By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave as the Cincinnati Reds season drones on and on and on. Is there such a thing as combat pay for baseball writers?
—A baseball ‘fight’ normally is what I call GMA, general milling around with no punches thrown. Usually it is just a bunch of words exchanged like, “Oh, yeah, sez you.”
But the one Sunday involving the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels was a ding-dong dandy, a scuffle that would make a WWE promoter ecstatic.
Two main characters were former Reds Jesse Winker and Raisel Iglesias.
It began, though, on Saturday night when Angels superstud Mike Trout was nearly hit in the head. His crime? He hits a lot of home runs and makes a lot of outstanding defensive plays. Nothing happened that night.
But Angels interim manager Phil Nevin, an old-school guy, believes in an eye-for-an-eye. . .or a head-for-a-head. And he tipped his hand for Sunday’s game.
He decided to make it a bullpen day and started relief pitcher Andrew Wantz. Everybody knew Wantz was on the mound as a ‘hit man.’
Sure enough, in the first inning he threw behind Julio Rodriguez. Nothing happened. But in the second inning, he hit Winker on the hip with a 91 miles an hour fastball.
Winker reacted as if Wantz stole his lunch money and the brawl was on, a 20-minute disturbance in front of the Angels dugout.
Both managers, LA’s Nevin and Seattle’s Scott Servais, were ejected, along with Winker and Iglesias and several others.
Iglesias was ejected for picking up a large box filled with snacks and hurling it high into the air from the dugout, spreading debris along the third base line.
As baseball brawls go, it was a good one and fortunately nobody was seriously injured. Fines and suspensions were delivered to 12 participants, including the Angels translator, who probably was just on the field to translate swear words.
—The two best brawls involving the Reds in my time:
1973: During the National League playoffs, Pete Rose slid hard into Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson. As the two rolled in the dirt near the second base bag. a full-scale fight erupted. When it ended, Reds relief pitcher Pedro Borbon picked up a hat and put it on his head. Realizing it was a Mets’ hat, he yanked it off his head and bit a chunk out of the bill.
2010: Before an August series in GABP against the St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Phillips told me the Cardinals were a bunch of “whiney little bitches” and that he hated them. I wrote it.
The next day, when Phillips walked to the plate, he tapped St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina on the shin guard. Molina, chaffing over what Phillips said, yanked off his mask and the fight was on.
At one point, the Cardinals had pitcher Johnny Cueto pinned against the screen behind home plate. Cueto spiked pitcher Chris Carpenter and former Reds catcher Jason LaRue, who ended up with a concussion.
Even before the incident, Reds manager Dusty Baker and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa were not on the best of terms. During the fracas, they were in each other’s faces. Reds third baseman Scott Rolen, a former Cardinals with no love for La Russa, separated them.
I expected Phillips to back down after the game and say he was misquoted or taken out of context. To his credit and my credibility, he stood by what he said and patted me on the shoulder and said, “Great story. I meant every word.”
—In my time, I witnessed at least four disturbances in the press box between writers, including one in a hotel elevator. Fortunately, I was never more than a peacemaker. I’m a writer, not a fighter.
—QUOTE: From author Arthur Doyle Conan in The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone: “No violence, gentlemen. No violence. I beg of you. Consider the furniture.” (Or in the case of Raisel Iglesias, consider the snacks.)
—Wes Johnson, pitching coach for the first-place Minnesota Twins, is leaving his position for another one — pitching coach at Louisiana State University.
Why would an MLB coach leave for the same position for a college team? Easy. M-o-n-e-y.
Johnson is making $350,000 from the Twins and LSU offered him $750,000. So long, Minnesota, have a nice season.
That an MLB pitching coach is only making $350,000 is incredulous. The major league minimum for players is $700,000. One would think teams would pay a pitching coach at least the minimum. One would be wrong.
Would anybody blame Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson if he returned to Vanderbilt as pitching coach?
—Everybody worth the price of a gallon of gas knows that The Big Red Machine was synonymous with the word awesomeness.
But did you know the BRM is the only team in history to put four MVPs on the field at the same time. That would be Johnny Bench (1970), Joe Morgan (1975-76), Pete Rose (1973) and George Foster (1977). And Foster finished second to Morgan in 1976.
In addition, Rose won the World Series MVP in ’75 and Bench won it in ’76.
—Jon Heyman reported in the New York Post that more than 30 Reds employees quit, “After meagre raises, the sell-off of players, their removal from the non-players pension fund and COO Phil Castellini’s infamous, ‘What are they gonna do’ interview.’”
Heyman reported that the Reds say it was less than 30, but there were many who quit.
—In 1932, Indiana governor Harry Leslie witnessed a baseball game between the Indiana Reformatory team and a semi-pro team.
There was a shortstop on the prison team that caught his eye and the governor said, “He’s a good-fielding and hard-hitting shortstop who could hit the ball savagely.”
A few months later, that shortstop was out of prison. Instead of pursuing baseball, he pursued robbing banks, about a dozen of them and his first one was in New Carlisle, near Dayton. He name was John Dillinger.
—QUOTE: From baseball player/bank robber John Dillinger: “Never trust a woman or an automatic weapon.” (It was a woman who set him up so that he was shot dead in front of the Biograph Theatre in Chicago.)
—At one time they were the California Angels. And they were the Anaheim Angels. And they were the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Now they are just the Los Angeles Angels.
Why? The team is in Anaheim, not Los Angeles. The two cities are 26 miles apart and they aren’t even in the same county. LA is in Los Angeles County and Anaheim is in Orange County.
—Another gem from my favorite Reds broadcaster, Jeff Brantley.
On Tuesday night, a 5-0 Reds lead over the Chicago Cubs melted to 5-3 late in the game and Brantley said, “Every time we get to this point in a game my stomach hurts.”
The Reds’ bullpen is enough to turn anybody’s stomach.