The exact origins are still unclear, but Indians pitcher Derek Lowe and Reds manager Dusty Baker have hated one another for quite some time. Who knew? The bad blood finally simmered over last night and into this morning, starting with a pitch Lowe believed was thrown toward him under orders from Baker. Whee!
In the top of the fifth, Lowe was batting leadoff when the first pitch he saw from Mat Latos backed him off the plate. Afterward, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Lowe gestured toward the Cincinnati dugout. In the bottom of the inning, Lowe plunked Brandon Phillips with a pitch and drew a warning from home plate umpire Paul Nauert. (You can watch both pitches for yourself here.) This is what Lowe said about the situation after the game, per the Plain Dealer:
"Dusty, I was pointing at him because I knew why it happened, and he shook his finger like he had nothing to do with it," Lowe said.
Baker disagreed—but not in the way you might have expected him to. Via the Plain Dealer:
"When he said I shook my finger at him to tell him I had nothing to do with it....'' Baker said. "(Former NBA standout Dikembe) Mutombo didn't shake his finger to say, 'I didn't have anything to do with it.' That means, 'Don't mess with me or my team.' That's what that means. So he better learn the sign lanugage.''
Well then. So did Baker want Latos throwing at Lowe? More from the Plain Dealer:
"I'm not denying anything,'' Baker said. "I didn't order anybody to hit him, but I told (Latos) to buzz him and make him feel uncomfortable. And that's what happened. Understand what I'm saying?''
Loud and clear. But what's all this about? Where's all this hostility coming from? Lowe said it goes back to 2008, back to when he was with the Dodgers and Baker was still with the Reds. MLB.com said the incident was "never made public," and this is as far as Lowe would go in discussing it, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer:
This goes back to my last year with the Dodgers. He made up some story. A lot of people got involved. People almost got fired over it. You can go ask him right now and he'll say he has no idea what you're talking about.
The Plain Dealer didn't get much more out of Lowe:
"Ask him," Lowe said. "Dusty will deny it, but it has everything to do with him. Go ask him. I have zero respect for that guy — not that it matters. I'd imagine he'd say the same about me.''
"People almost got fired"? "Zero respect"? What say you, Dusty? According to the Enquirer, Baker said to "ask him why he hit Joey Votto in the back two years ago" [it was actually 2009]. Then, the Enquirer said, Baker added this:
"What he was talking about was something that he said and did a few years [ago]. You got to ask him what that was. You got a lot people involved in the situation that didn't need to be involved in the situation. It didn't come from there.
"Go ask him since he made it public. Understand what I'm saying. I'll let it rest at that since he's such a big man running his mouth talking about himself."
When Baker then was asked if he was bothered that another player said he didn't respect him, things "really got ugly," according to the Enquirer:
"Man, I don't care," Baker said. "A lot of people don't respect me. He don't respect himself. The word was whatever he did and said probably there was a good chance he was drinking at the ballpark and he don't remember what he said or what he did. OK.
Wait, what? "Drinking at the ballpark"? Not remembering? What happened between these two guys? Lowe was asked earlier today about Baker's comments but he kept refusing to elaborate, telling reporters in the clubhouse: "I promise you: I'm not saying a word about it. You can stand here and watch golf if you want."
Now the question is: Will MLB fine Baker and Lowe for their sniping and headhunting? Or will it cut them a check for injecting some actual hostility into one of baseball's made-up interleague "natural rivalries"?