THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
On July 31, the baseball world hovers around a device of choice listening to the news break of trades coming down before the non-waiver deadline. However, this past occurrence had some nice moments outside of trades worthy of highlighting, even if there were some detractors.
In Miami on what would have been the 25th birthday of the late Jose Fernandez, Gio Gonzalez took the mound for the visiting Washington Nationals to face the Miami Marlins. Gonzalez's wife was imminently due to go into labor with their child. Further, Gonzalez was good friends with Fernandez.
So what does Gonzalez do? He falls one inning short of throwing a no-hitter.
It was a moving scene as Gonzalez was taken out after giving up his first hit of the night. As he walked off the field, the crowd at Marlins park gave him a standing ovation. Giancarlo Stanton was on deck when Gonzalez was replaced, and even he took the time to applaud him as Gonzalez walked off the field. Gio gave a wave in the direction of Stanton, but he was actually waiving to Fernandez's family, who was sitting behind the Marlins' dugout. It was a nice moment where the baseball family was able to see that life and death was just a little bigger than the game.
Of course, however, Marlins' manager Don Mattingly had to rain on the parade in his post-game comments, noting his team's poor performance and approach to Gonzalez, rather than just tipping his cap and moving on. It's not like the Marlins were in a pennant race anyway.
Meanwhile, in New York, the Tigers and Yankees faced off after the Yankees had just acquired pitcher Sonny Gray. Tigers' right fielder Jim Adduci (who received regular playing time after Detroit traded JD Martinez to Arizona) made a spectacular catch to rob Todd Frazier of his first "cheap Yankee Stadium" home run (which is where the ball just barely scrapes over the right field porch in a notoriously easy manner). Frazier stopped in his tracks when he was overcome with a moment of disappointment, but it quickly dissipated as he walked back to the dugout. Frazier looked out to Adduci and tipped his helmet to him to congratulate him on the catch, which was a nice touch.
Of course, however, the Detroit Tigers had to rain on the parade. Tigers' center fielder Mikie Mahtook was hit by a pitch twice in his at bats (once in the helmet), and first baseman Miguel Cabrera went on a rampage in the dugout after striking out that none of his teammates were protecting their team and hitting one of the Yankees. Pitcher Michael Fulmer (the reigning Rookie of the Year who was having an off-night) took the responsibility and drilled Yankees' center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury in the hip. The cameras immediately panned to Cabrera at first base when Yankees' first base coach Tony Pena walked over and began the conversation that was akin to asking why that was necessary when it was clear they weren't trying to purposely hit anybody. It was another instance of "plunking" that is one of the most ridiculous things in sports.
Finally, as the Seattle Mariners visited the Texas Rangers, Mariners' ace pitcher Felix Hernandez took a moment in the bottom of the first inning to approach Rangers' third baseman at the batter's box and hug him in congratulating him on his achievement of reaching 3,000 career hits just one day prior. It was a nice human moment that caught many people by surprise. Even home plate umpire Doug Eddings took off his mask and approached Hernandez as if he was expecting some sort of fight to break out; when the hug broke out, Eddings went to fix his cap to save himself from awkward embarrassment. It was a funny moment that took a backseat to the important moment of took friends showing their human side during a pennant race.
However, pundits like Christopher Russo had to rain on the parade. He opined in a self-proclaimed feisty rampage that nobody would approve of this behavior, from the coaching staff to the front office of each team. It was another throwback to the mindset of testosterone and machismo being the predominant driving forces behind athletic competition, rather than a more modern and reasonable approach of letting athletic ability be the determining factor and remembering that all of these professional baseball players are really on the same team of both one players' union and one human race.
Let's hope that 2018 provides more examples of the good instead of the bad!
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.