Already a month into the 2017 season, Major League Baseball has made some standout headlines: “Judgement Day in the Bronx”, “Nats Showing Early Dominance”, and “Cubs’ Bats Failing to Follow Historic Season”.
America’s pastime shows promise for an exciting rest of the season. But for two franchises, the headlines have grown more controversial throughout their bout.
The Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles have developed a rivalry filled with vicious wild pitches and unnecessary racial slurs in only a month. How’s that for a headline? With both teams a couple games out of first place in the AL East, the animosity between the two has skyrocketed to an intense level.
On April 21st, Orioles’ Manny Machado overslid second base attempting to break up a double play and caught Boston’s Dustin Pedroia’s calf with his spike. Had Machado purposefully meant to do this, hand him an Oscar for his acting ability. By all accounts, it looks as though it was an accident and he even tried to help Pedroia after the contact. The Red Sox second baseman would leave the game early and sit out the next three.
Pedroia defended Machado’s slide saying it was legal and that playing at an intense level like that is natural. As captain of the team, he ordered his fellow teammates to show no signs of retaliation towards Machado or the rest of the Orioles organization.
This whole situation could’ve blown over like it was nothing, but instead, hostilities began to escalate.
The following game, Machado was targeted with three straight inside pitches by Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez, failing every time. Later in the game, reliever Matt Barnes (an alumni of my high school, believe it or not) chucked a fastball right behind his head, leading to an ejection and Barnes’ four game suspension.
But it doesn’t stop there…
Baltimore’s closer Zach Britton fired a random shot at Pedroia’s leadership ability, saying, “If he can’t control his teammates, then there’s a bigger issue over there.” Pedroia said addressed his comments saying that he is entitled to his own opinion and that it’s time to move on from the situation.
But guess what? You’re probably right if you hypothesized that all the fuss didn’t find an ending. The Orioles/Red Sox game on May 1st at Fenway Park proved to be a turning point.
Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy plunked Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, who both had nothing to do with the overlying situation. In the outfield, however, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was the victim of, what he claimed to be, racial slurs thrown at him, alongside a stray bag of peanuts.
“I got called the n-word a handful times out there,” Jones said to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “It’s unfortunate that people need to resort to those types of epithets to degrade another human being. I’m trying to make a living for myself and for my family.
Boston Police escorted the 34 antagonizing fans out of the ballpark. Both the Red Sox organization and Mayor Marty Walsh apologized to Jones, calling the fans’ behavior “inexcusable.” Walsh chimed in saying, “We are [all] better than this.”
Jones was greeted with a standing ovation from the Fenway faithful during his first plate appearance the next night.
Despite this, the team-wide personal vendetta against Manny Machado continued when Chris Sale fired a ball behind his head. A heated Machado summed up the entire situation in a post-game interview with just two words: “fucking bullshit.”
On May 3rd, Orioles starter Kevin Gausman was ejected from the game after beaming Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts with an off-speed, rogue curveball to open the bottom of the second inning. To top it off, more racist remarks were heard during the performance of the national anthem which was sung by a Kenyan woman.
So, it goes without saying that the Red Sox/Orioles series this season has taken a turn down an unnecessary path. Will all this commotion continue when they face each other again in June, August, and September?
Both league commissioner Rob Manfred and chief baseball officer Joe Torre have had to step in now like a principal disciplining two misbehaving students to put an end to all this madness; enough is enough.
But what about the discipline that’s needed to ensure that racism stays out of the ballpark?
Controlling a player’s on- and off-the-field behavior is one thing; simply giving a suspension could either reduce the chance of it happening again or only fuel a player’s motive to commit the same act. Controlling a random fan’s actions in the stands, though? That’s a whole other ballgame. No pun intended.
The end result of this whole debacle still remains to be seen. Fans need to remember that their role is to support and cheer on their team no matter what. Sure, you can boo and jeer and hiss all you want at the other team; even an occasional “you suck” can be permitted at the discretion of the stadium’s rules and regulations. But when a line is crossed like on Monday night, something has to be said.
Imagine the six year old kid attending his first Red Sox game that day and hearing much more than what they would consider “potty mouth”. Their parents must be livid that they were exposed to that, especially in a friendly atmosphere like the one at Fenway Park.
It seems as though society still has many steps to take in showing any shred of tolerance. Sports is about a display of athleticism; it’s been years since race has played a role in how a player received a reaction from the crowd. We’re past that era and some fans still need to get that relayed to them.
Let’s stick to baseball and move forward.