you, look for me behind the Mariners dugout next week when Seattle comes to Texas. I promise not to swear, but that's my only promise, sorry.
As for Seattle fans, I'm sure their take on the situation is different. Gabbard was throwing at Sexson. This was retaliation for throwing at Ichiro the night before. I'm looking forward to these comments and the resulting discussion, but that is the beauty of baseball: everything is a debate.