As a general rule, baseball players tend to fight about as well as hockey players knit.
That’s why bench-clearing brawls are usually pretty dull affairs. There’s a lot of cussing and grunting and groaning. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving. Maybe you’ll see a haymaker or two whistle harmlessly through the air, but that’s pretty much the extent of the action.
On the other hand, the Orioles are in such a death spiral right now that another melee with the Boston Rex Sox, who come into Camden Yards on Monday for a three-game series, might actually be the high point of the season for O’s fans.
Sure, Sunday’s 8-3 win over the Cleveland Indians was a break from the misery — back-to-back wins would almost call for a parade down Pratt Street, if it weren’t so choked with all the construction for the Baltimore Grand Prix.
But that doesn’t erase the inconvenient facts that the Orioles have lost 14 of their past 17 games and 23 of their past 31, making even another dust-up with the big, bad Red Sox [team stats] something to look forward to.
Has it been only a little more than a week since "Big Papi" David Ortiz [stats] bull-rushed Kevin Gregg and the Red Sox and Orioles traded nasty names and air punches at Fenway Park [map]? A little more than a week since Red Sox starter John Lackey drilled Derrek Lee with a pitch that everyone — even Lackey’s mom — knew was intentional?
Is it really only eight days since Boston right-hander Kyle Weiland, making his first major league start, plunked Mark Reynolds, then Vladimir Guerrero two innings later, cracking a bone in the designated hitter’s right wrist that has led to a stint on the disabled list?
Eight days since Michael Gonzalez threw a heater behind Ortiz, earning a death stare from the big man, after which Gonzo got tossed by the ump along with manager Buck Showalter?
Boy, how times flies when you go through a crazy series like that.
But know this: The Orioles haven’t forgotten any of it. In fact, they’re still plenty steamed about all the Red Sox’s shenanigans over those four games.
They’re steamed at Big Papi for standing at the plate in the first game and admiring his towering home run off Zach Britton for so long you half expected Ortiz to whip out a video camera to film the whole thing.
They’re steamed at their former teammate, Matt Albers, for fist-pumping after strikeouts in that 10-4 Boston blowout July 8 like it was the seventh game of the World Series.
They’re steamed that even though Weiland wasn’t intentionally throwing at Guerrero, the kid’s wildness has cost the Orioles their veteran DH for a while.
"With Vlady out, it’s another thing that doesn’t seem fair about this stuff with Boston," Showalter said Sunday. "Our guy broke his wrist, basically."
Showalter was reluctant to get drawn into any kind of hissing match with the Red Sox, which makes sense after his team was spanked so thoroughly in Boston.
"In my position, you got to be the voice of reason," he said diplomatically. "Emotions run high — mine, too. But there’s a time and a place for everything. I got one very biased opinion on everything, and it’s the Orioles angle.
"It’s baseball. Turn the page. They had their way with us. They’re good. They’re really good."
But asked whether he was as upset as his players with, for instance, Albers’ fist-pumps — this seemed to enrage the O’s more than anything else that happened in Boston — Showalter nodded and flashed a tight smile.
"Here’s the bottom line," he said. "If the players care about something and it bothers them, then you (as the manager) better care about it, too."
But Gregg appeared to have no qualms about his role in the fracas, whether it was pitching inside to Ortiz or jawing at the Red Sox DH after he swung at a 3-0 pitch in a lopsided game.
"The bottom line is, I pitched him in, I got him out and he got mad about it," the Orioles closer said. "He got mad at me the pitch before, I yelled at him the pitch before and he lost his cool and charged the mound."
Gregg said it was the first time in his career that anyone had charged the mound looking for a piece of him. But he didn’t exactly seem sad that it had happened.
"I’m more the believer in old-school baseball," Gregg said. "So every hitter, if they don’t like what’s going on, they have the right to come out there. I don’t condone it. I don’t want people to do it. But it’s what we do. If (hitters) don’t like what’s going on, come out. We’re all grown men, we can defend ourselves."
Yep, it’ll be just another series when the Red Sox come to town Monday.
No hard feelings between these two teams.