On the Tigers-Yankees brawl, and why Girardi’s blame is misplaced

Eight things to note, one for every person ejected, from Thursday’s Tigers-Yankees brawl:

  1. Know why we still need umpires? So we’ll have to somebody to blame for brawls like Thursday’s. Yankees manager Joe Girardi: “Just a very poor job on their part … very, very poor,” and then Girardi went out on a Trumpian rant explaining why. The abridged version: Tommy Kahnle was thrown out when the Yankees thought he had a get-one-free pitch-of-retribution card, catcher Austin Romine was ejected for defending himself, Dellin Betances was gone because crew chief Dana DeMuth overruled Carlos Torres (did he really think he shouldn’t have? Did he think for even a moment you could hit someone in the head with a 98 mph fastball in a game both teams had been warned and not be tossed?). Some of what Girardi said is not without merit, but it obfuscates who’s most deserving of fault: the players who threw the pitches and the punches.
  2. Miguel Cabrera threw the first punch of the afternoon after shoving Yankees catcher Austin Romine, who had removed his mask. Apropos of the season the .254-hitting Cabrera is having, he missed. (Romine said he told Cabrera, “This isn’t about you.” Pretty easy for Romine to say when it’s not his backside someone is throwing 98 mph behind).
  3. Nobody complained about the time of game, which was four hours and 13 minutes. It’s the same dynamic that brings some fans to auto races to see the wrecks and used to bring them to hockey games to see the fights.
  4. Girardi included opposing manager Brad Ausmus in his post-game diatribe, claiming he swore at Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner. Girardi: “Brad Ausmus is going to say ‘Eff you’ to one of my players?” I mean, come on, Brad. What is that?” Two points: 1. A lot of opponents probably feel that way about Gardner, who is to baseball what Esa Tikkanen was to hockey: a pest, described with all admiration for those skills. 2. James McCann gets hit in the head with a 98 mph fastball, and a little profanity is what upsets Joe?
  5. Michael Fulmer said he had “zero intention” of hitting Gary Sanchez, and Ausmus said Fulmer “had that numbness in his finger. He got a zinger when he threw the pitch and he just lost it, and it went into (Sanchez).” Ausmus was referring to an injury that put Fulmer on the disabled list for the first half of this month, and maybe it’s true. Maybe Fulmer had a recurrence. But if so, why was he still in the game two innings later? It begs credulity that Fulmer hit Sanchez with a pitch in the fifth, and two innings and a brawl later he was still pitching in the seventh. If true, it’s an amazing coincidence, and startingly negligent of Ausmus not to better protect a 24-year-old pitcher who was Rookie of the Year last year (Sanchez was second). What are the odds that numbness returned on the one pitch Fulmer threw to Sanchez, who had homered an inning earlier, and then disappeared?
  6. Fulmer denied purposefully hitting Sanchez. Betances said the ball “slipped” when he beaned McCann. Tigers reliever Alex Wilson, who plunked Todd Frazier, confessed. Wilson: “It was pretty obvious. You’ve gotta take care of your teammates sometimes. At some point, you’ve gotta make a stand for yourself.” We’ve found the last honest man in baseball. Maybe the only one. Alex Wilson is not the person to tell your secrets.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, except in baseball brawls. Victor Martinez tried to conciliate by approaching Sanchez, apparently after Sanchez had piled on and punched Martinez’s teammates Cabrera and Nick Castellanos. The latter appeared to confront Martinez in the dugout, and Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander interceded and appeared to give Martinez a dismissive wave of the hand. It wasn’t only Yankees some Tigers were fighting Thursday. Of course, there’s a chance Martinez’s efforts would have been better appreciated were not the career .298 hitter slogging through a .253, .694 OPS season.
  8. The whole debacle started because the Yankees were upset, and not without merit, that Sanchez had been hit. That didn’t last. The New York Post back page Friday had pictures of Sanchez punching both Cabrera and Castellanos at the bottom of separate scrums, which should earn him one of the lengthier, if not lengthiest, of the suspensions soon to come (had someone other than the Post or Castellanos noticed Sanchez’s antics, we would have learned, with Romine already ejected, who the Yankees’ emergency catcher is). In trying to protect Sanchez, now the Yankees will lose him for a few days, which seems only fitting.
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