by Kevin Kimmes
I decided to sleep on last night’s game before writing about it at length. It seemed like the sensible thing to do in the wake of an altercation that escalated extremely quickly. Frankly, there was a lot to mull over and digest for something that lasted less than five minutes in total duration, and letting it all settle in, I now think I can discuss it sensibly.
Neither side was without fault in what happened on Wednesday night.
There, I said it. Despite what Atlanta’s fanbase wants to say (and boy were their fans ever speaking their minds on social media Wednesday), their boys are not some universal gate keepers who’ve been anointed with policing all that is right and good about the game of baseball (that’s St. Louis’ job, just ask them). Now, before I get bombarded with hundreds of expletive riddled comments and emails, let me also point out that Gomez’s handling of the situation was not without fault either. I think it’s best to break this down piece by piece.
June 23rd, 2013 (Miller Park) Bottom of the 1st, 2 outs, Braves lead 4-0
The origins of last night’s kerfuffle seem to stem from an incident that happened just over 3 months ago. With two men retired in the bottom of the 1st, Gomez steps to the plate to face Paul Maholm and gets hit by a pitch to the knee. Gomez takes his base and Lucroy steps to the plate.
Whether this is intentional or not appears unclear, however one has to wonder due to Maholm’s history of being with Pittsburgh during a period of time in which Milwaukee absolutely owned them. In his defense, pitching Gomez outside is a huge mistake as he has the power to turn on pitches that don’t make it far enough outside. Your safest bet as a pitcher? Pitch him inside, which this may just have been an off target attempt at.
Now on 1st, Gomez steals 2nd beating out a throw from Braves’ catcher Brian McCann. The reasoning for the steal is two fold: 1) move the runner into scoring postion and 2) test McCann’s ailing arm. At this point in the season, McCann (who had surgery on his throwing shoulder in October of 2012) was suffering from soreness which was impeding his ability to throw out runners at 2nd. The stolen base would be a moot point as Jonathan Lucroy would record the third out and we would move on to the top of the 2nd inning.
Breaking Down The Incident
Carlos’ major infraction in Wednesday’s game was what is commonly referred to as an “unwritten rule” of baseball, in this case spending too much time watching your ball leave the yard. The general feeling is that when you are at the dish, if you crush one, act like you’ve been there before, because if you don’t then it appears that you are trying to show up the pitcher.
In Jason Turbow and Michael Duca’s book The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, & Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime the authors frame up the violation as follows:
“Several code violations, however, are universally abhorred. At or near the top of any pitcher’s peeves is the home-run pimp, a hitter who lingers in the batter’s box as the ball soars over the wall.”
Normally the cause for retaliation, Gomez spun convention on it’s ear and used it as retaliation for getting plunked back in June. This, of course just threw gas on a fire that had been smoldering since the teams had last met, and sent Maholm into a tizzy.
“F@#king run, God d$%nit!”, Maholm screamed at Gomez as he lazily rounded the bases. His outrage, now growing as both McCann and Freddie Freeman joined in, was met by a chorus of boos from the sparse crowd in attendance. Not to be outdone, Gomez began chirping back. But it wasn’t over, McCann was about to light the fuse and blow this thing sky high.
Blocking the plate down the 3rd base line, McCann now stood between Gomez and homeplate making it impossible for him to touch the home and score the run. One can only assume that McCann was still thinking about Gomez stealing against him in the June contest and since the gauntlet had already been thrown down, he was going to get his vengeance as well.
Now nose to nose the tension became palpable and the benches cleared. Somewhere out of all this chaos, Reed Johnson found his way to the center of the scrum and threw a haymaker which hit Gomez in the face before he retreating back into the mob.
Johnson’s role in this seems random until you realize that teams commonly have a player that they will use as a dummy in situations such as this for this exact purpose. Johnson’s job, attack the opposition so that they get the message and no starters get served with a suspension or get injured in the process. In this case, Johnson delivered on his orders and got suspended along with Gomez for a game each earlier today.
In the course of the “unwritten rules” this matter should now be closed. So, if you were expecting to see more fireworks come the 2014 season opener, sorry my friend, but you are most likely out of luck. For one thing, McCann, who seemed to take the most offense to Gomez’s actions, is a free agent this offseason meaning he will most likely not be a Brave at the start of 2014 and thus no longer part of the equation.
Additionally, Milwaukee has historically not been a retaliatory organization. Don’t believe me? In 2012, Milwaukee batters were hit more times (90) than any other team in the major leagues. By comparison, Milwaukee pitchers hit the least number of batters (31), thus proving that they don’t believe in retaliation on the whole.
If I am the Braves management, I would be lighting up Maholm, Freeman and McCann for inciting a dangerous situation in a meaningless game. With the playoffs set to start in less than a week, teams have begun resting starters to protect them from accidentally getting injured and potentially damaging a teams run towards the World Series. What Maholm, Freeman and McCann did was selfishly put themselves right in harms way in a game that meant nothing.
Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and an MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.