By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — On the scale of bizarre baseball events, one to ten, what happened Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park was about 15 1/2.
There was a brawl on the field. And who was roaming the grass in front of the Pittsburgh Pirates dugout, challenging one-and-all?
It was a guy who no longer played on the team. And he knew it. But Yasiel Puig, already a member of the Cleveland Indians, was out there in support of his old teammates, the Cincinnati Reds.
And for whom did Puig get traded? An eccentric pitcher named Trevor Bauer. A couple of days previously Bauer stood on the mound and threw a baseball over the center field wall when he manager came to take him out.
As his manager, Terry Francona got to the mound, after the heave, he said to Bauer, “What the blank is wrong with you,” and pointed for him to get off the field.
As part of his apology, Bauer said, “I’m only good at two things — throwing a baseball and pissing people off.”
So there you have it. An exchange of malcontents. But wait. Was Puig a malcontent. He carried that heavy baggage when the Reds acquired him from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He showed none of that with the Reds. In contrast he was a fantastic teammate, beloved in the clubhouse.
Testimony to that came Wednesday morning when Amir Garrett talked about it. Garrett, of course, torched Tuesday night’s brawl when he sprinted off the mound into the Lion’s Den, charging toward the Pittsburgh dugout, where he was greeted by a blur of black-and-gold uniforms.
“Yasiel is a great teammate,” said Garrett. “I’d heard a lot of things about him before he came to us. I thought he was one of the best teammates we ever had. He was always joy in the clubhouse. He loved these guys, loved being around these guys.
“We are definitely going to miss him,” Garrett said. “I’m just going to have to strike him out next year. He is always messing with me because he is 1 for 3 off me.”
Of Puig, still wearing a Reds uniform but already a member of the Indians, being out on the field challenging any Pirate that moved, Garrett said, “For him to have our backs like that for the short time he had been here? That shows a lot about him as a teammate. Cleveland got a good one, a person that plays the game hard, a person that has their back any time.”
Garrett showed a bit of remorse over Tuesday night’s episode and hopes all is well that ends well.
“I think it is all squashed,” he said. “There are no hard feelings. I never hold grudges against anybody.”
About his charge of the light brigade, he said, “When I got there I thought, ‘Oh, man. This might not be a good idea.’” But he threw a couple of roundhouse punches, one with each hand, before the masses swarmed around him.
“I definitely wasn’t going over there to talk, I can tell you that,” he said. “I got out of character. That’s not my character. I don’t pretend to be a tough guy and I don’t want anybody to be a-scared of me.
“But we are all human beings with raw emotions,” he added. “Just because we are athletes doesn’t mean we don’t have emotions. Sometimes things get out of hand.”
Reds manager David Bell already had been ejected from the game before the skirmish on the lawn. But when the brawl broke out, he sprinted from the Reds dugout and headed directly to Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. Bell lays the blame for Pittsburgh’s head-hunting at the feet of Hurdle.
The two tussled briefly before Bell ended up on the ground with a couple of Pirates sitting on his back.
“I have two fake hips and no foundation,” Hurdle said with a laugh. “Maybe I might have done something in my distant past after sitting in a bar.”
Bell said he had nothing against meeting privately with Hurdle, but said emphatically, “I kind of talked to him last night (on the field), told him exactly how I felt about it.” Loudly and clearly? “Yeah, yeah.”
Bell, too, aimed nothing but positives at Puig and said no determination has been made as to when Bauer will make his Reds debut.
“We don’t have a plan for when Bauer is going to pitch,” he said. “We are going to miss Yasiel Puig. He was a great part of our team this year, in a lot of ways. It is sad to see him go. He was a great guy, a great teammates. He contributed here on and off the field. He will be missed.
And with Puig missing from right field, Bell said, “This will clear some spots and openings for Phillip Ervin, Jose VanMeter and Jesse Winker. They’ll get more playing time. All of those guys can play all three outfield positions so we’ll continue to mix and match and turn it into a positive for them.”
As for Bauer, Bell said, “To be able to add a guy like that, we’re thrilled. I haven’t yet had a chance to talk to him. We can’t wait to see him and have him as part of the team.”
It was a bit curious, though. Why would a team in second place, so close to first place, trade one of its best pitchers when most of its rotation has been on the injured list this season? And why would a team in next-to-last place, going nowhere this year, acquire a pitcher making $13 million who is eligible for free agency after next season?