“I don’t know what’s going on there. Bob Watson ought to take a look at it. Braun hits a home run, they drill him. He hits a home run, his next at-bat they drill him. That’s evidence enough for me for some guys to get suspended for quite a bit.”
Those were the words of Ken Macha, manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, following Saturday night’s game in Atlanta in which Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder was pegged by Braves lefty Jonny Venters in the eighth inning–a game the Brewers won by a final tally of six to three.
And you know what?
He’s off base.
The issues between the two sides stems from mutual unsportsmanlike banter–not Bobby Cox placing bounties on other teams’ player’s heads.
While Fielder was, in fact, grazed by a pitch on Friday following a Ryan Braun two-run homer delivered from Tommy Hanson (a guy who has plunked 11 batters–the highest total in the majors)–what Fielder did after making contact on a two run double later in the game is what lead to this situation boiling up a little more.
Prince, as we know, hasn’t exactly made friends of many of his opponents (see trying to invade the Dodgers’ dug-out and his orchestrating of a home plate celebration that lead to an eventual Spring Training plunking from Giants lefty Barry Zito).
From his somewhat entertaining boxing banter with teammate Ryan Braun (I kinda like that) to his “pimping” of swings (no one has enough of an uppercut to spring 270 (according to his player profile on MLB.com) pounds of man six inches (a bit of an exaggeration) off of the ground, the son of Cecil isn’t looking to let the egos of his enemies down easily.
And it was those “pimpings” on Friday night on his finish that likely got some rumblings going through the Braves’ clubhouse.
And when Fielder felt the urge to further punctuate his game-tying homer in Saturday night’s affair (at the start of a five-run Milwaukee inning) by not only leaping in the air, but also slamming his Louisville Slugger to the ground before rounding the bases (excusable in a walk-off, this one, once again, tied the game in the seventh)–he might as well have been taping a sign on his chest reading “hit me.”
After all, retribution for being “shown up,” like it or not, has been in the game of baseball since the first players started fooling around in sand lots.
So, when Jonny Venters buzzed Fielder’s dome (as had been done to Alex Gonzalez and Brian McCann on Friday, might I add) before driving a 92 mph two-seamer between Fielder’s two and eight (no way, even with Venters’ occasional wildness, that was an accident), the outrage over the score being settled (not upped once more) came as a surprise.
And, even of it wasn’t “even,” I’m not sure I get post-game tirades like the one from Macha (here are some more) are warranted after Fielder went out of his way to try and take out Alex Gonzalez’s legs on a double play.
But, one thing if for sure: this isn’t over.
The level of animosity following tonight’s (Saturday) game is simply too high for it to be finished.
Tomorrow (Sunday), somebody’s getting plunked.
Somebody’s getting ejected (especially with “Cowboy” Joe West in there).
And someone might feel the urge to throw some punches.
And, to answer the title (as if that hasn’t already been done), no.
Bobby Cox, after over 30 years in the game, is not telling his pitchers to go out there and mow down guys just for the hell of it.
The time comes when the players need to handle things amongst themselves–and this is one of those times.
No one’s trying to kill anybody–messages are just being sent between the two teams.
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