I get it. Dustin Pedroia is going to receive the benefit of the doubt in Boston.
He’s an All-Star second baseman, a career .300 hitter, a Gold Glove defender, a dirt dog in every sense of the phrase, and a two-time World Series champion. If you’re a Red Sox fan and you root against Pedroia on the field, there’s something wrong with you.
But that doesn’t mean he’s always right. And on Sunday in Baltimore, he was wrong to throw his teammate — reliever Matt Barnes — under the bus.
Barnes threw a pitch over the head of Manny Machado in the eighth inning, which was retaliation for Machado spiking Pedroia while sliding into second base two games prior, on Friday night. Pedroia left that game injured and missed the final two games of the series.
The pitch from Barnes was a fastball that clocked in at 90 mph on the NESN pitch zone. His fastball is usually somewhere around 98 mph. Regardless of velocity, head-hunting is a major no-no, especially when it’s used as retaliation, which it was.
Barnes got ejected, and said after the game that he never meant to target the head. He never said he didn’t try to hit him; he just apologized for the location of the intended message-sender.
Manager John Farrell defended his guy, saying that it was a pitch that got away from him. But Pedroia did the exact opposite. He threw Barnes under the bus.
NESN cameras caught the injured Pedroia on the top step of the dugout, yelling over to Machado in the on-deck circle, as Joe Kelly was warming up in relief of the ejected Barnes. Pedroia initiated the back-and-forth, and by reading lips, he said, “That’s not me. If that was me, I would have hit you the first day. Now? That’s not me.”
The camera then showed Machado pointing at his head, saying, “C’mon man.”
Pedroia responded, “I know, that’s bull [bleep],” while pointing down his own tunnel, the same tunnel that Barnes had just walked down.
“That’s not me, that’s him,” said Pedroia, as Machado gave him a slight nod and a quick pound of the chest as if to say, “I understand. Me and you are good.”
I was confused watching it in real time. The more I go back and look at the entire exchange, the more I cringe. Love Pedroia the ballplayer all you want, but that was a bad look.
The defense is two-fold: Barnes was wrong to throw at Machado’s head, and Pedroia was trying to protect his teammates from any further retaliation.
I agree with the former, but let’s be happy that it didn’t actually hit him in the head. And as for the latter, I have a tough time believing anything Pedroia said in that moment was going to affect Baltimore’s response.
If Pedroia was going to be upset, he should have handled it behind closed doors. He certainly should not have doubled down to the media postgame by saying he “loves” Manny Machado. I mean, c’mon. This is the same Machado who spiked you and put you out of action. It’s not Machado’s first on-the-field altercation, and it won’t be his last.
After all, whether you hate the location of the pitch or not, Barnes had one goal: to defend his guy. In this case, his guy was Pedroia. In Barnes’ eyes, you can’t go spikes-first into the Red Sox’ veteran leader and not pay for it. And don’t tell me he was the only one in the ‘pen who felt that way. It was 6-0 late in the final game of the series. That entire Red Sox bullpen knew when Machado was due up. The only reason they knew that is because they wanted to defend their guy.
Something Pedroia didn’t really feel like doing. And as great a player as he is, that was a bad look.
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