The best rookie in the National League was admonished by his opponents Wednesday night for admiring a long home run.
No we’re not talking about the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig. We’re talking about the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, who not only homered and did everything but nickname it, as Darryl Dawkins once did his dunks, but pitched a five-hitter over seven innings and won his 12th game for a team that’s only won 42 others.
You would think that kind of rookie season — a .522 OPS against, 2.19 ERA, 111 hits allowed in 172.2 innings; and all by a 21-year-old pitcher who hadn’t advanced beyond A ball in 2012 — would earn huzzahs, not rebukes.
But Fernandez was publicly shamed — by everyone from his opponents to his own manager. To which I say: Good. Because now maybe we can talk about the absurdity of Wednesday’s actions, and I’m not talking about Fernandez’s.
To be fair, Fernandez’s weren’t all defensible. He stared down opponents and reportedly spit in the direction of third base and Chris Johnson, with whom he had exchanged eyeballs from afar. Not classy, even for a 21-year-old.
But the Braves reacted with maturity on the level of a 21-year-old rookie. “He stood there for a while (after his home run) and that’s disrespectful to (pitcher) Mike (Minor),” Johnson said.
Poor Minor. Here’s what Johnson, catcher Brian McCann, Minor and the Braves should do about it: don’t throw pitches that opposing rookie pitchers hit for 400-foot home runs.
(One could say the Braves disrespect the game every time they send Freddy Garcia out to pitch, but that’s another discussion).
It’s nice to see the Braves haven’t lost the sanctimony they nurtured during their years on TBS. It was then that the Braves, the 1995 world champions, won the first two games of the 1996 World Series and started talking about their place in history.
After they lost the next four games, we learned where that was: as the Buffalo Bills of MLB (the Braves’ arrogance made Yankee fans out of quite a few Yankee-haters that October).
More recently, Chipper Jones chided teammate Jason Heyward for not playing through injuries. We can only hope the newly retired Jones isn’t put in charge of anyone’s concussion program.
The Braves were quick to scold Fernandez, whose manager Mike Redmond, was quick to agree. We can only guess that Redmond didn’t admire many of his home runs, because he hit so few (after Wednesday, Fernandez is only 12 career home runs behind his manager).
Redmond is, by all accounts, a decent guy in charge of a woeful team. Maybe the Marlins are rubbing off on Redmond more than he on them, because he shouldn’t have been so quick to agree. Alone and 21, Fernandez apologized, and maybe he should have. And maybe the Braves should have done the same, but they were too busy defending the honor of a game that sometimes doesn’t have much.
The Fernandez incident is only the latest in a saga as old as cheating in baseball: doing things the right way. Fortunately, when offended, there’s always a knight of the diamond to correct the wrong, and Wednesday that was the Braves. Just ask them. Of course, there’s a reason unwritten rules are unwritten — they’re only rules in the minds of the aggrieved.
Thirty-five years ago, Pete Rose’s 44-game hitting streak ended when Gene Garber struck him out with a change-up in a one-sided game. Rose huffed and said Garber “pitched him like it was the seventh game of the World Series.”
In 2001, the Padres’ Ben Davis bunted for a hit against the D’backs’ Curt Schilling to break up a no-hitter and Schilling’s manager Rob Brenly called it chicken.
A rookie pitcher admired his home run Wednesday and the Braves called it disrespectful. I know they’re in different leagues, but have the Braves ever timed David Ortiz’s home run trot? They could read this blog in the time it takes Ortiz to circle the bases, but he’s not 21, and he’s hit 426 home runs after his first. Apparently not as disrespectful.
Complaining may be a salve for offended parties, but here’s a better way: Rose should have hit Garber’s changeup, Schilling should have fielded bunts, and the Braves should throw better pitches. Whining is just as disrespectful to the game as what Fernandez did.
Because if the Braves think Jose Fernandez disrespected the game Wednesday, they should pay closer attention to what the Marlins do to it when Fernandez doesn’t pitch.