Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks about starting pitcher Kevin Gausman's outing against the Red Sox as well as the pitch that almost hit Manny Machado. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)
There's not much nuance to find in a weekend like the Orioles and Red Sox had surrounding their stars, Manny Machado and Dustin Pedroia, especially, when one team eliminates most of the gray area.
But clearly, Boston's anger toward Machado for a reckless slide that injured Pedroia's knee didn't subside, and their pitchers spent Sunday trying to let him know that.
Reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for his actions, and the Orioles tried to take the high road. One perspective, which I took, was that the only one who didn't follow the expected script was Machado himself, who did nothing and used it as an excuse to open up a little.
But there are always more takes. Here's a small sampling of what they're saying about the incident.
"If you're going to apply the unwritten rules, then at least execute them properly. If a Sox pitcher had hit Machado in a meaty part of his body on Saturday – one day after he unintentionally injured Pedroia with a slide into second base, not two – Machado almost certainly would have accepted his fate. Message sent. Incident over.
But that's not what happened, is it?
Sox right-hander Matt Barnes threw in the direction of Machado's head, missing his helmet but hitting his bat in what turned out to be the oddest of foul balls. Pedroia yelled to Machado from the dugout that he had nothing to do with Barnes' misdeed, texted Machado afterward and issued a public apology as well, telling reporters, 'It's definitely a mishandled situation.'"
"I've never seen anything like that in baseball before. Pedroia, in case this matters at all, is 100 percent right: Some might say it's childish to bean a player after an accident, but baseball's norms being what they are, it's an acceptable response. But if you're going to do it, you do it as soon as possible instead of waiting around for two days like a gag from How I Met Your Mother, and you don't ever go for the head. It's not surprising that Pedroia would take Barnes, a middle reliever in his fourth season, to task for violating those norms, but normally, he'd do it privately and directly, and none of us would ever have known about it.
Maybe Barnes throwing at Machado's head was so beyond the pale that Pedroia couldn't wait. Maybe — as he said repeatedly after the game — he just really likes Machado, which is certainly understandable, and doesn't want to see him hurt. Either way, it's extremely unusual to see a player break ranks this publicly, for any reason."
O's manager Buck Showalter praised the 'courage' his team had not to escalate everything, although a more appropriate word would have been discipline. Showalter's right: a pitch in the area of the head is not the kind of thing that's easy to ignore."
Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons tweeted that the pitch was "unthinkable," especially in the context of having just watched video of former Red Sox star Tony Conigliaro hit in the head decades ago. In a full column posted Monday, he added:
"There is nothing humorous or tough or pretentiously macho about all this. Hopefully, the Red Sox and Orioles play on, jousting verbally about who has what sickness or injuries, and play games the way Dustin Pedroia and Adam Jones always play. Hopefully Barnes' command of his fastball on the inner half of the plate never falters, and he goes on to being an all-star reliever."
"If the Red Sox felt retribution for Pedroia being spiked by Machado was necessary – and I believe it was unintentional, more clumsy than malicious – then an eye-for-an-eye in this case is not throwing the ball near the actual eye of Machado.
As for the defense that this is always the way the game was played and stop trying to change the game: Well, there was a time when not allowing players of color to participate was the way the game was always played. There was a time when leeches were put on a sick person's stomach to cure them. Enlightenment means learning from the past and making improvements. And it is not enlightened to keep letting the Matt Barnes of the world heave what amounts to a deadly object toward the head of another human being."