The Los Angeles Dodgers' 2008 season transformed from a disappointment, made up of young players having poor seasons, to full-fledged championship contender when Manny Ramirez joined them in July. Manny completely changed the team dynamic, turning them into a group that believes they are going to win every game rather than one that simply hopes they are going to win.
Clearly, the whole team owes a lot to Ramirez and his .474 batting average this postseason. Unfortunately, Chad Billingsley, the young "ace" who took the loss in game two of the NLCS against the Phillies, has a weird way of showing his appreciation: he kicks his teammates in the private parts.
In game two, Brett Myers threw behind Manny in his second at-bat of the game. While Myers claimed that the ball slipped out of his hands, it was clearly an attempt to cool down the hottest hitter in the game and the Dodgers' most important player in the series.
Myers essentially told Manny, "I had nightmares about you walking around the bases against me all night last night so take this!"
Normally, when a team's best player is hit in an important game, his pitcher will respond by hitting or at least brushing back a player on the opposing team. Nobody ever admits to reacting in this way, but it's one of those unwritten baseball rules that has been ingrained in the game for years. You hit our best player? Fine, we'll hit yours. Tit for tat; let's kiss and make up.
Chad Billingsley's dog must have ate his unwritten rulebook. He was too busy giving up seven earned runs in 2.1 innings to defend the player on his team that is basically the only reason why he is even pitching in October at all. Good grief.
Luckily for the Dodgers, Manny did his own retaliating by hitting a three-run home run off Myers later in the game, but he still didn't let Billingsley off the hook. In his postgame comments, Manny showed his displeasure with Billingsley's lack of effort by saying that he'd want a guy like Myers, the pitcher who threw behind Manny in the game, on his team because "he's going to go out there and battle."
Manny was clearly taking a shot at Billingsley, who not only blew the game with his terrible effort on the mound but also showed a lack of respect for the team's best player.
Ok, fine...Billingsley is a young player who might be a little bit starstruck pitching in the NLCS and all. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on him. I could cut him some slack and say that he just needs to learn how to conduct himself as a top pitcher for a contending team. Unfortunately, his lack of testosterone continued after the game.
Clearly, he didn't pitch well in the game and certainly let his team down. I wouldn't expect him to be happy and chipper in his postgame comments, but I would expect him to take some responsibility for failing so hard.
Instead, Billingsley somehow decided that his poor outing wasn't his fault at all. It didn't matter that the Phillies hit all of his pitches like they were hitting off a tee in a batting cage.
The real reason why Billingsley got hit so hard was the pitch selection, dictated by his catcher, Russell Martin. Billingsley placed the blame squarely on Martin's shoulders and took absolutely no responsibility for being horrendous in the team's biggest game of the year, even though he could have always shook off the catcher whenever he wanted to throw something else.
So, here's a recap of Chad Billingsley's night: first, he loses his unwritten rulebook. Then, he offends the Dodgers' best player by showing absolutely no respect for his teammate. He goes on to lose game two of the NLCS, putting the Dodges in an 0-2 hole in the series. Finally, he blames his catcher for the poor outing and decides that he played no role in the loss even though he was the starting pitcher.
All in all, it was a pretty successful night for him, I'd say.
He showed he is ill prepared to be a starting pitcher on a contending team; he showed he has no perspective on why his team is in the playoffs; he showed he buckles under the pressure of big games; and he showed that he has no respect for his teammates.
I'm rooting for a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series so that I can see Manny poke holes in the Green Monster, but I'm not so sure that the Dodgers can make it there with pitchers like Billingsley starting important games for them.