Biased as I may be, I came away from last night's game between the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants with even more respect for my hometown team of red and less for the defending world champions.
During the sixth inning of an 8-2 game and the score in the Phillies' favor, Giants pitcher Ramon Ramirez decided to throw at the backside of batter Shane Victorino after Jimmy Rollins had stolen second base. What then transpired on the field could have easily been avoided; not just once, but twice. You can see the video here.
Where San Francisco went wrong was throwing at him in the first place. If it's true that Ramirez did indeed decide to plunk Victorino in response to Rollins' stealing of second base in an 8-2 game, you have to wonder just how confident they are in their own offense.
The "unwritten" rules of baseball suggest that in a blowout late in a game, the team with the lead should hold back from advancing runners on a steal. The same goes for other sports. The point is to play like gentlemen and to avoid humiliating the other team. But if the Giants saw an 8-2 game in the sixth inning a blowout, how confident are they in being able to battle back and score runs?
It's no mystery to any audience that their offense is downright anemic, but you would at least think they would remain confident in their own abilities. A six-run deficit with four innings left is nowhere near insurmountable. The Giants could have plausibly come back to steal one away.
Once the festivities got underway, it became apparent that they had given up on winning. The Giants were simply out looking for a fight.
After Victorino was hit square in the small of his back, he dropped his bat and took a few steps toward the mound before stopping to glare at his combatant. Ramirez proceeded to go the other 50 feet, while his catcher, Eli Whiteside, jumped up and down like a prized champion boxer ready for a heavyweight bout.
From there, benches emptied as the situation only escalated.
Whiteside found the closest man in red to him, which turned out to be Placido Polanco who had come over from first base, and proceeded to latch onto his legs in an attempt to take him to the ground. He was unsuccessful, as about eight other Phillies were there to hold Polanco up.
As the brawl went on, things seemed to die back down until Shane Victorino managed to escape the grasp of his hitting coach, Greg Gross, and floored his way back into the skirmish to body slam whoever he could get his grasp on. That man turned out to be one of the Giants' coaches. Not the best move by Victorino.
It took the rest of Philly's army to pry the Flyin' Hawaiian off of his prey, as well as an Aubrey Huff headlock, but once the two were separated tempers died down. As the two teams moved back to their respective dugouts, the umpires decided to eject Whiteside, Ramirez and Victorino from the game and rightfully so.
Who was more in the wrong during last night's game?
Aside from Victorino, the rest of his teammates showed tremendous restraint and maturity throughout the entire situation. Shane is a high temper player with known Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who won't back down until the job is finished. Intentionally hitting him in a totally uncalled for situation brought out his worst side.
To his credit, he showed restraint by simply taking a few steps to stare down Ramirez. Most players would have charged the mound immediately. He claims he had no intention of doing so, and frankly, I believe him.
The brawl could have been avoided at that point if Ramirez had stayed on his mound and Whiteside hadn't gone looking for a partner to dance with.
Even after the Giants' catcher started the fight with his attempted tackle on Polanco, all of the Phillies' efforts—besides Victorino's—were focused on getting him out of there and ending the scrum. From what can be seen on video, not another Philadelphia player took to throwing punches or instigating. The same couldn't be said for some Giants players, who seemed too eager to start this in the first place.
Maybe it was frustration over their recent offensive woes, or the fact that they had lost six of seven going into the night, but more Giants players seemed inclined to scuffle than Phillies.
Aside from the initial fire starters, a Giants player can be seen on video hopping around, just as Whiteside did looking for a target of his own. That target turned out to be Phillies first base coach Sam Perlozzo, who is 60 years old. Luckily, Perlozzo had been shielded by what looks to be pitcher Kyle Kendrick, so no shots were taken. When the player realized who he'd taken a peck at, he backed off and continued his search for someone else.
On top of that, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval can be seen throwing elbows and a few kicks in the middle of the group. At one point, Sandoval punches Victorino on the ground before running back to a different part of the scuffle
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was also involved, but not as an instigator. He was stepped on, as well as had the back of his pants tugged on.
Towards the end, after Victorino bum rushed back into the center of things with a tackle, Giants reliever Guillermo Mota pulled the helmet off of his head. What effect that had, I'm not totally sure. That one's just more humorous than anything.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't to say that all Philadelphia players are innocent. Victorino charging back into the group and tackling an unsuspecting victim, as well as trying to move an umpire out of his way, will warrant suspension. Rollins was also seen shoving San Francisco bench coach Ron Wotus and exchanging a few words. There's probably much more that we can't see from the angles on television.
Both teams are always guilty in any situation like this. But in these circumstances, what happened could have easily been avoided, and it was San Francisco who decided to get things going.
If Ramirez' sole intent was to hit Victorino and send a message, he would not have made most of the trip down to confront him. Whiteside's antics didn't help in calming things down, either. The Giants had given up on baseball and were looking to start a fight. They picked the right player to do so with Victorino.
Aside from Victorino, Philadelphia showed great restraint. On the other hand, San Francisco showed an eagerness to not only deliver a message, but get physical with it. The hit was intentional and uncalled for, as was what transpired.
The Giants took offense to Rollins stealing second base in the middle of a crucial game between two National League foes that was in no way out of reach. They gave up trying to play baseball and instead made a mockery of the game.
Simply sending a message and hitting Victorino would have been acceptable had it not been for Ramirez and Whiteside immediately going after Phillies players once he had been plunked. The intent was clearly there to start something more than just a war of words.
For Philadelphia, they came away not only looking like the better team but the more mature one, too. San Francisco instigated something that didn't need to happen and escalated things from there. Victorino and the Phillies did what any player and team would do by standing up for themselves. As Manuel later put it, "Vic almost has to go unless he wants his teammates to call him chicken."
The two teams square off again today at 4 PM ET in the third game of a four-game set. Cole Hamels will toe the rubber for the Phillies, with Matt Cain taking the mound for the Giants.
Hopefully, yesterday's antics don't bowl over into today's game and baseball order can be restored. But one thing's for sure: you won't want to miss it.