October 11, 2003

Somewhere, Bill Lee Is Laughing. Boston lost a frustrating game to the Yankees this afternoon (and now trail in the ALCS 2-1 with Burkett/Wells Sunday night) and while there are plenty of storylines (the team's AWOL bats for starters), I'm sure a lot of the coverage will center on Pedro Martinez throwing Don Zimmer to the ground during a 4th-inning, bench-clearing skirmish.

First of all, I don't think Pedro was throwing at Karim Garcia in the top of the 4th. However, he undoubtedly wanted to come inside. Garcia had driven in the Yankees' first run back in the 2nd inning and Pedro was likely frustrated at having begun the 4th by allowing a walk, single and double. It looked like the ball grazed Garcia's left shoulder (or maybe even his bat) when he ducked forward under the pitch. (That fact didn't stop Joe Torre from stating (unchallenged by the Fox interviewer) right after the game that Pedro had hit Garcia in the head.)

Garcia was furious and barked at Pedro before going to first base. Soriano grounded into a double play and Garcia went in hard on Todd Walker (Fox showed this play only one and even then it was pushed into 1/4 of the screen, so it was hard to see if the slide was excessive). On his way off the infield, Garcia kept yelling at Walker and Martinez. As the Yankee bench joined in, Pedro walked towards their dugout and pointed at his head, as if to say "If I wanted to hit him, I'd have hit him in the head." Apparently, Zimmer was livid at this display.

Manny Ramirez led off the bottom of the 4th and Clemens's 1-2 pitch was up. Ramirez ducked out of the way, thinking it would break inside. It turns out the pitch didn't move towards Manny all that much. But Ramirez (seemingly unaware of the pitch's actual location) started screaming at Clemens and the F-bombs began flying as both benches emptied. The Fox cameras showed Pedro walking out of the Red Sox dugout behind first base, saying something like "What? What?" Zimmer charged at Martinez and threw his right arm out (he must have moved pretty quickly off the bench). Pedro flinched, then grabbed Zimmer by the head, pushed him aside and he fell to the ground. Many of the players on both teams stopped arguing once they saw the 72-year-old Zimmer on the ground.

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver of Fox were convinced there would be ejections, but the umpires (in a wise move) decided not to boot anyone. Both benches had been warned after Martinez's wild pitch to Garcia, Clemens did not give Manny any chin music, and Pedro had simply defended himself against a feral gerbil.

Fox's coverage was horrible and biased towards the Yankees. McCarver reacted to Pedro/Zimmer as if the Boston pitcher had knifed good ol' Uncle Zim and kicked his teeth in. It was obvious to everyone that Zimmer was not coming out to chat with Pedro, so Martinez had two choices: knock Zimmer out or push him away. Actually, he had a third choice: stand there and get hit. ... Zimmer deserved whatever he got. If he's willing to rush across the field and take a swing at an opposing pitcher, he should accept the consequences. ... McCarver was convinced Ramirez "was looking for a reason" to start something. But what the replays clearly showed -- and what Fox never mentioned -- is that Ramirez never saw where Clemens's pitch went. He assumed it was coming up and in. Maybe the players' quotes in the morning papers will tell a different story, but that's how it looked to me.

Fox omitted key elements of the back story (and overemphasized others). In an earlier Red Sox-Yankees series this summer, Clemens threw near Millar's head and that was what prompted Pedro (later on) to throw inside to Soriano and Jeter, hitting them in the wrists. Fox showed that footage several times, including shots of the ambulance taking the players to the hospital, but never explained WHY Pedro threw inside. The bad blood might have reemerged in Game 2 two nights ago, when Contreras buzzed Ortiz inside and Arroyo then plunked Soriano. Later in today's game, Zimmer was laughing on the bench and Fox's sideline reporter noted how "fiesty" he looked. If a Red Sox coach had tried to punch Clemens or Pettitte in the head and was later shown yukking it up on the bench, I don't believe the announcers would have chuckled along with him.

So after order had been restored, Manny struck out and Ortiz flied out to right. Clemens' first pitch to Millar was up and in, much closer to the batter than the pitch to Manny. And nothing happened. The umpires didn't say a peep. Joe Buck never stopped his story of how calm Clemens was being in the midst of this ruckus. And worst of all, Grady Gump didn't come storming out of the dugout to raise holy hell and demand that Clemens be tossed.

What was also amazing was that Pedro rediscovered his fastball in the 5th inning. He had been relying heavily on breaking pitches in the first four innings and had gotten burned on a few hanging curves. Martinez retired the side in the 5th, 6th and 7th innings before turning things over to Timlin and Embree.

But the Red Sox's lumber remained in slumber. Damon singled and Walker walked to start the 6th, but Nomar struck out on three pitches and Manny grounded into a double play. In the 7th, Contreras walked Ortiz and Millar followed with a single to left center. Ortiz was able to hustle to third without drawing a throw from Bernie Williams. But then Nixon hit into a double play (Ortiz scored) and after Mueller walked, Varitek popped out. Rivera retired the six batters he faced and that was that. ...

Boston missed a chance to pound Clemens in the first inning. Damon, making his first appearance since his ALDS collision, singled off Enrique Wilson's leg for a single (really an error; Jeter botched a grounder on Damon's next at-bat and also was not charged with an error). Walker doubled off the left field wall and after Nomar struck out, Manny put the Sox up 2-0 with a single to left center. Grady tried to hit-and-run with Ortiz at the plate, but for the second game in a row, a hit-and-run turned into a double play because the batter did not swing.

Maybe Millar meant "Cubboy Up", because that what Chicago is doing against the Marlins. The Cubs won 8-3 on Saturday and are now one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1945.

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