$2 Double Play Wednesday: Retaliation

In honor of the awesome (and affordable) $2 Double Play Wednesday at O.Co Coliseum I have decided to start a weekly posting that will hopefully provide some cheap entertainment the way the Oakland A’s bless their fans every Hump Day.

This week’s subject: RETALIATION

For those of who didn’t keep up with the recent series against the Kansas City Royals I’ll quickly sum up the action packed three-day weekend.

  • Friday:
    • Lawrie takes out Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar trying to break up a double play in the 7th
    • Escobar ends up with a knee sprain, while both benches briefly empty (With a whole lot of “Hold Me Back” tough guys on both sides) See Here.
  • Saturday:
    • Royals starter Yordano Ventura plugs Lawrie in the elbow with a 99-mph fastball.
    • Ventura is ejected and benches clear again and, despite their being zero warnings issued before or during the game. See Here.
  • Sunday: (Here’s where it gets good)
    • Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain gets hit by a pitch on the foot in the first inning by A’s starter Scott Kazmir and despite the Royals’ dugout being visibly pissed, Kazmir stays in the game with warnings issued to both sides.
    • As a result of Kazmir not being tossed, Kansas City pitching coach Dave Eiland is thrown out (for yelling at Kazmir) along with manager Ned Yost (for coming out of the dugout to argue after Eiland got the boot). See Here.
    • Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera throws a 100-mph fastball behind Lawrie’s head in the 8th Herrera, Escobar (from the bench) and fill-in manager Don Wakamatsu are tossed.
    • Herrera, as if he missed, points at his head on the way off the field.
    • That prompts Lawrie to use some words he wasn’t taught at Sunday school. Aaaaand the benches clear for the third time. See Here.

Now personally, I believe in retaliation. I think it should be welcomed and appreciated. In fact, it’s one of the only time-honored traditions that hasn’t changed over baseball’s 120-year history. It can get extremely ugly on occasion, but when done correctly, it can even be weirdly admirable.

Back in the day, throwing at someone was accepted and widely utilized. In a story I read recently, there was once a situation that I think perfectly sums up how things “used to be.” Many years ago, long-time Athletic, Wayne Gross hit a home run off a pitcher named Ed Farmer and took his time running around the bases. Farmer was furious and wanted to retaliate, but as a reliever who typically only gets in for one inning per game, he didn’t face Gross again for three years. When he did, it was during spring training and they were teammates. The very first pitch of batting practice, Farmer hit Gross right in the middle of the back with a 90 mph fastball.

“What was that for?!” Gross screamed at Farmer.

“That was for three years ago!” Farmer yelled at Gross.

“OK,” Gross said.

And then it was over.

Some of you may think ol’ Ed was just holding a grudge and should’ve gotten over it, but the fact that Gross completely understood and ended the feud I think speaks volumes.

Now applying this situation to the little debacle that occurred in Kansas City over the weekend, here’s how I see it:

Lawrie goes in with a hard slide, takes out Escobar. Whether it was intentional or not to use a take out slide in a situation where a double play wasn’t going to be turned, the Royals have a right to retaliate. The next day, Ventura uncorks a heater into Lawrie and he walks to first…

And that’s where reporters who cover the game should’ve had to stop. Period. End of story.

However, something happened that shouldn’t have. Ventura walks towards Lawrie and starts yapping at him, despite Lawrie walking to first without a hint of temperament. Lawrie understands the rules of retaliation because since he hurt one of their players, he must therefore be hit. The problem was Ventura didn’t let it go; he had to rub it in, trying to start a fight. And this wasn’t the first time the league has seen it either. A couple weeks ago, he tried to start a fight with Mike Trout (of all people) for hitting a meaningless single off him. Could just be me, but I think Ventura is starting to solidify his reputation as a punk.

Anyways, going into Sunday there should’ve been a completely clean slate. Yet, in the first inning, tempers flare because A’s pitcher Scott Kazmir hit Lorenzo Cain in the foot with a fastball. Even though Cain said that Kazmir asked him if he was OK, the Royals still deemed it deserving of retaliation, which – for better words – is poppycock.

Enter Kelvin Herrera. He throws hit triple-digit heater behind Lawrie and gets the “SEE YA” from the home plate umpire. Enter bush league. While walking off the field he points at his head as if to say he missed his target and the next time he faces Lawrie he’s going to put one right in his earhole. There was absolutely no reason to even throw behind Lawrie and even more so to essentially wish head trauma upon him. So Kelvin, have fun with your five-game suspension (If somehow hell freezes over and he reads this, don’t throw a 100-mph heater at my head please).

This situation is where retaliation can go too far and the Royals showed how. Ventura and Herrera’s actions depicted exactly what can go wrong when overreactions and very strong arms collide.

If Herrera had found his mark, there could have been a similar situation to a scary one that occurred back in 1952 involving the late, great Don Zimmer. Zimmer was hit in the head by a pitch by hard-throwing (for those days at least) Jim Kirk. Zimmer was unconscious for 13 days. When he left the hospital 31 days later, he had lost 42 pounds and had four holes drilled in his skull. His wife had to hold his hand while he walked and on a good day, he could make it 50 yards. When talking about it in the article, Zimmer said, “I was this close [to dying],” with his index finger and middle finger a half-inch apart. This is worst kind of ugly that no one wants to see, nevertheless experience.

So the next time the 2014 AL Wild Card opponents meet, I hope the guys in the blue can remember the number one rule of retaliation: Once it’s over, let it go.

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