Yesterday featured the dream match up of Jared Weaver of the Angels versus Justin Verlander of the Tigers. Both pitchers are pitching for division contending teams and both have large personal stakes in a very tight Cy Young Award race between themselves and C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees. The game will go down as one of the most talked about for weeks. This writer's wife saw the replays so often yesterday that she was tired of them by the evening. The Baseball Tonight folks on ESPN gave their opinions of what happened. But were they right?
Perhaps you didn't see what happened, so perhaps this post should start with a recap of the events. The two great pitchers matched zeroes for the first two innings. In the bottom of the third, Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers hit a mammoth shot to left. There was no doubt about the distance of the shot, but there was doubt about whether it would stay fair or not. Ordonez stood and watched for a few seconds to see if it would stay fair. Weaver, who is an emotional competitor, thought that Ordonez was showing him up by "admiring" his homer and wasn't happy about it. He could be seen boiling mad in the dugout after the inning.
Meanwhile, Verlander was cruising and on track for yet another no-hitter. While all this was simmering, no Angels could touch Verlander's stuff yesterday. Verlander kept his no-hitter intact through the top of the seventh. The inning before, Weaver had gotten Ordonez to fly harmlessly to center. Ordonez was running back to his home dugout and passed in front of the pitchers' mound since the Tigers' dugout is on the third base side. Weaver had words for him and Ordonez responded in kind. The bottom of the seventh was when things got interesting.
Weaver got the first two outs rather easily with a strikeout of Victor Martinez and a fly out by Jhonny Peralta. Carlos Guillen came up and he hit a bomb to right and flicked his bat away and strolled and hopped toward first while facing Weaver. It was an "in your face" move by Guillen. The two faced each other briefly and then Guillen circled the bases. As you can see in the video, the Angels' catcher had something to say to Guillen after Guillen touched home plate. Guillen could be seen pointing in the dugout, probably at Ordonez.
Even while Guillen was circling the bases, the home plate umpire could tell that a problem was developing and took the unusual move of going toward the pitching mound to talk to Weaver. First, the umpire could never tell if Guillen touched home plate since he wasn't there. Secondly, the umpire's action seemed to draw more anger out of Weaver than do anything to settle him down. Once the umpire saw and heard what Weaver had to say, the umpire warned both benches about retaliation and that he wasn't going to allow anything to happen. But it did anyway.
The next batter was poor Alex Avila, the Tigers' catcher. Weaver's first pitch to Avila sailed high and in the general vicinity of Avila's head. Weaver was immediately ejected and then started screaming at the umpire and at the Tigers' dugout, something he didn't stop doing until his coaches pushed him into the tunnel. Since the highlights fuzzied out his mouth, the language must have been something, which was great for all those kids in the stands behind the Angels' dugout.
The Angels retaliated in a different way than another beanball the very next half inning. With Verlander still nursing a no-hitter, Erick Aybar tried to bunt for a base hit. Verlander threw it away for an error and Aybar was on second. Verlander got the next guy out via a ground out, but then Peter Bourjos hit a grounder to third and Aybar was hung up between third and home and a rundown ensued. The rundown was totally botched by the Tigers and ended with Verlander dropping the throw at home and Aybar scored. Bourjos ended up at second. Verlander struck out the next batter but then Maicer Izturis singled to left to score Bourjos and the game stood at 3-2. Izturis' hit was the only one Verlander would allow and it shouldn't have even happened because there should have been three outs by then. Verlander would strike out Torii Hunder on a 101 MPH fastball and the game would end at 3-2.
So now you have the facts and it's a matter of determining the moral maze of the events. First, was Magglio Ordonez trying to show up Jared Weaver? No. Ordonez was simply trying to determine if the ball would stay fair. It happens many times a week when a player knows he killed the ball and the only thing to find out is the status of fair or foul. Weaver blew a gasket for nothing. Weaver's subsequent words for Ordonez in the sixth inning shouldn't have happened because Ordonez hadn't done anything demonstrative in hitting his homer.
Carlos Guillen's actions after he hit his homer are understandable to a degree. A team is like a family and that family is strengthened further by the fact that the Tigers have several Venezuelan players (Guillen, Ordonez, Martinez and Cabrera). In a family, if someone threatens one member of a family, then that person threatens the entire family. All of that aside, Guillen's actions weren't professional. Any member of the Yankees or the Red Sox would have known that the homer itself was retribution enough and would have just put the head down and circled the bases. Guillen certainly stirred the pot and put Avila's life in danger with his actions.
Weaver must accept blame here. First, he overreacted to the homer Ordonez hit and should have kept his mouth shut in the sixth inning. Secondly, if you want to strike back at Avila, you don't aim for the head, you aim for the backside. Throwing that pitch toward Avila's head is akin to assault with a deadly weapon and something serious could have happened to Avila had Weaver been on target. There is no way that Weaver should avoid a suspension for his actions. Plus, he's got to remember the family aspect of the fans in the stands. All players should and should clean up their language. There is no excuse for that kind of display and cussing.
As for the bunt in the eighth, Verlander was right. It was a bush-league play. Say all you want about the score being 3-0 and needing to get base runners. John Kruk and Barry Larkin were fine with the play, but this writer is not. Turn the shoe around and see how Weaver would react if he had a no-hitter going and a team did that against him and the Angels. The Angels would have been just as piqued. If Kruk and Larkin were still playing and someone did that to their pitcher, they would be angry, plain and simple. This writer doesn't believe that bunt would have occurred if the Carlos Guillen homer had gone differently. Guillen's antics most certainly led to the bunt attempt.
So that's this writer's take on the events that happened Sunday in Detroit. What's your take? Is this writer wrong? The comments are always open.