The Florida Marlins and the Washington Nationals engaged in a pretty ugly melee on Wednesday night, and the more I read about the events as they transpired the more I am beginning to think that something isn't right.
For those of you who missed it—and there can't be that many of you left—the whole thing actually started in the top of the tenth inning the previous night. With the Nationals' incredibly speedy Nyjer Morgan on second base and one out in a scoreless ballgame, Adam Kennedy hit a bouncer to second base that looked like it might be an inning ending double play.
However, after the flip to second for one, shortstop Hanley Ramirez held onto the ball. He was unable to convert the double play but noticed Morgan racing for home. He threw home to catcher Brett Hayes, who was standing on the plate and caught the ball ahead of Morgan. An instant later, Morgan collided with Hayes at full speed but failed to score.
Morgan was out, the inning was over, and Hayes had a dislocated shoulder.
The Florida Marlins apparently expressed outrage over the collision and their injured catcher. This is the first thing that doesn't sit right with me.
Collisions at the plate occur all the time in Major League Baseball, and maybe I've missed it, but you almost never hear criticism of the colliding players. Pete Rose famously ruined Ray Fosse's career by colliding with him in an All Star game once; that moment is offered as an anecdote about how Rose was always hustling.
Conversely, the Phillies' Jayson Werth was recently chastised for not coming in hard at the catcher when the throw from right field on a tag up beat him to home plate by a mile.
I thought collisions at the plate were something we encouraged and admired. I could be wrong, but let's move on.
So on Wednesday, obviously feeling the need to retaliate against Morgan for his hard play, the Marlins intentionally threw at him in the fourth inning. Sure enough, Morgan got plunked and went to first base.
Now, I have to stop again here to note that the score at the time of this plunking was 14-3 by way of a five run first, a five run second, and a four run third. Somehow, when Morgan led off the game in the first inning there was no retaliation, but once the Marlins were killing the Nats, now they felt was the time to plunk the guy.
So now Morgan is standing on first base with one out in the top of the fourth inning in a 14-3 game against a team that just intentionally threw at him. This is where he apparently broke one of the most unwritten rules in all of baseball: a player on a team that is getting shellacked isn't allowed to steal bases.
Morgan, one of the fastest players in baseball, took off for second base and beat the throw easily. Then, he took off for third and again beat the throw easily.
So let's stop here. Evidently, the Florida Marlins took exception to Morgan stealing bases in this situation. Wes Helms is on the record as having said that he just can't stand when a guy doesn't play the game the right way, and indicated that down ten runs, Morgan had clearly stolen the bases "out of spite."
Really Wes? Out of spite? What do you call hitting a guy in the fourth inning of a 14-3 game for something that happened the night before? Sounds pretty spiteful to me.
But no, stealing two bases down 14-3 in the fourth inning after having been freakin' beaned: totally out of line. How dare he!
After the game, Helms said "We had to show we weren't going to put up with how he was treating us."
Pardon my language, but are you effing kidding me? The way he was treating you!?
Well, you know the rest: Morgan comes up again in the sixth inning, pitcher Chris Volstad throws behind him, he charges the mound, a brawl breaks out, blah blah blah blah blah.
I gotta tell ya', I've been watching baseball for a long time, and I am not completely sure I am totally on board with what is going on here.
Where I come from, when a player collides with the catcher on a close play at the plate it is called hustle. Where I come from, when you intentionally plunk a guy in retaliation for something, you don't then get your panties in a bunch when he makes you pay for intentionally putting him on base.
You want to get Nyjer Morgan back for stealing bases on you? Throw him out.
But let's not go saying that down by 11 runs in the fourth inning a guy isn't allowed to steal a base. This isn't football or basketball; a lot of scoring can happen between the fourth and the ninth innings. On August 22, 2007, the Texas Rangers went into the top of the fourth inning with zero runs and ended up winning the game 30-3, so let's not pretend the game was over.
And for that matter, if you want to talk about "playing the game the right way," how about not whining about how an opposing player "treats" you when you've just hit him with a pitch and you're up by eleven runs.
And by the way, I don't think I'll take my lectures about how to "play the game the right way" from a guy like Wes Helms, who has never managed to put himself into a regular starting role in his entire career.
Maybe, just maybe, if Helms had been a little more hard-nosed and little less concerned about how he was being "treated" by opposing players, he would have become a full-time major leaguer at some point in his career instead of a part-time role player for the cheapest team in baseball.
Nyjer Morgan will likely be suspended for some length of time for what took place over the last few days, but in my opinion it is the Florida Marlins who have come out of this like a bunch of overly-sensitive goons who don't play the game the right way.