Last night in the opening game of the Orioles' series against the Blue Jays, the seeds were planted for a feud that will almost certainly have another chapter written before the Orioles leave Toronto. It will probably end up echoing throughout the season as well.
If you were watching the game, first off, I'm sorry, but second off, you already know the genesis of this incident. Late in a laugher, Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia, who began last year in the short-season New York-Penn League, hit Blue Jays second baseman Ryan Goins, a player with a career batting line of .213/.232/.297, in the thigh.
This is not a surprising outcome to anyone who has watched Garcia pitch for more than about eleven seconds. The guy is raw, supposedly a fireballer, although we haven't seen that yet, and his command is shaky at best. There is a reason he was not seen in a game for ten days, only emerging to get some work in two games whose outcomes were not in doubt. He can't be trusted with anything else at this time.
Still later in the game, Garcia threw a pitch that ended up going behind Jose Bautista, who is at this moment batting .149 on the season. The simplest explanation is also the most likely: A pitch that was meant to go inside slipped out of the hand of a raw pitcher and missed its target by a lot. Granted, that's easy for me to say, whose fragile sack of bones has never been in the proximity of a 95mph fastball. It is also not surprising that Bautista took exception to the outcome of the pitch, regardless of its lack of intent.
Of course, Bautista got his revenge later in that at-bat, clobbering a pitch to deep center. Maybe the man in white gave him the right signal, or maybe Garcia just threw something horrible and hittable because he is a project that the Orioles are carrying around to work on for reasons currently unknown to their fans. Garcia's MLB career is seven innings old and he's walked five guys and hit two more guys.
After hitting the home run, Bautista strolled out of the batter's box in a way that would even make David Ortiz blush, casually taking six or seven steps to admire the home run as it sailed over the fence before flipping his bat and sauntering around the bases. This showing-up did not go unnoticed by the Orioles; MASN commentators Jim Hunter and Mike Bordick noted that both Steve Pearce and Ryan Flaherty were gesturing or shouting to Bautista as he moseyed past.
Adam Jones was also not amused. Cameras caught him yelling at Bautista most all of the way around the bases. The pace Bautista chose to circle the bases provided extra time for this dialogue to continue, and the two were exchanging words between innings as well, with Jones yelling something at Bautista that looked a whole lot like, "That's bullshit and you fucking know it!"
O's manager Buck Showalter pulled Jones out of the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, ostensibly to give David Lough an inning of work and an at-bat in the top of the ninth. There was perhaps the ulterior motive of not giving the Blue Jays pitching staff the chance to throw anything towards Jones.
In post-game comments to reporters, Jones summed up his reaction: "I'm not going to let nobody show up my teammates in a situation like that when a guy is definitely not trying to hurt somebody. You're not going to sit there and pimp me. You pimp the pitcher, you're pimping me too." Jones will not take any perceived disrespect lying down, which is one reason why we love him.
There are two ways to respond to this kind of situation. One is to offer something like a conciliatory message, even if there's not exactly an apology attached:
Buck: "Its an emotional game played by people who care...You’d just like to see people react like it’s not the first time they hit a HR."— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) April 22, 2015
The other way to respond is to open up the briefcase with the launch codes, pick up the red phone on the desk, set DEFCON 1, and start World War III:
Bautista: "I think it’s all planned out & premeditated. I think they hide behind the way their manager acts & conducts himself on the field"— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) April 22, 2015
Boy, that escalated quickly. Bautista very clearly does not feel that he got his revenge in full with his home run and subsequent display of overt douchebaggery. There's being ticked about being thrown at and then there's going off the rails with paranoid delusions.
Among Bautista's other quotes in which he attempted to justify his continuing anger, he said of Garcia: "The guy's hitting and painting his spots and all of a sudden one fastball gets away and hits (Goins) square in the thigh." Not only does this indicate that Bautista did not consult a scouting report on Garcia, it also shows that he wasn't paying any attention to the game, because Garcia is not a pitcher who has shown a propensity for hitting and painting his spots.
Baseball being what it is, there's a high probability that some kind of faux-macho dust-up will occur, if not tomorrow, then the next day or later in the season. Baseball players have the memory of elephants for this kind of thing, and when coupled with having someone at the center with the ego or paranoia sufficient to believe it's all about him, the prospect of what would in the Blue Jays' eyes be a retaliatory strike against Jones or another Oriole is high.
Likely the Orioles either feel that the ledger is settled, or if anything, they are owed something for Bautista's strutting like a peacock around the bases. If there is an obvious pitch at Jones or any other Oriole, that would be another score to settle, and who knows where things might go from there. Over the weekend there was significant ugliness between the Royals and Athletics, with no one involved coming out smelling like a dozen daisies.
It would be nice if the Orioles could avoid all of that. For one thing, they don't need the suspensions or even possible injuries that could come from an on-field incident. On top of that, it would be nice, as fans, to be rooting for a team we can believe is full of good dudes who aren't out there looking for a fight. Not that I could really blame them if one started after a hypothetical fastball hypothetically drilled Jones between the numbers.
A wild card in all of this is tonight's probable pitching matchup. Ubaldo Jimenez's wildness needs no introduction. Likely Blue Jays starter, 22-year-old Aaron Sanchez, either walked or hit about 14% of batters he faced across five minor league seasons.
Should a pitch from either one slip, one hopes that calmer minds will prevail. Based on things that were said after Tuesday's game, I won't be holding my breath,