BOSTON (CBS) — On Sunday afternoon, in front of a whopping 25,000 people at Tropicana Field, David Ortiz hit a home run and then casually flipped his bat toward the Boston dugout.
This was, apparently, the worst thing that has ever happened to the Tampa Bay Rays.
That’s the only conclusion to be drawn based on the fact that on Monday, a full day removed from the heat of competition that can sometimes lead players to say silly things in locker rooms, Chris Archer did not back off on his initial comments. In fact, he took them a step further.
“I never saw Hank Aaron flip his bat. I’m not comparing the two, but they’re obviously in the same class of players as far what they accomplished,” Archer said on Monday, a day after he took the loss against the Red Sox. “I guess different people have different ways of reacting. That’s just who he is.”
When speaking of “who he is,” of course, it’s important to include David Ortiz’s 456 career home runs, many of which have been followed by the designated hitter admiring his shot, or setting world records for slowest home run trot, or pointing a finger to the sky, or — shield your eyes, Rays pitchers! — flipping his bat.
Oh, the humanity.
By now, everyone knows that Archer, a 25-year-old who deems himself a true arbiter of baseball justice and a crucial curator of baseball’s unwritten rules, is the game’s biggest hypocrite. It’s been said a million times in the past 48 hours, but heck, I’ll say it once more: Chris Archer once struck someone out and then jumped off the mound in celebration before staring down the hitter and then kissing his bicep. This took place in a game in June. In the fourth inning. Against Daniel Nava. In a stadium “filled” with 15,000 fans (a generous figure).
Again, that took place in June.
So of course, Archer has no leg to stand on when it comes to complaining about showmanship. Yet that hasn’t stopped him from following teammate David Price’s lead in complaining about Ortiz being “bigger than the game.”
“Do I regret saying the truth? No,” Archer said. “Agitated is not right word. Angry is not the right word. He pimped a home run off me. Not mad, just speak the truth.”
If he’s not angry, he’s sure got a funny way of showing it.
With Price’s complaints earlier this season and now Archer’s insistence that Ortiz is a constantly offensive presence on a baseball field, it all begs the question: Where exactly does this righteous self-importance come from? Archer has pitched fewer MLB innings than Ortiz has home runs, and for all the All-Star seasons and “great stuff” that Price has, he can’t escape the fact that he’s absolutely wilted in the postseason, where he is 0-4 with a 5.81 ERA as a starter. It was after his most recent playoff failure that he decided to complain about Ortiz, who waited to see if his towering fly ball stayed fair before beginning his trot around the bases in Game 2 of the ALDS at Fenway Park last season.
Considering Ortiz owns 1.082 OPS against Archer and that he took Price deep twice last October, the simple solution for most pitchers would be to simply perform their jobs better. But with Price and Archer, their failures have instead become an opportunity for them to speak out against the wretched offenses of one of the game’s premier hitters. So, again, just where did the Rays find this high horse on which they’ve climbed?
Oh, why hello there, Joe Maddon.
The manager at times acts as if he himself invented baseball — or at least all of the groovy parts of baseball — and receives endless praise for his wild and wacky decisions to bunt in the wrong spot and tinker with his defense on every pitch. “The Most Interesting Man In Sports” certainly buys into his own hype, and he couldn’t help but weigh in on the Archer-Ortiz flap.
“The simple answer is, what if it had happened in the ’60s when [Bob] Gibson was pitching, or [Don] Drysdale was pitching? That answers the question,” the ever-zany Maddon said. “I’m proud that our guys have said what they feel. I dig that a lot, actually.”
He digs it. Where most managers might “dig it a lot” if their pitchers didn’t leave 86 mph changeups middle-middle, Maddon digs it that his guy gets offended by a bat flip which the pitcher didn’t even see on the field. That seems productive.
Maddon’s comments also suggested that hitting Ortiz with a pitch in retaliation would have been the right thing to do, which is something Archer intimated in his initial comments on Sunday. It’s interesting, to say the least, considering that Price did in fact hit Ortiz back in June and that Archer had an opportunity to hit Ortiz on Sunday in the fifth inning if he wanted to so badly. While it is most definitely true that Ortiz is a Hall of Famer when it comes to getting hit in the backside with baseballs, the fact remains that the Rays could have forced Ortiz to be the one complaining by plunking him at any time. Instead, they chose to go the whining route.
Of course, this is all a welcome distraction in both baseball markets. The Red Sox, still just nine months removed from winning the World Series, are currently wallowing away in last place. The Rays, even after winning 10 of their last 11 games, are desperately struggling to hang on in the playoff race, sitting seven games out of first place in the division and 4.5 games out of and four teams behind a wild-card spot. Neither team is going anywhere this season, and ultimately a “war of words” between the Rays and David Ortiz means just about nothing. And Ortiz’s attitude about the whole thing reflects the relative insignificance of the “battle.”
“Hey, look,” Ortiz said prior to Monday night’s game, “that’s what happens when you’re good, man!”
Indeed, that seems to be the case, and perhaps one day Archer and Price will learn what it’s like to be on the other side of such a petty argument. For now, let’s all agree to send positive vibes to the Tampa Bay pitching staff and the entire Rays organization. Clearly, this bat flip has rocked their entire existence and it will be a long, hard road for their collective mental health to recover.
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