The Red Sox and Orioles had a stupid weekend

The Red Sox went to Baltimore on Friday and some stupid stuff happened. Manny Machado made a questionable slide into second base, Dustin Pedroia was injured, people yelled, Twitter raged and hilarious quotes were given.

The teams played again Saturday without incident, and most assumed everything had blown over. They assumed wrong.

Or, at least, someone forgot to pass the memo along to Matt Barnes, who threw a 90 mph fastball behind Machado’s head in the eighth inning of a game Boston was leading 6-0 on Sunday. The ball narrowly missed Machado but connected with his bat, Barnes was ejected anyway, people yelled, Twitter raged, and a suspension was given. But I am here to tell you, friends, that it has not yet blown over.

The sports world is ablaze with takes — takes on Barnes’ headhunting, takes on Machado’s slide, takes on Pedroia’s reaction, takes on unwritten rules, takes on other people’s takes. That tends to happen when you have so many stupid moments crammed into one weekend. What follows is my attempt to sort through that stupid and issue sound and just verdicts.

 

Dustin Pedroia

What was his involvement?

Pedroia was attempting to turn a double play, or at least put Machado out at second by receiving Xander Bogaerts’ throw. He was an innocent bystander, a baseball player simply trying to do baseball things. He wasn’t blocking the bag or doing something that would invite such an aggressive slide.

How did he react?

Well, his first reaction was to crumple to the ground upon being spiked in the back of the knee. But I suppose his post-game reaction is the more pertinent piece of information.

After the Barnes incident, Pedroia apologized to Machado and immediately made clear that he had nothing to do with the attempted retribution. He also said that if he were going to advocate for payback, he’d have thrown at Machado immediately and also not at his head. Which…ok, I guess it depends on where you come down on unwritten rules. If you think they’re dumb, maybe this makes Pedroia a tiny bit stupid, but hey, ballplayers gonna ballplayer.

What could he have done differently?

Not much. Pedroia comes out of this smelling the best by far.

Verdict: Not stupid.

 

Manny Machado

What was his involvement?

Once, when my little brother was around three or four years old, I pushed him. That isn’t particularly notable in and of itself…I’ve got about nine years on him, so at the time he was really the perfect subject on which to test the efficacy of chokeslams and figure-four leglocks and all kinds of stuff. On this particular occasion though, I instantly knew I used too much force. Panic turned to dread as I watched him, seemingly in slow motion, fall forward and smack his face against a nearby dresser. There were tears and then screams, first from him and then from my mom at me for being such a shit. I imagine most of us have lived a moment like that in some form or another. I’d like to believe Machado lived his Friday night.

What was his reaction?

His reaction tells the story. Pedroia hadn’t even begun to react to the collision yet when Machado reaches out his arms to embrace him. Machado knows, probably before he even makes contact, that he has screwed up. I’m sure he had the intent to go in hard and break up any chance for a double play, but I don’t believe he went in with the intent to injure. To think he did is to believe not only that Machado is devious enough to intentionally cause harm, but also to premeditate such a remorseful instant reaction to dupe the masses. I don’t buy it.

What could he have done differently?

Be less reckless. I didn’t intend to propel my brother’s head into a piece of solid oak, but that doesn’t change the fact that I did, just as Machado’s regret didn’t take the spike out of Pedroia’s leg. It was reckless, and reckless is stupid even if it’s unintentional.

Verdict: Unintentionally stupid.

 

John Farrell

What was his involvement?

He got mad and yelled at umpires, which is what just about every manager would do in the situation.

How did he react?

Protecting players is part of a manager’s job description, so Farrell’s anger following Machado’s slide is understandable…doubly so after the umpiring crew opted against enforcing the slide rule that would have granted Boston a double play via interference. After Barnes’ pitch, Farrell backed up his pitcher’s assertion that the ball simply slipped out of his hand. Defending this kind of conduct is similarly par for the course among managers, but it’s also lame as hell.

What could he have done differently?

I don’t feel great about sticking Farrell with responsibility for his pitcher’s actions…Barnes is youngish by MLB standards but he isn’t a child — 26 should be plenty old enough to know that throwing at someone’s head is super wrong and super dumb. Still, as Pedroia himself said, the entire situation was mishandled, and any communication breakdown in the Boston clubhouse ultimately rests at Farrell’s feet. That, combined with the fact that he refused to take a hardline stance in denouncing Barnes’ actions leaves Farrell with egg on his face.

Verdict: Mildly stupid.

 

Matt Barnes

What was his involvement?

His involvement? This whole article is about Barnes throwing a ball behind Machado’s head. I mean, are you even reading? Who’s writing these questions?

How did he react?

After the game, Barnes had this to say:

““People are going to think what they want. All I know is I was trying to go up and in. Trying to get some weak contact with Jones on first. Unfortunately, one got away from me. As I said, I would never intentionally throw at someone’s head. That’s potentially life changing. That’s unacceptable.””

It’s a nice sentiment, but…I mean, come on. We all know what he was doing here, right? The ump who ejected him knew. Pedroia, his own teammate, knew. He knew so much that he shouted across the field to clear the air with Machado immediately. Barnes took it upon himself to pay Machado back in the most dangerous way possible, and then he pretended it was all a big misunderstanding.

What could he have done differently?

He could have not intentionally endangered another man’s life and career. If you’re an old-schooley baseball type who absolutely needs to uphold the unwritten rules, fine, plunk him in the side and be done with it. Or, you could — and please bear with me here — you could not plunk him at all. You could recognize that Machado made a mistake, he regretted and apologized for that mistake, and you could go on living your life. I know, stupid.

At the very least though, he could own up to it. One might think that if you had the nerve to throw at a dude’s head, you’d at least be accountable for it afterward. Alas.

Verdict: Monumentally stupid.

 

Major League Baseball

What was their involvement?

The umpire ejected Barnes from the game immediately. Then, MLB officials presumably watched the incident many times to determine if further punishment was warranted.

How did they react?

They handed Barnes a four-game suspension.

What could they have done differently?

Sent an actual message? In failing to properly punish players who would seek to willfully injure others, MLB is playing a dangerous game. A four-game suspension (and the possibility that it will get appealed down to even fewer) is baseball’s standard response of punishing the result and not the action.

This is a picture of Delino DeShields Jr. after getting hit in the face with a fastball. This is Giancarlo Stanton after the same thing. These were accidents. If Barnes had succeeded in doing this to Machado intentionally, would he still have gotten four games? If he did worse than this? By fostering an environment where headhunting is treated with 1/20th the severity as taking a performance-enhancing drug, baseball is inviting disaster. Treat the issue with the gravity it deserves.

Verdict: Your winner, and still champion…

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