October 11, 2003

I was watching a brawl and a baseball game broke out

Well, that was interesting, huh?

Pedro Martinez throws one way up and way in on Karim Garcia in the bottom of the fourth inning. The ball actually hit his bat, but it was called a hit by pitch, and Garcia was given first base. Garcia took exception, and rightfully so, and some words were exchanged.

Alfonso Soriano then hit into a double-play, at which point Garcia took out Todd Walker with a hard slide at second base. Walker and Garcia got into it a little bit and then, once again there were some words exchanged by Garcia, Pedro, and both benches.

Manny Ramirez led off the next inning and Roger Clemens' 1-2 pitch was somewhat up and somewhat in, although nowhere near a "purpose pitch" in my opinion, and certainly nowhere near as up and as in as Pedro's pitch to Garcia was. Still, Ramirez took exception to it, and walked out towards Clemens while shouting at him.

And then all hell broke loose. Both dugouts emptied, and there was a whole lot of pushing and shoving.

The camera then focused in on Pedro, who was standing very near Boston's dugout. Pedro began walking very slowly towards the action, at which point you can see him focus in on someone in the distance, off camera. Pedro then says something in that person's direction and then you see Pedro start to back up, with his hands up.

And then, amazingly, you see that person in the distance enter the picture...and it is Don Zimmer!

Zimmer proceeds to charge at Pedro, with his hands raised. As Zimmer makes contact with him, Pedro steps off to the side, and shoves Zimmer away from him, forcing Zimmer to the ground.

Now, let's be perfectly clear. Don Zimmer is a 72 year old man who has had a ton of physical problems. There is absolutely zero defensible reason for Pedro Martinez to initiate a physical confrontation with him.

Now, let's also be perfectly clear about something else. Pedro Martinez did not initiate anything with Zimmer. Don Zimmer came charging at Martinez, with his fists raised. There is no person in their right mind who, in that exact situation, would not attempt to defend themselves, whether it is a 22 year old man attacking you or a 72 year old man. And, to Pedro's credit, he did not attempt to defend himself by punching Zimmer or kicking Zimmer, he simply shoved him out of the way. In my view, Pedro Martinez initially even attempted to avoid contact with Zimmer, but he couldn't.

I suspect Pedro Martinez is going to be ripped apart in the media for "going after a 72 year old man" but anyone who thinks he did anything of that sort is kidding themselves. Don Zimmer went after Pedro Martinez, plain and simple.

You may say Pedro should have realized it was Zimmer and reacted differently, but what should he have done? Stood there while Zimmer punched him in the face? Run from Zimmer? I'd say, considering the circumstances, shoving someone charging at you out of the way is pretty damn mild.

If a 72 year old man with health problems doesn't want to risk injury, he should certainly never attempt to attack someone in the middle of a shoving match between two baseball teams.

It is absolutely wrong for a young athlete to attack an elderly person in any way, but that elderly person forfeits their right to remain untouched when they are the one doing the instigating.

Say what you want about Pedro Martinez throwing at Karim Garcia or about Pedro Martinez yelling and pointing at New York's bench. Personally, I think Pedro was in the wrong in both of those instances. But if you think what Pedro Martinez "did" to Don Zimmer is wrong, you are completely incorrect.

For all Pedro knew, the whole Yankee team might be trying to hurt him during the shoving match. He doesn't know if someone is going to come up from behind and hit him or if someone is going to charge at him from the side. He sees someone in a Yankee uniform running at him with intent to hurt him and he defends himself, plain and simple.

Don Zimmer has plenty of reason to be upset about Pedro throwing at one of his players and he is perfectly welcome to do something about it. But when you make the decision to charge at someone with your arms raised, you then take the risk of being shoved to the ground. Being old doesn't give you free license to try to hurt people without risk of that person hurting you in return, and having two replaced knees and a metal plate in your head doesn't make you free from blame when you attack a player on the other team.

Don Zimmer should have been thrown out of the game. He is the only person who took the level of conflict beyond the "on-field" stuff that is often seen in baseball. In fact, in looking at the replay, Zimmer actually landed a slap to the side of Martinez's shoulder/face. Zimmer is lucky Pedro didn't grab him and punch him in the face, or throw him to the ground and jump on top of him. I think it took quite a bit of restraint by Pedro to simply push him to the side and to the ground. I don't know that I would have done so little in the face of someone charging at me in what was a very tense and emotional situation.

Pedro Martinez is very wrong for throwing at Karim Garcia. Manny Ramirez was, in my opinion, wrong for charging the mound on Roger Clemens. But what happened after that, the thing that is going to get all of the media attention and the thing that is going to be used to put down Pedro Martinez is completely the fault of Don Zimmer. And I don't care if he is 72 years old or 172 years old, you lose the right to use your age as an excuse when you physically attack someone on the other team.

Thanks for stopping by over the weekend. Make sure to check by Monday, when I'll almost certainly be discussing what looks like a very interesting Game Four of this series.

"I'll take you down like Don Zimmer!"


--- Sully, Saturday Night Live

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