I can’t recall a player or a team being so unrepentant—so proud—of a bench-clearing brawl as Manny Machado and the Orioles were of Machado charging the mound and delivering a haymaker/DDT combo. But then, I can’t recall a player that so many around baseball have wanted to see take a punch to the face more than Yordano Ventura.
Ventura—baseball’s surliest little shit—is a small man with a hard fastball and a big mouth and a propensity for finding himself either at the bottom of or scurrying away from a pile of shoving baseball players. In Manny Machado, a guy with his own knack for starting shit, Ventura picked the wrong guy to plunk.
Ventura actually hit Machado in a game last September, but whether that played a role in last night’s prelude isn’t clear. In the second inning, Ventura came inside on Machado; Machado didn’t like it. Machado flied out the wall in left, but thought he got more of it and admired his shot; Ventura didn’t like it. The two exchanged some words, and O’s manager Buck Showalter actually warned Machado that things might not be done.
“I thought he was trying to hit him the at-bat before,” Showalter said. “That’s why I talked to him before he took his last at-bat. I wanted him to be aware of it.”
Ventura, who is going to be suspended and would prefer not to admit guilt to give MLB any more ammunition, claimed that “one got away” from him. Coincidentally, it happened to be Ventura’s fastest pitch of the night, and it got Machado into the ribs. Machado said he “didn’t think,” he just “reacted,” and it was on.
My favorite part of the brawl might have been Machado’s noticeable limp as he built up a head of steam on his way out to the mound. No wait, my favorite part might’ve been catcher Salvador Perez not exactly turning on the jets to prevent Machado from getting there. No wait: my favorite part was definitely Machado punching Ventura in the face.
“I don’t regret anything,” Machado said.
It’s not quite clear how solidly Machado’s blow connected—this brawl needs a super slo-mo shot on the order of Rougned Odor’s right hook to Jose Bautista. (That was, no shit, some of the best baseball cinematography of the 21st century.) It was satisfying nonetheless and Machado’s teammates couldn’t have been more thrilled for him.
Like Adam Jones:
“You throw 100 miles per hour, or close to 100 miles per hour, you’re trying to hurt somebody intentionally — not part of the game. You see the reaction by his players. They weren’t too happy that he did something so stupid. But I’m glad for Manny for defending himself. Screw it. Defend yourself.”
“I got Manny’s fine, and the rest is history....Manny ain’t at fault for nothing.”
Asked if he was disappointed in Machado’s reaction, Showalter gave an emphatic ”No.” Then when asked whether he worried the tension could carry over into Wednesday’s series finale, he gave an even more definitive response.
“Bring it on,” Showalter said. “Whatever. Bring it on. We’ll handle it. You try not to let one person’s actions speak for a lot of people, but it’s been going on a while with him.”
Contrast that to the reaction from the Royals, who were noticeably silent.
In the aftermath, [manager Ned] Yost was asked if the rash of incidents involving Ventura had caused irritation among his teammates.
“Probably,” he said. “There’s a little frustration when things like this happen, yeah.”
It’s been a good year for basebrawls, and I’m still wrestling with why I enjoy them so much at the same time I’d like to see staged fighting disappear from hockey. There are a few reasons, I think. Their rarity; the fact that they occur out of genuine anger as opposed to mere frustration, or an attempt to change a game’s momentum; what we know about the toll hockey already takes on its players’ health, something that seems to fall especially hard on enforcers. All I know is a good baseball fight is something special, and this was a good baseball fight.