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April 24, 2017

Players Prefer Presentation

Manny Machado's Almost Beanball

by Meg Rowley

On Sunday, Matt Barnes threw a 90 mph fastball at Manny Machado’s head.

It was on purpose. Barnes denies it was on purpose, and you’re free to believe him if you want, but come on. Come on. We’re adults here. We know when other adults do stuff we’d tell kids not to do. This is that stuff. Barnes threw the pitch because Machado injured Dustin Pedroia on Friday on a bad slide. It wasn’t on purpose. Machado said it wasn’t on purpose. Pedroia said it wasn’t on purpose. Barnes said, Let’s be stupid anyway.

Of course, Barnes isn’t the only one at fault for such a failing. There are secondary characters who need to be recognized, along with a few who gave kids something to emulate.

Good Job

Christian Vazquez

Here is Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez, set up outside before Barnes throws his pitch.

Here is Vazquez, crouched in worry that Machado just took a 90 mph fastball to the head. It seems a low bar to clear as far as human empathy goes, but then again, Barnes seems unfazed.

And here is Vazquez, awarding Machado first base. Vazquez’s demeanor over these 15 seconds is the most damning evidence that Barnes knew every bit of what he was doing. I imagine it will also play well with Christian’s mom, who probably delights in knowing that she raised a man capable of demonstrations of caring in the face of poorly behaved co-workers.

Buck Showalter

A lot of the value managers add is hard to quantify, but if there were such a thing as manager WAR—or WARM, maybe—I’d feel comfortable saying Buck’s little trot was worth half a win. All we ever want to know is that people really care about us, and few things convince us that their affection is real more than them rushing to be near us more quickly than they have to.

Chris Sale

All these things take to escalate is one guy going over the rail. One guy goes over the rail, and you have dudes coming in from the bullpen, and a secondary character who reveals he really, really wants to fight, and a lot of nonsense. Chris Sale makes you think he’s going to cause problems. Rarrrr that’s a foul ball. He’s mad. He’s throwing his hands up! Not that he’d throw a punch himself if it came to it; that’s what bench bats are for. Conflict has a way of clarifying hierarchies.

But Chris just wants some seeds. He could be going over the rail, but instead he’ll have some seeds and stand around, just like he normally would. There’s a lot to be said for being the guy who doesn’t fight even though he’s grumbled.

At Fault

John Farrell

This expression was not a reaction to Machado almost getting hit in the head. This expression was a reaction to Machado standing on first base after the home plate umpire mistook the sound of a fastball hitting his bat for the sound of a fastball hitting his head. This is not the face of someone who asked his club to make good choices. This is the face of someone at fault. Or, half of that face and a fairly normal looking ear.

John Farrell is 54 years old. He once had his jaw dislocated by his own player trying to restrain him as he argued with an umpire. He’s seen things. There’s something profoundly disappointing about a grown man not setting a better example, if only out of pure exhaustion.

These Two Pre-Teen Boys

This is Machado’s sixth inning at-bat against Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez. One of the pitches almost disappears from the plot, it’s so far inside. We don’t know what was in Rodriquez’s heart, but we might guess that he was trying to plunk Machado.

Here are two pre-teen boys watching that at-bat with their Mom/Aunt/Sitter/Older Cousin/Family Friend. We’ll call them Joe and Will.

Joe and Will see Machado getting pitched inside. They can tell Rodriguez is probably trying to hit him. Boston is up by six. Their starter is nearing 100 pitches. This is the time. By the third pitch of the at-bat, they’re sure. And they almost tell their Mom/Aunt/Sitter/Older Cousin/Family Friend, but then they get distracted. They’re kids. Maybe they just swore out loud for the first time. There’s a grownup right there. They could be in trouble.

They also might enjoy a fight. So they go from caring about Manny to caring about themselves. They forget to raise the alarm. It's OK; they still have time to learn. They’re pre-teens. They haven’t grappled with the Trolley Problem yet. What almost happened wasn’t really their fault. But they didn't help. They saw something and enjoyed swearing instead.

These Folks in the Crowd

Come on, how did not one of you stand up and yell, “PLEASE DO NOT BEAN HIM!”

I bet if just one of you had stood up and yelled directly at Barnes, “PLEASE DO NOT BEAN HIM! THAT COULD BE DANGEROUS!” that Barnes doesn't try any funny business. How could he? He was asked nicely and that request is now part of the record. Non-compliance makes him a monster.

We expect too much from ballpark crowds, and I’m generally not bothered if folks want to spend the game in their phones. But I do ask that when given the chance to potentially save a man’s head, that someone shout a bit. I can hardly be faulted for that.

Meg Rowley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Meg's other articles. You can contact Meg by clicking here

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