“Welcome to the big leagues, pal.”
That age old cliche’ certainly applied to baseball’s newest sensation, Yasiel Puig, Tuesday night in the Dodgers 4-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Puig, who entered the game batting .500 with four home runs in his nine-game career with the Dodgers, was indeed given a rude welcome to the majors. He had the honor of being deliberately thrown at by Arizona’s pitcher Ian Kennedy. That play resulted in an “almost-brawl” that, sadly, was only the first step in a series of incidents that would eventually lead to a very ugly affair.
In the bottom of the sixth, with Arizona leading 2-0, Kennedy threw a pitch right across the face of Puig. It appeared to catch him in the nose and the crowd could only hold their breath as the latest phenom lay in the batter’s box. The benches emptied with a bit of pushing and shoving but order was restored before anything got out of hand. Fortunately, Puig got up and headed down to first. He didn’t have to stay on the field too much longer as Andre Ethier came up next and tied the game with his fifth home run of the season.
Naturally, with Zack Greinke on the mound for the Dodgers, a pitcher who is no stranger to hitting batters, it wasn’t a question of if there would be retaliation but when. Payback came quickly as Greinke threw a pitch squarely into the back of the Diamondbacks first batter in the top of the seventh, catcher Miguel Montero. At that point, most baseball fans and players alike would tell you the eye-for-eye scenario played out and hostilities would cease. It turns out D-backs manager Kirk Gibson isn’t most men.
In the bottom of the seventh, Greinke would come to the plate. Gibson must have decided getting even wasn’t good enough. So he had Kennedy throw at Greinke’s head and, as expected, all hell broke loose (see clip below).
Unfortunately, Puig was among those throwing punches. It appears Puig, perhaps the biggest reason Dodgers tickets are a hot commodity again, may not be able to appreciate the love coming his way fro a few days – he will most likely be one of several players expected to receive suspensions.
Just as a woman seems to be able to recall every mistake a man made dating back to his birth, past incidents die hard in baseball. Two years ago, Dodgers Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw, who is a master of control, deliberately plunked Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra just one game after Parra “showboated” on a home run off of then-Dodgers reliever Hong Chih-Kuo. Parra was probably upset that Kuo had thrown a pitch towards him a bit earlier.
I guess one can not argue with Gibson’s idea of deciding to send a message to Greinke and Puig, even if it meant losing Kennedy, a solid pitcher who has gone 39-20 since 2011. Gibson always had the reputation of being a gritty no nonsense player who would do whatever it took to win.
The Diamondbacks finished dead last in the NL West in 2009 and 2010. Gibson was named manager in 2011 and the team immediately turned around. The D-backs won the NL West that year and were able to win their first postseason game since 2001.
Although Gibson’s game winning home run in the 1988 World Series versus the A’s is considered one of the biggest moments, if not the biggest moment, in Dodgers history, there is a perception he is trying to distance himself from the very franchise he won a championship with.
It began back in 2010 when Gibson auctioned off the bat he used to hit that famous home run without offering up a plausible explanation to Dodgers fans as to why he wanted to part with it. Was he saying something to the Dodgers? And last July, Gibson more or less “dissed” the Dodgers organization for honoring him with a “Kirk Gibson Bobblehead Night.”
Messing with Puig and Greinke seems to be another one of Gibson’s shots taken towards the Dodgers. The noise from this one may linger for quite awhile.
More reasons to still get your program
“You can’t tell the players without a scorecard” is certainly playing out with the Dodgers. Tuesday, the Dodgers starting line-up included only three position players, Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, and Luis Cruz, that were in the opening day starting line-up. And don’t look for things to get much better.
Matt Kemp suffered a setback in his recovery from a hamstring problem and there is no set date for his return. Scott Van Slyke, who was second on the team in home runs with six, just went on the 15 day DL with bursitis in his shoulder. The current DL for position players also includes outfielder Carl Crawford, infielder Hanley Ramirez, and catcher AJ Ellis.
Stuck at ground level
Back on May 12th, the Dodgers were in the NL West cellar, seven games behind the division lead. Exactly one month later, the Dodgers are still in last place, 7.5 games off the lead. Not quite the turnaround fans were hoping for, huh?
An opening for a closer
The Dodgers bullpen currently leads the NL in losses with 14. To make matters worse, the revolving door at the closer position spun once again.
Manager Don Mattingly named Kenley Jansen the new closer after “original” closer Brandon League blew his second save in his last four opportunities in Monday’s loss. League has given up six runs in his last five appearances.
League, 30, was signed to a three year deal this winter based pretty much on one month’s worth of pitching. In his last 14 appearances of 2012, League was 2-0 with five saves and only allowed one earned run. Committing to a player who couldn’t carve out a permanent niche with two teams, Toronto and Seattle, both desperate to right their ship after many years of futility, seemed like, as Mel Kiper would say, “a reach.” And Mel is always right, isn’t he?
Two less headaches.
Major League baseball is reporting the Dodgers have signed their top two draft picks, first-rounder Chris Anderson and second-rounder Tom Windle, both pitchers. Click here for details.