When I first started writing about the Bat-Flip Royale, detailing individual’s attempts to gain entry into a (fictional) season-ending bracket of Bat-Flips, the winner of which would be granted the 2014 belt, it was all in fun. Jayson Werth had just punctuated the Marlin’s decision to intentionally walk the batter ahead of him with a grand slam, and his emphatic bat-flip was the icing on the cake. The bat-flip bar was set, and several well-known contenders (offenders?) soon stepped up. Yasiel Puig in fact, took the competition very seriously indeed, adding quantity to his bat-flip quality.
But yesterday, well… to put it lightly, things turned sour, when Manny Machado took the name of my little contest a tad too literally. After his very real effort to start a rumble, Twitter blew up, and calls for him to be suspended for his childish actions abounded. Even as a lover of a good bat-flips, even I must admit this was a step too far. But like a good ol’ train wreck, Machado’s actions can’t be ignored.
Machado’s interesting weekend actually started on Friday night with a seemingly innocuous play. With the option to throw to first to end the third inning, A’s third baseman (and my AL MVP pick so far) Josh Donaldson instead chose to tag Machado, who was literally just in front of him. Unconventional, according to the unwritten rules of baseball, but altogether harmless. The 21-year-old Machado however, thought not, taking exception to what was essentially a love tap, and tumbling to the ground. Whether it stemmed from his recent knee injury, or something else entirely, his reaction was entirely unwarranted, so much so that even the umpires found it amusing. Anyhow, after a round of ‘hold me back’ posturing between the two benches, the game went on with no ejections. Wei-Yin Chen though, plunked Donaldson the next time he came up (Donaldson had earlier hit his 17th homer of the season off of Chen, but dude…). Things were officially on.
On Saturday, Machado teased us with his bat-flip promise. Just look at the frustration in that toss, it’s a thing of beauty. I count a 480° twist on that thing, which in combination with the petulant helmet spike and look of disbelief, really adds to the dramatic effect of it all. His matinee display however, not that we knew then, was just a precursor to the main event that would follow a day later.
Yikes. From whatever angle you look at it, that’s not a pretty sight. Sure Fernando Abad had thrown in on him twice in a long decided game (the Atletics had a 10-0 lead at the time), but Machado had already knocked Oakland’s catcher Derek Norris out of the game with two rather exaggerated backswings. He can’t exactly claim Abad’s retribution was unwarranted. But throwing the bat… jeese Manny. It’s not even Donaldson at third base – it’s Alberto Callaspo! Naturally the benches cleared once again, with Stephen Vogt (who had replaced Norris behind the dish) particularly upset it seemed. This time, crew chief Larry Vanover had the good sense to eject both Abad and Machado, later explaining “It was obvious the pitcher threw at him the second time… then [Machado] threw the bat. That wasn’t accidental. He threw the bat, so two ejections.”
Yeah, no matter what you say Manny, that wasn’t an accident. You are hereby suspended. For the remainder of the season, no theatrical action of yours at the plate will be considered for entry into the Bat-Flip Royale. I suggest you spend the time wisely, getting back into the so far elusive form you displayed during the first half of the 2013 season, where it seemed like every darn plate appearance ended in a double, and doing your best Brooks Robinson impersonation over at third.
And if you really want to get back at Josh Donaldson, taking his crown as the best third baseman in the American League would be a solid, responsible way to go about it.
Given how I’ve a history paper to write (if anyone has extensive knowledge of Juan Perón’s economic reforms in Argentina, holler), and it being 90° here in Oregon (sorry east-coasters), today is not the time for heavy baseball thinking. Instead, I’m going for a casual-Friday kind of post, recapping some of the more light-hearted, impressive, or just downright weird occurrences in baseball during the past week. It’s quick and dirty, but every GIF, video, or article linked to is well worth your time. Unless of course you have a history paper to write as well.
– Robinson Cano returned to New York for the first time since leaving the Yankees for Seattle (and the $240M) over the winter, and found the time to film a segment for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Largely amusing, if only for the stupidity of some New Yorkers (sorry east-coasters, again) – the combination of a giant box and a microphone almost always spells prank.
– Cool graphs illustrating baseball’s borderlines (h/t to @nytgraphics for the incredible interactive map) not your thing? Well what about an info graphic (courtesy of Thirty81 Project’s Lou Spirito) overlaying the dimensions of every major league ballpark on top of one another? Still nothing? There’s just no pleasing some people.
– After last week poking fun at Mike Carp‘s woeful inning of relief, I thought we were in for another treat on Wednesday afternoon when Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado took to the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals. Instead, Maldonado allowed just a leadoff single to Allen Craig before retiring the next three batters in order. Furthermore, after Carp’s marathon effort, Maldonado required only 14 pitches, 9 of which were strikes. An anticlimax in every regard.
– It wasn’t all so dull on Wednesday however, we did get a couple of very impressive fan showings; in Texas, a brave A’s fan dressed as Oakland’s ‘Stomper’ mascot, and in preparation for a sweep, brought along a broom (the Athletics won 12-1, which was likely not only a good sign for Stomper’s future career as a fortune-teller, but ability to escape Globe Life Park alive). Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, a fan snagged a sharply hit foul ball one-handed whilst carrying his son with his other arm. Tremendous stuff*.
– The Wednesday silliness even spread around the minor leagues. In the top of the fifth inning of the Fort Wayne TinCaps vs Great Lakes Loons game, first baseman Fernando Perez caught his foot on a sprinkler chasing a pop-up, and unfortunately activated it. Aside from dousing nearby fans, the subsequent torrent of water delayed the game for 18 minutes. Perez would hit a home run in his next at-bat though, so the incident obviously didn’t dampen his day. Sorry…
– Maybe B.J. Upton needs anti-glare versions of the prescription glasses he wears while batting when he’s in the field too, lest more potentially dangerous moments like this happen again.
– Speaking of dangerous, Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura was forced to leave last Saturday’s game against the Cubs after Ryan Braun‘s warm-up windmilling nailed the 24-year-old in the face. Segura would get stitched up by a plastic surgeon and returned to action yesterday; Braun later pulled an oblique and remains sidelined. Karma?
– Carl Bialik wrote a very interesting piece for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com in which he explored Mark Buehrle‘s accelerating effect on the speed of a game; it turns out the Blue Jays lefty is taking just 15.8 seconds between pitches this year, his fastest rate yet. At the other end of the spectrum, David Price is the worst culprit in terms of between-pitch tardiness.
– After a prolonged stint on the sidelines, a short spell in the minors, and a couple of rain delays, Manny Machado finally returned from the DL in the second game of Baltimore’s doubleheader on Thursday. Naturally, David G. Temple manipulated the young third baseman’s happiness into an action more commonly associated with Miley Cyrus:
Yeah, I’m pretty confused how it’s relevant too. Your week in baseball oddities everybody!
* I’d be remiss not to point out the Boston fan who somehow snagged a foul ball prize while cradling his phone and a beer in one hand during Thursday’s doubleheader against the Rays. No human life was put in danger however, so he’ll have to settle for a runners-up spot this time out.