Let's get the business part of this column out of the way; the Baltimore Orioles lost their fifth straight game last night with a 10-3 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway. This one was over early; Zach Britton gave up eight runs in the first inning, and only recorded two outs before being lifted. In fairness to Britton while for some strange reason the official scorer awarded base hits on both plays, he looked to be out of the inning with a double-play ball twice but the Oriole infield bobbled the ball. Had he gotten out of it the first time, it would have been 0-0. To go from bad to worse, Brad Bergesen (who was pitching great in relief of Britton) was hit by another comebacker on his forearm and had to leave the game. Overall while the O's did mount a brief rally, it was another listless effort so to speak. Then we hit the last of the eighth...
David Ortiz, who looks like a Looney Toons character to begin with, decided to stand and admire his first inning home run. He then proceeded to flip his bat and allow everyone in the ballpark the courtesy of watching him slowly savor his moment while he ran the bases. This isn't untypical of Ortiz or the Red Sox, who in many situations seem to respect themselves a little too much. They would argue that their approach to the game gives them the looseness they need to win games. They would then go on to say that perhaps part of the Orioles' problem is that they're overly "professional" in their approach which makes them tight and prevents them from winning games. I would simply say that the Red Sox are a busch league team that likes to showboat. (If this were the NFL, how many unsportsmanlike conduct fouls would the likes of Ortiz, Youkilis, etc. receive for taunting after TD's?!) Part of the problem a lot of people have with the Red Sox is that they crowd the plate like there's no tomorrow, and if anyone gets close to them they're ready to "dance." Kevin Gregg wanted to pitch Ortiz inside to back him off the plate in the eighth inning. After Gregg's 2-0 pitch, Ortiz started to come out from behind home plate and Gregg came off the mound. Order was restored after the benches cleared, but home plate umpire Mike Estabrooke warned both benches. On the 3-0 pitch Ortiz popped it up, however he decided not to run to first base. Gregg took exception this this, Ortiz charged the mound, and the melee ensued.
This was a long time coming for the O's. The above-mentioned mistakes in the field came as a result of the team being so tense that they screwed up routine plays. The clubhouse has remained professional throughout the past couple of weeks, and many people would argue that's part of the problem. Teams that air their grievances allow the negative tydings to get out, while teams like the Orioles allow them to fester. I'm not saying I agree with that, however that's what some people are saying. The good news is that the team didn't implode by calling each other out in the press, they exploded on another team. Sure they lost the game, but the final score was almost irrelevant in this game. First off, Gregg was ejected for yelling at Ortiz to run and gesturing with his glove. I understand Estabrooke's perspective in trying to keep control in the game, however I felt that was a bit of a quick hook. (Incidentally Big Papi was allowed to stare Gregg down after every inside pitch. If we're going to toss guys for not actually throwing punches, wouldn't that qualify as potentially escalating a situation?) Both benches cleared again and along with Ortiz and Gregg, Jim Johnson and Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (it was unclear why those last two were tossed).
After the game, some of the fireworks continued. First off, Josh Beckett took pot shots at Gregg by saying that he was throwing at Big Papi because the Orioles were getting beat. Gregg himself indicated that the Red Sox tend to crowd the plate, and that the O's have just as much right to the "whole 17 inches" of it as they do. He went onto say that the Orioles aren't afraid of the Red Sox or "their $180 million payroll." He also said that the Red Sox would "whine and complain about it because they think they're better than everyone else." I try my best to remain as objective as I can when writing this column (albeit definitely from the Orioles' perspective), but I wanted to stand and applaud when I heard that. Boston Red Sox hitters have crowded the plate for years and then "whine and complain" when someone pitches them inside. How can you not pitch the guy inside when his gut's hanging over the outside corner of the plate? There have been plenty of times where I've wondered if there wasn't some sort of team unity issue brewing in the Oriole clubhouse. Now I'm 100% positive that's not the case. The Orioles had Gregg's back during the fight, and from my perspective it didn't go unnoticed that Buck Showalter walked Gregg off the field. You certainly don't want to see a brawl like this (although they can be entertaining!), however I'll be interested to see how the team reacts starting tonight. Will some of the bad tydings be gone and will that allow the team to loosen up just a bit on the field? Kevin Gregg may well make saves interesting in the 9th inning, however he struck back on behalf of the Orioles and the fans last night. As for Ortiz, I'm sure he'll still enjoy his next trip around the bases just as much. However hopefully he thinks about the eventual consequences of his actions.