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Please hold your applause until the end of the dugout

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  August 31, 2011 09:18 AM

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Clapping.

Clapping.

Of all the idiotic debates over baseball's unwritten rules, this one may not only take the cake, but devour it whole. So, Francisco Cervelli claps after hitting a home run off John Lackey. That's a big deal? As far as showing up the pitcher, it's not exactly standing at home plate admiring the flight of the ball. That's reserved for David Ortiz.

Yet Lackey took enough offense to the egregious act to plunk the Yankees catcher later in the game, eventually leading to a seventh-inning run that pushed New York's lead to 5-2, a score that would hold up. Of course, Lackey didn't mean to ignite the bench-clearing episode, a protest that would be a lot more believable had he not hit him square in the back with the first pitch of the inning. If you're going to seek "revenge," at least take responsibility for your actions.

"He was pumped for that [third] home run of his career," Lackey said. "I thought it was a little excessive, honestly."

Excessive? The dude smacked his hands together. Get a grip.

Cervelli did himself no favors though by channeling his inner Costanza after the game and referring to himself in the third person. "That's Cervelli," he said. (Who's that again?) But overall, it's Lackey who looks the most laughable in this whole stupid controversy. I mean, I don't know, maybe the better response might have been not to give up a home run to a guy like Francisco Cervelli in the first place? Call me crazy.

Lackey is now 12-10 this season with an ERA number far lower than the amount of times he's whined about something or glared at a teammate from the mound. (Ol' Dusty Two Sacks was the recipient last night.) As far as the debate over whether or not he or Erik Bedard should be the No. 3 starter come playoff time is concerned, last night may have tipped the honor toward the latter. Bedard may be winless in a Sox uniform, but his 3.46 ERA has been better than Josh Beckett's (3.60) this month, and he's allowed just as many earned runs (10) as Jon Lester over that same stretch. Want to guess who's allowed a team-leading 23 to cross the plate since Aug. 1?

Only Trevor Cahill, Brian Duensing, and - shocker - A.J. Burnett (30 runs in 22 2/3 innings) have allowed more earned runs this month than Lackey, who might be 7-3 in his last 10 starts, but the likes of Felix Hernandez could only dream of the run support he gets. The one game over that stretch in which the Red Sox scored fewer than five runs and won the game was against 54-79 Baltimore. Yippee.

Only Nick Blackburn (1.60) of Minnesota has a worse WHIP than Lackey's 1.55 this season, and nobody in the game who has pitched 100 innings or more has a worse ERA than one John Lackey, now 5.94.

There's always the possibility Lackey could pull a Derek Lowe and rebound out of nowhere come October, but if I'm Terry Francona, and I see Bedard sitting there, barring implosion or injury, he's my guy to take the mound.

After last night's episode, Lackey has also proven he simply can't keep his cool, not exactly the guy you want to run out to hill in a potential 0-2 hole. With a two-run deficit, the petty pitcher decides to hit a guy because the man...clapped.

He clapped.

As Hardball Talk's Craig Calcaterra pointed out, "Cervelli pumps his fist when he gets a good sandwich." But the fact that he celebrated for a moment in front of the almighty John Lackey warrants this whole situation? Is high-fiving in the dugout now up for debate as far as the "unwritten rules" are concerned?

What stupidity.

On the bright side, maybe it'll get these guys to start hating each other again. Not exactly Jason Varitek showing his mitt into Alex Rodriguez's mug, but hey, if that's the end result, I suppose we'll have to take it.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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