Buckley: Red Sox must still address Dustin Pedroia-Matt Barnes situation
Something happened with the Red Sox this past weekend in Baltimore that merits a ton more attention than a customary day-after rehash.
And the hope is that, with yesterday being an off day, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski gathered manager John Farrell and his staff and had a further discussion about that Matt Barnes pitch that sailed behind the head of Orioles star Manny Machado on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards.
Yes, Barnes was predictably contrite after the Red Sox’ 6-2 victory over the Orioles when he told reporters, “I would never intentionally throw at somebody’s head.” But the story doesn’t end there.
We can take Barnes’ word about the behind-the-head pitch, except that in Major League Baseball it’s understood that pitchers and managers do not admit to throwing at a batter, be it the head, the ankle or anywhere in between. But what stands out is that Barnes’ own teammate, Dustin Pedroia, was livid about the whole thing.
Pedroia has been out of the lineup the last two games after absorbing Machado’s raised-foot slide Friday night as the Sox second baseman was taking a throw. Everyone was waiting for some sort of payback from the Red Sox, and it apparently arrived in the eighth inning on Sunday. Barnes (hit with a four-game suspension yesterday that he quickly appealed) was the mailman, Machado the addressee.
Pedroia, watching from the Red Sox dugout, seemed none too pleased. And he confirmed this after the game when he said, “That’s not how you do that, man — I’m sorry to (Machado) and his team. If you’re going to protect guys, you do it right away. He knows that. We both know that. It’s definitely a mishandled situation. There was zero intention of him trying to hurt me, he just made a bad slide (when) he did hurt me (Friday night). It’s baseball, man. I’m not mad at him. I love Manny Machado. I love playing against him. I love watching him. If I slid into third base and got Manny’s knee, I know I’m going to get drilled. That’s baseball. I get drilled, and I go to first base. That’s it.”
When a player is criticizing his own team for the manner in which some frontier justice has been administered, that’s a major problem. It makes the Red Sox look like they’re not all on the same page, which makes them look disorganized.
It’s even worse when the player doing the squawking is a player of Pedroia’s stature. No offense to, say, Marco Hernandez, who is emerging as a very good pick-up for the Red Sox, but, well, this isn’t Marco Hernandez. It’s Dustin Pedroia — senior member of the team, former Rookie of the Year and MVP, perennial All-Star, Gold Glove winner, owner of two World Series rings, possible future Hall of Famer. That guy. And the Red Sox reacted to a play Pedroia himself has made his peace with by throwing a pitch at Machado that (intentionally or not) went behind the helmet.
If I’m Dombrowski I’d want a better recap than the old line about how “that one got away.” Owners John Henry and Tom Werner might be interested in a briefing as well.
I once covered a guy in the minors who was instructed to hit a certain hitter but kept bouncing pitches off the plate until he finally walked him. His teammates were a little miffed. After the season, the pitcher told me he wasn’t opposed to drilling the guy but that he was nervous because he had never done it before. So maybe it’s that: Matt Barnes, though he’s in his fourth big league season, hasn’t become adept at drilling batters for fun and profit.
In another game, I saw a Red Sox minor leaguer hit an opposing batter in the face. Everybody understood it was an accident — early in the season, no scores to be settled, etc. — but the pitcher struggled for the rest of the year. This is scary business, people.
The Orioles, for the most part, seemed to take the high road. I say “for the most part” because Orioles closer Zach Britton felt compelled to say this to Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com: “Dustin, him telling Manny, ‘Hey, that didn’t come from me’ may be even more frustrating. Because he’s the leader of that clubhouse and if he can’t control his own teammates, then there’s a bigger issue over there.”
Note to Zach Britton: You’re an outstanding reliever, big tough guy, fearless, blah, blah, blah, but in this discussion you present yourself as a lummox. Go wait in the bullpen and Buck (Showalter, not me) will call you when you’re needed. Or maybe not, given the way the Orioles’ 2016 season ended.
This isn’t a Dustin Pedroia problem. This is a higher-up problem. And the Red Sox need to address it.