The bench is for fannies, not fists

Huascar Ynoa

Repeat after me, young marksman: To err is human, to forgive is not bench policy when it meets a flying fist.

I don’t want to be a spoilsport or anything, but some baseball traditions manage to hang around in spite of themselves. Traditions like the guy who performs a feat of back-to-back derring-do one moment, then swings himself out of the starting rotation and into “a couple of months,” maybe the rest of the season, on the injured list the next.

Let the record show that Braves pitcher Huascar Ynoa had every right on earth to feel frustrated Sunday evening, after the Brewers slapped him and his silly for five runs on nine hits, including Avisail’s two-homer that bumped out of center fielder Endier Inciarte’s glove web over the wall, en route a tough enough 10-9 Braves loss.

Let the record show further that rightful frustration doesn’t necessarily counsel you that it’s wise beyond your years to punch the dugout bench out after you’ve been removed mercifully enough from further slappage.

“I knew he had done it and it was sore,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, after the Braves’ team flight back to Atlanta, “but in the flight it started bothering him more. They checked [Monday] morning and it was a fracture. It’s a shame.”

Maybe hitting home runs including a grand salami during back-to-back starts gives a young man an unlikely and perhaps unreasonable sense of his own invincibility. But maybe Ynoa will learn the hard way that, frustration or no, bad outing or no, benches are for fannies, not fists.

He joins not that fraternity of ballplayers who sent themselves to the injured list in freak accidents. He joins the dubious brotherhood of boneheads who thought they could punch their way out of their bad moments by taking on inanimate objects that don’t hit back but leave mucho damage when they’re hit at all.

The core reasons are as varied as the ways you can win or lose a ball game. There’s no way to predict just what will make a player mad at himself in any inning, on any day.

When Pat Zachry established himself as a new Mets ace, after being traded there in a package sending the Reds the old (and Hall of Fame) Mets ace (Tom Seaver), he faced his old buds from Cincinnati a year later and ran right into Pete Rose’s then-36-game hitting streak.

Zachry kept Rose quiet until the seventh, when Charlie Hustler slapped a single. A couple of batters later, Zachry was lifted from the game and not a happy trooper about it. He decided to kick whatever came within reach of his hoof . . . until he saw a stray batting helmet. He reared back to deliver, then—as if the helmet was the football Lucy kept jerking away from Charlie Brown—swung his foot, missed the helmet, and nailed a concrete block.

Broken foot. Season over. Zachry was probably grateful if no teammate decided to serenade him upon his return the following spring with a chorus or three of a certain old hit by Paul Revere and the Raiders.

A.J. Burnett had a tough enough time pitching in 2010 without deciding the way to take out his frustrations after the Rays made a pinata of him one fine day was to punch out . . . the clubhouse doors. The good news was that Burnett didn’t miss serious time. (Cue up Teddy Pendergrass.) The better news: He wasn’t half as foolish as another short-term Yankee six years earlier.

Kevin Brown wasn’t having a bad 2004 despite a few little injuries in The Stripes when he ran into the Orioles in early September, came out in the sixth inning, and tried to challenge a clubhouse wall with his fist. Guess who won that debate and took Brown out of action for three weeks. We’ll have a wild guess that it was a long time before Brown could listen to a certain Pink Floyd song without cringing.

Legend has it that Elvis Presley was given to picking up a pistol and blowing out the screen whenever he saw something (or someone) he didn’t like on television. Jason Isringhausen once saw and raised Elvis, during his final season as a Cardinal: Having a bad 2008 as it was, Isringhausen decided like Popeye that was all he could stand because he couldn’t stand no more, after Jason Bay blasted a three-run homer on his dollar.

He punched a television set out—cutting his hand and ending up on the old disabled list for fifteen days. The least advisable music with which to serenade him the rest of the year was probably this Allan Sherman chestnut about a pair of early 1960s TV addicts, even if the song was funny as hell otherwise.

Boys will be boys, grown men will be boys, but when on earth will even the most severe competitors finally figure out that certain inanimate objects (in the case of Isringhausen’s would-have-been-victim, inanimate is in the eye of the beholder) live by the motto, “To err is human, to forgive is not my policy?”

Lucky for Ynoa that he doesn’t yet have even a short-term a reputation as, shall we say, a testy guy. John Tudor, ordinarily a quiet fellow who preferred to let his pitching do about 90 percent of his talking, had that reputation to some extent. It was more than a little unfair.

When he felt like using his mouth to cover the other ten percent, Tudor was actually thoughtful, articulate, sensitive, self-aware, and modest. (His least favourite subject was himself.) At least, he was with writers who treated him like a man and not a commodity. When he incurred difficult times with the press, as he did down the stretch in 1985, Tudor could and did bristle enough to challenge at least one writer to put his fists where his mouth was.

When he got knocked out of Game Seven of that World Series at the earliest time in his career that he’d ever been chased (his often-troublesome shoulder gave out), Tudor went into the clubhouse, took a swing at an electric fan with the hand by which he earned his living, and needed a hospital to stitch it up. Tudor apologised publicly one week later. (The following spring training, he admitted to Thomas Boswell the incident and bad press still bothered him: “I can’t worry about it, but that’s not saying I like it.”)

But in the immediate moment, word of Tudor’s ill-fated fan-shake reached the press box. Apparently, at least one of the occupants was one of his least favourite writers. The feeling was surely mutual enough. Said writer whose identity is lost to time and memory is said to have cracked, “Ahhhhh, the sh@t finally hit the fan!”

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