The he-said, he-said of the Brandon Phillips-Jared Hughes thing died out a day after it all went down. Probably for the best, given that (a) neither Phillips nor Hughes was willing to say they were wrong; and (b) no one’s interests would be served by having it strung out any longer.
But in today’s Post-Gazette Ron Cook takes what I consider to be a totally demented angle on the matter. He called Brandon Phillips a “punk” because he didn’t start a brawl during the game:
Is Brandon Phillips a punk or what? … After the game, Phillips tweeted that he heard a racist remark. He didn’t mention names, but the implication was that it came from Hughes.
Right there, Phillips lost all respect. He never looked at Hughes even as Hughes was yelling at him. If Hughes slurred him — using the word “boy,” according to Phillips — shouldn’t Phillips have charged the mound and gone after Hughes? Some things are more important than the fear of injury or a suspension or even the impact either would have on your team in the playoffs and World Series. Defending your manhood is one. Phillips came up awfully small there.
Cook goes on to say that Phillips reaching out to Andrew McCutchen in an effort to have a go at fence-mending with Hughes was “impossible to explain.”
This is bizzaro world territory. You’re not allowed to take umbrage at what you perceive to be a racist remark unless you’re willing to get violent about it? Running at the guy and tackling him is preferable to trying to talk it out? On what planet is Cook writing this from? The one in which Jackie Robinson routinely beat the crap out of people in 1947 as he made his way into the majors? The one where Martin Luther King led violent mobs in the streets?
Look, you can take legitimate issue with Phillips over making the incident public. You can even reasonably believe that he was simply wrong about what Hughes said to him and handled it poorly in the aftermath. But to suggest that Phillips or anyone else loses all credibility on a racial matter if they don’t react violently is beyond ridiculous.
Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has an outstanding profile of former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, who is currently in jail for allegedly murdering three men nearly two years ago.
Fenno describes Martin’s erratic personality as he became a highly-touted baseball prospect who then descends into drug use. Friends described Martin has having completely changed into an unrecognizable person. Martin had repeated conflicts with friends and family such that police reports became common and he was placed in a psychiatric facility. Sadly, the facility only held him for less than 48 hours. He would allegedly murder three people upon returning home: his father, his brother-in-law, and a home security system contractor. Martin fled from police, who eventually caught up to him and subdued him with the help of a police dog.
Fenno’s profile is really worth a read, so click here to check it out.
Martin, 23, was selected by the Rays in the first round (38th overall) of the 2011 draft. He spent three years in the Rays’ system, reaching as high as Single-A Bowling Green.
On Sunday, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado‘s head. It was revenge for a slide of Machado’s which ended up injuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Barnes was suspended four games.
Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that if he were in Barnes’ shoes, he would have also thrown at Machado, although not necessarily at his head. Via ESPN’s Scott Lauber:
If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him. The only thing I would’ve done differently is probably bring the ball a little bit lower.
Martinez added that Machado “did not intend to hurt Pedroia. And I know that because I know Machado.” And he doesn’t think Barnes meant to throw at Machado’s head.
Martinez, of course, was certainly a pitcher who wasn’t afraid to pitch inside to batters and even hit a few of them when he felt he or his teammates had been wronged. This is an unfortunate part of baseball’s culture and the fact that it continues means that it will eventually result in someone being seriously hurt. It’s disappointing that Martinez isn’t willing to be a better role model now that his playing days are over. Martinez could have set an example for today’s pitchers by saying what Barnes did crossed a line. Getting a Hall of Famer’s seal of approval will only embolden players now when they feel they must defend their teammates’ honor.
The “tradition” of beaning batters to defend one’s teammates is anachronistic in today’s game, especially when Major League Baseball has made strides in so many other ways recently to protect players’ safety.