I’m not one to encourage violent behavior. We’re all guilty of at some point letting our blood lust take over; of surrendering to that cackling devil’s voice in our heads, telling us to trick those two kids in the park into fighting each other and betting on the outcome while slipping one of them a butter fly knife. But nobody falters in the face of their darker instincts every time they’re in the park.
My point is, I think, that in a hockey game, you expect to see a couple of dudes wailing on each other. Football teaches its players to try and hit each other as hard as possible on every play. In basketball, sometimes players can get so excited about a performance that they will scramble into the stands and attack some of the fans. These things just happen.
In baseball, a bench clearing brawl catches the attention, because it doesn’t happen every game, or even every season. So you know if everybody from the star slugger to the third string utility infielder about to be DFA’d to Triple-A Tuscaloosa are out on the field teetering on the edge of a suspension-brewing ruckus, there’s probably a seriously detrimental reason for it.
Lo and behold, the contender-rich NL West provided us with the first bench clearing of 2010, and boy, was it not a doozy at all. In fact, it was remarkably tame, and a tiny bit confusing. If it weren’t for the internet or cable television, viewers across the country would still be confused as to why Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds went after Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera after a pick off play at third. They wind up pretty entangled with each other, and maybe it was the full body touching or the accusation that Cabrera had tried to kick him, twice, but Reynolds wanted to make a scene of it.
Baseball players seem to be ultra-sensitive about cleats in general, and who could blame them? Everybody in the game is walking around with nails on the bottoms of their shoes. And no manager has ever ended a pregame speech with the phrase “Just be careful out there, guys,” so there’s not a lot of restraint during in-game intensity. But the career-ending injuries waiting at the end of a cleat-related miscue more than warrant irritation.
This is usually reserved for guys sliding into the catcher at home. Hell, that’s what ended Danny Glover’s career in Angels in the Outfield, forcing him to retire before he could put a World Series ring on his finger. But don’t be too sad. He helped launch Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career.
But Cabrera had his cleats pretty close to Reynold’s groin. His groin. And you don’t even really notice that something drastically unsportsmanlike is going on. I for one had to watch the clip a few times just to see what in the hell Reynolds thought was happening. I assumed he saw Christopher Lloyd standing near second base, flapping his arms, and his mind shattered. Of course, I’ve been waiting for that to happen in real life since the summer of 1994.
Even the announcer doesn’t truly understand the nature of the fight, sounding genuinely confused about why such a big deal is being made over Cabrera getting picked off. Cabrera himself looks perplexed when Reynolds comes to life and goes straight into attack mode. If I struck out that much, though, I’d be ready to break the face of anyone who touched me at any point, so maybe they were both victims of a particularly emotional pick off.
The conclusion is, if we really do need to actually say this, let’s try to keep our shoes out of people’s groins.
One thing to really compliment here is Cabrera’s rodent-esque scrambling upon getting back to his feet. He has got to know that by now, his attempts to untie his laces with Mark Reynolds’ teeth has not gone by without anyone noticing or taking offense. The helmet comes off, ready to throw if the physically more dominating Reynolds gets close enough to land a strike, but the key here is that he keeps his head on a swivel.
Then, he springs to life, clearly having rehearsed this very motion in his bedroom every night for the past three years. He does not stop moving until he knows his own teammates are at his back and he will not be dragged to the ground by vicious Diamondbacks and beaten within an inch of his life. Or whatever he thought was going to happen.
I don’t know, I understand how heated these things can get, but is there really more than one or two guys in professional baseball who would attack a man’s back in front of an away crowd? Maybe, like A-Rod. Probably Carlos Zambrano, but I imagine him looking so much like the Tasmanian Devil when he’s that upset that no one would be able to stop laughing, including the guy he’s currently punching to death.
From the outsider’s perspective that we as fans are constantly in, brawls can be fun. They liven up a rivalry, or spice up what would otherwise be another painfully dull afternoon at Petco Park. Sure, they probably spark an awkward conversation between parents and children watching the game, as to how getting up and attacking members of the other team isn’t really allowed, and no, it doesn’t set a fantastic example, especially when bloggers take the incident and romanticize somewhat for no real reason.
But be honest with yourself. You stay tuned into Baseball Tonight when they promise some drama. I mean, where the hell else are we going to get it now that “The Hills” is over? This “brawl,” however, could have passed somewhat under the radar without anybody noticing. I doubt there will be ginormous fines, nobody woke the commissioner. Are guys like Cabrera, with sharpened defensive skills, getting better at avoiding fights? Are guys like Reynolds reeling it in?
Reynolds sums it up with what is should be a pretty general rule of thumb, regardless of whether one is diving back to third base on a close play or not.
“There’s no reason to kick people.”
But, in keeping with my endless references to Angels in the Outfield today, let’s end with another, more applicable quote, that comes with a free video clip.
“Well you know, you play the game, you take your chances. Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” –Ranch Wilder, Angels in the Outfield
NOTE: Eight seconds later he is punched in the face.