The silliest occurrence in sports is the baseball fight. Nothing gets accomplished aside from a lot of posturing, some shoving and maybe some bruised egos. The goofiest thing about baseball fights is that they often begin with the pitcher throwing a ball or making some sort of gesture from a sizable difference from his combatant. As a result, the players have to travel a distance to get at each other.
If I had my way, you know what I'd do? Form a big circle and see who wants to fight. I've seen that before and nobody fights. -- Charlie Manuel
It’s kind of like when the British navy declared war on the Falkland Islands during the '80s, hopped in the boats and harrumphed, “We’ll see you in six days! It’s on!”
As well as behaving like one island country attacking another island located in a different hemisphere by water vessel, baseball fights are like sumo wrestling. One guy does his dance to call out the other dude, who in turn strikes his pose. When the histrionics are complete, they dash at one another, bump bellies and fall to the ground.
The really absurd part comes when players dash from the dugouts and bullpens in order to mill around with the other guys. It’s kind of like watching a mosh pit at a Neil Diamond show.
Be that as it is, the Phillies and Braves – more specifically, Shane Victorino and Braves’ reliever/lunatic, Julian Tavarez -- did the tango during the eighth inning of last night’s debacle of a ballgame. With the Braves leading by six runs, Victorino at third base and left-handed pull-hitter Matt Stairs at the plate, Tavarez suddenly dashed off the mound to chase Victorino back to the bag. The curious thing about that move wasn’t the fact that crazy, gangly Tavarez just started running off the mound toward third base. Certainly that was an odd sight, because when has anyone ever seen a pitcher chase after a base runner just before he was getting set to go into his windup?
Never. It’s never happened. Ever.
Anyway, with the third baseman playing in the shortstop spot with Stairs at the plate, Victorino was given the chance to take a generous lead. But out of the corner of his eye, Tavarez caught Victorino turn to talk to third-base coach Steve Smith and figured it was his chance for a stealth attack.
The problem with that tact was there were 41,000 people sitting in the stands screaming at the sight of the weirdo running off the mound toward the runner leading off third. Not to mention, Smith clearly saw the not-so covert mission and alerted Victorino.
If it had ended it there it would have been enough. Victorino could have gone back to taking a gigantic lead, Tavarez could have threatened to run off the mound again, and the whole cat-and-mouse game could have taken the next step.
If only it were that easy.
Anyone who has ever seen Shane Victorino play baseball or had the chance to chat with him in the clubhouse can quickly determine that taking the easy way out of things just isn’t his style. It’s not uncommon for Victorino to miss a sign, throw to a wrong base or good-naturedly tease a teammate over something rather pedantic. The mouth and mind are always moving with that guy, which, frankly, is quite entertaining.
So when Tavarez did his about face to return to the mound after his little dash, it didn’t take a systems analyst to figure out that Victorino was going to say something. Actually, make that a lot of things.
Meanwhile, Tavarez has a history of on-the-field meltdowns. During his 16-year nig-league career, Tavarez has served a handful of suspensions for sparking brawls and once had to wear a protective glove in order to pitch in the 2004 World Series after he punched a dugout phone during the NLCS.
I guess the damn thing wouldn’t stop ringing.
Anyway, Tavarez has played for 10 different big league teams, including three in 2008 alone. One of the thing one quickly learns after spending a bunch of seasons around a Major League club is that if a guy bounces from team to team there is usually a pretty good reason he doesn’t stick around with just one team. Meanwhile, Tavarez reportedly had two ambitions as a child growing up in poverty in the Dominican Republic. One was to be a Major League Baseball player (mission completed) and the other was to be an adult film star…
Tavarez was in no mood for amore as Victorino continued to chirp. After the speedy Phillie gestured toward the pitcher, seemingly inviting him to take another run at him, Tavarez did just that.
And then it was on!
Well, kind of. Tavarez was quickly pushed away by the home-plate ump while Stairs and Smith blocked Victorino’s path giving him the perfect chance to fall into a “hold me, back! Hold me back!” display. Not to be shown up, Tavarez did the same as players spilled out of the dugout and rolled in from the bullpen.
Order was quickly restored when the slightly rocking mosh pit dissolved under its own silliness.
Afterwards, neither Victorino nor Tavarez made themselves available to deconstruct the events with the local press. However, when asked about it, manager Charlie Manuel seemed rather disgusted by the whole act, or at least the notion of exiting his spot in the Phillies’ dugout where he more than likely finally fashioned a warm and toasty groove into the padding over the rail where he likes to rest his arms. Then he had to get out onto the field to separate a bunch of guys who were out there to do nothing but sashay with one another in the first place.
“That was nothing,” Manuel spat. “If I had my way, you know what I'd do? Form a big circle and see who wants to fight.
“I've seen that before and nobody fights.”
It looks like the Phillies have a little more than a tango left if they want to fight their way into the playoffs this weekend. With a magic number steady at three with three games to go, all the Phillies have to do is beat the Washington Nationals this weekend. Failing that, they have to hope the Brewers and Mets lose, too.
Last year all the variables worked out.