The dog ate his homework

Baltimore Orioles

Manager Brandon Hyde and his Orioles after one of their own got drilled following back-to-back bombs in Camden Yards Saturday night. They know damn well Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah didn’t just slip a runaway fastball inside.

Here’s the Saturday night scenario in Baltimore: A rookie pitcher surrenders back-to-back home runs. He hits the next man up squarely on the bicep with the first pitch. He gets ejected post haste, then speaks to the press post-game.

“I tried to get that fastball in and it slipped away,” said Alek Manoah, the Blue Jays righthanded rook who drilled the Orioles’ Maikel Franco in the fourth inning, right after Ryan Mountcastle hit the first one-out, one on service over the left field fence and D.J. Stewart hit a 2-1 pitch over the right field fence.

The dog ate his homework.

And the Blue Jays overthrew the 5-2 lead Mountcastle and Stewart provided to gorge on the Orioles with a six-run ninth and a 10-7 win. It’s gotten that bad for this year’s Woe-rioles. They can’t even claim safety in a three, then a four-run lead.

But Franco looked distinctly unamused after he got that very pronounced plunk, and as Manoah stepped down from the mound walking toward the plate area. He looked as though he couldn’t decide whether he’d like to have Manoah for dinner or have him crucified on the warehouse behind the yard.

“I was confused by his reaction,” Manoah said. “I was questioning ‘What’s going on? What’s wrong?’ Those were my hand gestures as I was walking toward him. I didn’t understand the frustration there.”

“Even rookies don’t usually have to be told that a guy who can’t hit with a telephone pole this season doesn’t understand why he’s being made to pay because you just surrendered long distance back-to-back on your dollars,” said my long-distance pitching acquaintance, Sticky Fingers McSpidertack, on the phone this morning.

“So you’re telling me the dog ate his homework?” I asked, without a single thought of being a wisenheimer.

“Dig,” McSpidertack replied. “That Mountcastle guy took him out over the center field fence with one out in the second. And who’s that guy, Cedric Mullins? Took him out over the right field fence with two out in the third.”

“So Manoah’s a little on the frustrated side,” I replied. “Didn’t anybody in the minors teach him even for a few minutes that the best pitchers in the business are going to have days where they’re going to get slapped silly? Happens even to the Hall of Famers, Stick.”

“He spent, what, three games in Triple-A,” McSpidertack answered. “Maybe that’s not long enough to teach a few baseball life lessons, maybe it is. I’m the wrong guy to ask. I didn’t get much past Single A, you know.”

“I know, but you don’t have corn flakes for brains, either. I don’t think I ever saw you try putting a hole in the next guy’s anatomy after you got hit for a skyrocket shot.”

“Of course not,” McSpidertack said. “And Franco’s not the one who hung that slider, kept that fastball’s feet tied at the ankles, or threw him a melon even a guy below the Mendoza Line could have given a ride.”

“A ride? OK, Mountcastle’s shot in the fourth just barely made it out, hit the rail behind the fence or something. Got a fastball to hit for that first shot in the second, this time he gets the breaking ball and breaks it because it didn’t really break.”

“Right”

“Then Stewart turns on 2-1 and hits it right onto the Camden Yard promenade. Maybe it landed a few feet from where Boog Powell used to have and run that great barbeque pit.”

“Oh, yeah. I remember that pit, too. There wasn’t one single healthy thing coming off that pit, thank God.”

“Now it’s Franco. Compared to him this year, Mario Mendoza looks like Monster Mashup. The last guy on the planet, or at least on the Orioles, who’s going to take him into the ether. And Manoah throws one right up and into the poor guys’ upper bicep.”

“Or lower shoulder ball.”

“Well, let’s not get technical.”

“Fair enough,” McSpidertack said. “So when it’s all said and done, what’s the take?”

“What the hell do you think it is, Stick?”

“You’re gonna make me say it, aren’t you.”

“That’s my job, Stick.”

“Yeah, I know. OK, here it is. Manoah was full of manure last night.”

“I had to open my big mouth, didn’t I?”

“Your fault, buddy,” McSpidertack said, laughing. “Now tell me what all that was when skipper Hyde comes out of the dugout looking like he wants to take someone in a Toronto uniform apart but also looks like he doesn’t want his guys to do anything of the kind.”

“You need me to tell you that? I don’t think he wanted to take someone apart himself. I think he just wanted Manure—sorry, Manoah—thrown out of the game post haste. Which is exactly what he got. After he returned a few, shall we say, vulgar mash notes from Charlie Montoyo.”

“The Blue Jays manager.”

“Yeah.”

McSpidertack excused himself a moment to refill his morning coffee. I needed another coffee jolt myself while he was at it. When he came back, I said, “Did you see Manure–sorry, Manoah again—talking to the press after the game?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you hear him say he tried to slip that fastball in and it got away?”

“Yeah,” McSpidertack said. “And if I had a dollar for every time I tried to get a fastball in that got away, I could buy that Antarctican beach club of yours.”

“No you couldn’t, Stick,” I said. “You said yourself your career was over before it really began. You didn’t really have time to learn how to slip runaway fastballs inside. At most you’d have had enough to buy me a new set of guitar strings.”

“Then the dog ate his homework.”

No, Roberto Alomar wasn’t Pete Rosed

Roberto Alomar

Roberto Alomar’s new baseball ineligibility doesn’t mean a backdoor pass into Cooperstown for Charlie Hustler.

Let’s get this out of the way first and foremost, since (it almost figures) at least a few social media tweeters raised it. Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar’s fresh ineligibility to work in baseball doesn’t mean Pete Rose suddenly gets a pass to stand for Hall of Fame election.

The news broke Friday that Alomar—working as an advisor to baseball’s government and a Blue Jays special assistant concurrently—is now on baseball’s ineligible list over sexual misconduct said to have occurred in 2014, at the sad expense of a baseball industry employee. He’d been elected to Cooperstown on his second try in 2011.

“Roberto Alomar got Pete Rose’d today,” tweeted Ice Cat Sports Cards, from South Dakota. “If Roberto Alomar is on the Ineligible list,” asked a tweet by someone handling himself ElScorcho, “how can he stay in the Hall of Fame? I mean that says Pete Rose should be in right?”

Wrong.

Specific details of Alomar’s sexual misconduct aren’t disclosed as I write. But it happened three years after he was elected and inducted into the Hall of Fame. (To its credit, the commissioner’s office engaged an independent law firm to investigate.) If he’d committed the misconduct that now has him purged before 2011, Alomar wouldn’t have even been on the ballot, never mind elected.

Rose violated Rule 21(d) before he would have made his first Hall ballot. The very likelihood that he might be elected despite his ban prompted the Hall to rule: if you’re ineligible to associate with organised baseball, you’re not eligible to appear on a ballot conferring the game’s highest honour.

No, ladies and gentlemen, Roberto Alomar did not get Pete Rosed on Friday. Any drumbeating for shoving Rose into the Hall of Fame on the basis of Alomar’s banishment is factual and moral idiocy. So don’t even think about hammering the Hall of Fame for refusing to purge Alomar.

“When he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in the Class of 2011, Alomar was an eligible candidate in good standing,” the Hall said in a formal Friday statement. “His plaque will remain on display in the Hall of Fame in recognition of his accomplishments in the game, and his enshrinement reflects his eligibility and the perspective of the [Baseball Writers Association of America] voters at that time.”

Alomar isn’t the first to land on baseball’s permanently ineligible list over sexual misconduct or its concurrent behaviours. Former Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman got there for crowing he was so [fornicating] glad they obtained relief pitcher Roberto Osuna while Osuna was still under investigation for domestic abuse. A rant delivered in the presence of three female reporters in the Astro clubhouse after they won the 2019 American League Championship Series.

The persona non grata list also includes one-time Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa, thanks to his being caught red-handed hacking into the Astros’ databases. It also includes former Braves general manager John Coppolella, after he inflated or deflated signing bonuses for Dominican prospects to maneuver around baseball’s international signing rules.

Maybe the BBWAA will fume over the Hall of Fame refusing to purge Alomar. But at least  one member might advise not so fast. “I don’t disagree with the Hall’s more measured response,” wrote Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiMinno Friday, after commissioner Rob Manfred announced the Alomar termination and purge.

It would be insupportable to retroactively banish someone from Cooperstown when egregious conduct comes to light. Just imagine going backwards in time and stripping a player of that specific honour, a summation of career brilliance, for behaviour which is now recognized as reprehensible but wasn’t then. So many scoundrels are in the Hall and, at least figuratively, their statues would have to be toppled.

Please don’t ask which such scoundrels not named Cap Anson and Kenesaw Mountain Landis would be removed from the Hall right now. You won’t like a lot of the answers. They might or might not only begin with Babe Ruth.

Lisa Banks, the attorney for the unnamed woman at the center of the Alomar purge, sent a statement out as well. Quoted by DiManno, Banks said, “We applaud MLB for having this matter thoroughly investigated and for taking meaningful action against Mr. Alomar . . . My client has no plans to file a lawsuit or take further action. She has not exposed Mr. Alomar’s behaviour for notoriety or for money and looks forward to moving on with her life. She simply wants to ensure that Mr. Alomar is held accountable.”

But DiManno goes forward saying that while baseball has a perfect right to purge someone over particular misbehaviours, since being in professional baseball is not an absolute right but an absolute privilege, something about the Alomar case isn’t quite passing the proverbial smell test yet.

. . . I don’t know what Alomar is alleged to have done and Manfred isn’t telling. I do know that some accusations, when exposed in a court of law, criminal or civil, do not rise to the threshold of conviction. And nowhere have I seen a claim that Alomar’s conduct was criminal. It might or might not pass the sniff test of a human rights complaint. It clearly did not pass scrutiny of the MLB investigation — conducted independently by an external legal firm . . .

I wish there were more details disclosed about the alleged incident, which surely could have been done without identifying the complainant . . . I’ve covered enough legal proceedings on this subject to understand that a great deal of nuance separates accusation from even the lower bar of civil action proof. The vacuum of information leaves a worrisome gap for warranting so ham-fisted a decision.

And that, she continues, “comes from someone who was once called a [fornicating (four-letter euphemism for ‘vagina’ starting with ‘c’)] by a player in the Jays clubhouse; who, on another occasion, had a player simulate pelvis thrusting from the rear while I was bending over to conduct an interview with another player at his stall. These were not incidents I reported to the club or to my employer. I’m just not that delicate a flower.”

The Blue Jays will disappear Alomar’s presence promptly enough, the team has said, including pulling his commemorative banner down from Rogers Centre and removing him from its Level of Excellence. The Jays also said in their own statement they’re committed to an environment of respect for everyone in their organisation, applauding concurrently the unnamed woman who stepped forward in the first place.

This is not a pleasant denouement for the man who hit what DiMinno says remains, arguably, the single most important home run in Blue Jays history. That would be the Game Four-tying two-run homer off Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in the top of the ninth, finishing a comeback from a five-run deficit, pushing the Jays to the eleven-inning win that gave them a 3-1 American League Championship Series advantage in 1992. En route their first World Series conquest.

I’m not entirely convinced that launch compares to Joe Carter’s World Series-winning three-run bomb in 1993. But you can’t convince me Alomar’s blast off Dennis the Menace wasn’t just as important in Jays history. “Emotional bonds are difficult to sever,” DiManno opened. “Historical facts can’t be expunged.”

Neither can a Hall of Famer eligible for election and getting elected well enough before the acts that got him banished from baseball eligibility. Alomar’s behaviour as a three-year Hall incumbent is terrible enough, without using it to argue Rose into the Hall when Rose’s rule breaking got him blocked before he was eligible for a Cooperstown ballot at all.

The Buffalonto beatdown

Wearing his NYPD hat to commemorate the 9/11 atrocity, deGrom pinned the Blue Jays while his mates bludgeoned them Friday night.

Until two starts ago, Jacob deGrom must have felt like the single most neglected spouse in town. He was said to be keeping non-support court filings signed and sealed in his locker just in case things went from bad to worse to lost cause entirely.

Then, last Sunday, his New York Mess (er, Mets) gave him seven runs to work with before his day ended and dropped seven more on the Philadelphia Phillies after he came out of the game. You couldn’t blame deGrom if he’d awakened the next morning asking himself whether he’d been dreaming.

So what to make of Friday night against the Buffalonto Blue Jays in the Jays’ temporary, pandemic-season home?

With the Mets allowed to wear first-responder hats at last to commemorate victims and their attempted rescuers in the 9/11 atrocity nineteen years earlier?

With deGrom pitching like the two-time defending Cy Young Award winner he is . . . and the Mets giving him fourteen runs to work with before his outing ended after six innings? Including and especially a ten-run fourth featuring Dominic Smith slicing salami?

This was no band of pushovers deGrom and the Mets massacred Friday night. The Jays were in second place in the American League East with a 24-19 record when the game began. They’re not exactly driven back to the basement after the Mets’ carnage. But they might have been tempted to crawl into the nearest Buffalo basement to hide at least until Saturday’s game.

Maybe the Jays just faced the wrong New York team. Earlier this week they dropped a ten-spot on the Yankees in the sixth. On Friday night, the Mets—who came into the game leading the National League with a .275 team batting average and a .351 team on-base percentage—looked more like Murderer’s Row than a Mess.

“The guys did a good job of going out there and putting up runs for me,” said deGrom to reporters after the 18-1 bludgeoning, in what was probably the understatement of the night. “It was a little cold out there, so I was trying to stay loose in between, but I’m thankful for the runs and they did a good job all night of that.”

The Mets already had a 4-1 lead when Wilson Ramos opened the fourth working a walk out of Toronto reliever Anthony Kay. You may remember Kay’s the one the Mets traded to the Jays last year to get Marcus Stroman, who opted out of this season after it began and goes to free agency after this season.

Well, now. Brandon Nimmo chunked a base hit into shallow left to follow Ramos. After Kay walked Michael Conforto to load the pillows following that, the fun really began. J.D. Davis grounded sharply to Jays shortstop Santiago Espinal. Espinal had a clean shot throwing Ramos out at the plate. The throw hit Jays catcher Danny Jansen right on target. And it bounced right out of Jansen’s mitt and off to his right just before Ramos crossed the plate unmolested.

Up stepped Smith with the pillows still full. He swung on 2-0 and drove it clean over the right field fence. 9-1 Mets, five runs home in the fourth thus far, and the Jays hadn’t seen anything yet.

Robinson Cano followed Smith with a line single. Pete Alonso, who had a night he’d rather forget at the plate, struck out on a full count, but Kay came out of the game in favour of Jacob Waguespack and Jeff McNeil greeted the new man on the mound with a line single up the pipe, before Waguespack hit Mets rookie Andres Gimenez with a pitch that ricocheted off to the left side.

Here came Ramos again, and into the right center field gap went his three-run double. Nimmo pushed Ramos to third with a ground out to Espinal playing him up the middle, then Conforto—who’d hit a three-run homer in the four-run Mets third—sent a liner to left that bounced past a sliding Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. hoping for a shot at the circus catch. And Davis cued one just past third base and up the line for the double sending Conforto home.

Smith looking at strike three hitting the absolute edge of the low outside corner must have felt to the Blue Jays as though he’d decided to have mercy upon them. DeGrom in the Mets dugout must have watched the carnage and wondered, even for a split second, what new and unheard-of ways his mates would find to blow a thirteen-run lead.

The long layoff in the fourth and the Buffalo chill all night may have affected him a little. He had to wrestle a bit for his outs and to keep the Jays from getting any friskier than second and third in the bottom of the fifth, but he still finished his evening’s combination of work and leisure with nine strikeouts, two walks, one measly earned run (Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. singling home Randal Grichuk in the bottom of the first), an ERA shrunk to 1.67, and a second-best 0.87 walks/hits per inning pitched rate.

This time, the only thing the Mets blew was what remained of the Blue Jays’ fight for the night.

Erasmo Ramirez came out of the bullpen for the final three innings’ scoreless relief and a save under the three-inning side of the rule, while the Mets added two in the seventh (a bases-loaded walk to Cano; Davis scoring on Conforto’s ground out to shortstop), one in the eighth (Ramos hitting one over the center field fence), and one in the ninth. (Gimenez doubling home Alonso, who’d reached when he got plunked.)

If this is dreaming, deGrom must have thought when the game went into the books at last, I’ll kill the guy who wakes me up. To death.

“First and foremost,” said Conforto, “we got the win, and we got a win for Jake too. We’re always feeling good when Jake’s on the mound no matter how many runs we put up, but it felt good to do that for him.”

DeGrom wore a New York Police Department hat for the game. Other Mets wore that or hats for the New York Fire Department, the Port Authority Police Department, the Department of Sanitation, and the Office of Emergency Management commemorating the 9/11 atrocity.

Last year, after baseball’s government again told the Mets not to even think about wearing the hats during a game on that anniversary, Alonso decided to let the world know what he thought about that. He paid for 9/11 commemorative cleats for himself and his mates to wear when they played the Arizona Diamondbacks on the anniversary—and beat them with nine runs and eleven hits.

This year, baseball government wised up and let the Mets and the Yankees have their heads about the commemorative hats, just in time for the Mets to hand the Blue Jays their heads and for the Yankees to sweep the Yankees in a doubleheader Friday. Doing the right thing with or without official permission invites its own kind of good karma.

“You just have to wear some things”

Buck Showalter facing the press after the 2016 AL wild card game.

Former major league manager Buck Showalter had the perfect chance to explain himself once and for all. He sat for an otherwise splendid interview with the New York Post‘s Steve Serby, published Friday. He offered several splendid recollections, revelations, and insights.

Then, just after he explained today’s Yankees sticking with Gary Sanchez behind the plate despite his problems at it, Serby asked the money question: “Your Orioles controversy in the 2016 AL wild-card game when you didn’t call on Zack Britton and lost in the bottom of the 11th in Toronto.”

Showalter, one of the most intelligent managers of his time, a man who once resigned as the Yankees’ manager rather than stand for one of his most trusted coaches being removed, defaulted: “You just have to wear some things, and I can sit here and tell you ten things you may not know about that situation, but nobody wants to hear it. I’m at peace with that.”

Serby didn’t seem to push just a little for the ten things Showalter thinks we may not have known about that situation, and Showalter’s probably dead wrong that nobody would have wanted to hear even one of them. If Rob Neyer ever gets the chance to update 2006’s Big Book of Baseball Blunders, bet big on Showalter’s wild card game mistake, ten years after that book, showing up prominently.

Bottom of the eleventh, Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles tied with the Toronto Blue Jays at two. One out, and Ubaldo Jimenez, usually a starting pitcher, relieving Brian Dueseng after Dueseng opened by striking Ezequiel Careera swinging. Back-to-back singles setting the Blue Jays up for first and third, and Zach Britton, the Orioles closer and arguably the best relief pitcher in 2016 baseball, nowhere to be seen—even though Showalter used six relief pitchers already.

Just like Mike Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals not even thinking of Trevor Rosenthal in the 2014 National League Championship Series in the bottom of the ninth in San Francisco, Showalter reasoned, too, that Britton’s job as his closer was to come in strictly with a lead.

As Matheny stuck with rusty Michael Wacha in San Francisco, Showalter bargained on Jimenez, who’d pitched well down the Oriole stretch, holding fort in Toronto and the Orioles breaking the tie in the twelfth with Manny Machado due to lead off. (The real shock of that game: two of the league’s most bludgeoning lineups got themselves into a pitching duel most of the night.)

Like Matheny, Showalter forgot—if it was ever programmed into their software in the first place—that the time to bring in your best relief pitcher was when you needed a stopper right then and there, not when his “role” mandated.

“It wasn’t just that he hadn’t used Britton,” wrote Jeff Passan, then a baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. “It was that any number of game states presented themselves with Britton’s use optimal, and Showalter ignored them all the way to his team’s demise.”

Travis Ishikawa delivered Matheny’s reminder a lot more brutally when his three-run homer sailed to the top of Levi’s Landing with a Giants pennant attached. Showalter got off easier by comparison. Edwin Encarnacion’s three-run homer into the second deck merely sent the Blue Jays to a division series.

What were the ten things about that situation Showalter could have told us but he thinks we don’t want to know?

Surely he knows he’s not the first and won’t be the last manager having to wear, own, and live with such things. Some of them owned and explained them with no attempt to evade responsibility. Some of them owned but excused them. Some of them could barely bring themselves to own them. Some of them thought it was God’s will or somebody else’s fault.

Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy took the blame squarely for picking Denny Galehouse to start over Mel Parnell at the last minute (Parnell reported to Fenway Park that day expecting to go) against the Cleveland Indians in the 1948 pennant playoff game. A McCarthy biographer quoted the old man as telling Parnell himself, “I made a mistake. I’ll just have to live with it.”

Charley Dressen, as Neyer pointed out, “never made a mistake he couldn’t blame on somebody else.” Citing Brooklyn Dodgers exec Buzzie Bavasi, Neyer revealed Dressen blundered when the Dodgers won the coin flip for the famous-turned-infamous 1951 pennant playoff—and elected to play Game One in Ebbets Field, where the Giants didn’t usually play well, but Games Two and Three in the Polo Grounds, where the Dodgers usually didn’t.

Ill-fated Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca would remember Dodgers ticket manager Jack Collins calling the coin flip back in Brooklyn since the Dodgers were in Philadelphia at the moment. Not quite. “Dressen . . . probably told anybody who’d listen,” Neyer wrote, “that the pointy-headed ticket sales manager was the one who screwed up.” The pointy-headed ticket sales manager got canned after the season, too. The Giants stole the pennant, but the Dodgers blew their cleanest shot at it when Dressen blew that coin flip.

Casey Stengel had to answer for failing to align his 1960 World Series rotation well enough to give his Hall of Fame lefthander Whitey Ford three instead of two Series starts. The Pittsburgh Pirates still like to thank him for that. The Ol’ Perfesser didn’t discuss it in his memoir Casey at the Bat. A month after Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente was killed in his humanitarian-mission plane crash, the Hall of Fame skipper gave Boston radio reporter Ken Meyer an interview:

I blame myself on the whole Series. I mean for the Yankees losing. Now here’s the reason why I make that statement was because I thought Ford was so good . . . if I’da pitched him in the first game he’da been in better shape to go in the last game when I blow the Series.

Stengel’s biographer Robert W. Creamer translated the Stengelese to mean pitching Ford in Game One instead of holding him back until Game Three might have let Ford pitch Game Five and then be available in relief, maybe even to start, for Game Seven.

Showalter has more company in that special club whose membership requirements are that you’re a manager who blew one of the biggest decisions of your major league life, if not the big one. He has Matheny, Dressen, Stengel, and Gene Mauch to join him.

He has Leo Durocher, who burned the 1969 Cubs out as the Miracle Mets heated up fresh to stay. He has Tony La Russa, who blew a 1990 World Series he might have won, or at least kept from losing in a sweep, if he’d thrown his personal Book out and let his Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley pitch at least twice before ninth innings.

He has Dusty Baker. (Reference Mark Prior staying in but no activity in the bullpen, Game Six, 2003 National League Championship Series, with the Cubs six outs from the World Series.) He has Grady Little. (Pedro Martinez, gassed but left in two hitters too long, Game Seven, 2003 American League Championship Series.)

Most of the time such men wear, own, and explain their mistakes plausibly, even if their teams’ fans would still prefer to see them strapped in the electric chair. Most of the time. When Mauch’s 1964 Phillies returned home after finishing the pennant race they’d blown, Mauch refused to let his players leave the plane before he did: “You didn’t blow the pennant. I did.”

But when John McNamara elected to keep Bill Buckner at first base for the bottom of the tenth in Game Six, 1986 Series, rather than send his uninjured regular late defensive replacement Dave Stapleton out, McNamara refused to change his original tune. He wanted his wounded warrior Buckner out there as he “deserved” to be when the Red Sox finally won it all and that was it, that was all, and that was goodbye.

To the day he died McNamara never backed off. His widow was very right saying upon his death that his entire career shouldn’t be judged by one game. McNamara clinging that stubbornly to his original rationale is its own kind of admirable, but it didn’t make him any less dead wrong.

What’s the worst that Showalter could face now if he’d just given Serby what was asked for and explained himself once and for all about why Zach Britton was nowhere to be seen when Edwin Encarnacion destroyed the 2016 Orioles’ season in one fell swing? Twenty-second guessing?

Oriole fan would still love to hear it. So, really, would baseball fan without a particular Baltimore rooting interest. Showalter has to wear that, too.

So why did the Mariners trade Walker?

If the Mariners traded Walker over his speaking out pro-protest postponement, they got some splainin’ to do.

Me and my big mouth. Well, keyboard.

Earlier today, writing about baseball game postponements in protest over the Jacob Blake police shooting, I referenced a 1968 trade involving pitcher Milt Pappas, who supported no games played during Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral. Pappas fumed when his Cincinnati Reds management may have strong-armed players into playing. In sort of a blink, he was then an Atlanta Brave.

That’ll teach me.

On Wednesday, when the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres elected not to play, Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker tweeted, “Glad to be apart of this organization and group of people!” Thank you for standing with us always!!” Come today, Thursday, Walker became a Buffalonto Blue Jay, traded for the proverbial player to be named later. He inprocesses with his new team Friday, when baseball is supposed to commemorate Jackie Robinson.

Pappas would never really know whether the Reds’ then general manager Bob Howsam told the truth when he insisted that 1968 trade was in the works before the Kennedy funeral issue. Walker at this writing may or may not really know soon, or even ever, if Marines general manager Jerry Dipoto had a deal in the works before the protest postponements, either.

In 1968, then-commissioner William D. (Spike) Eckert ordered no baseball to be played during Kennedy’s funeral. Washington’s notorious traffic issues delayed the procession, bumping the funeral to coincide with the start of the Reds’ scheduled game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Pappas supported not playing; the team voted 13-12 to play, possibly after pressure from Howsam and manager Dave Bristol. Three days later—Pappas was gone.

Major League Baseball’s official statement on the protest postponements said, “Given the pain in the communities of Wisconsin and beyond following the shooting of Jacob Blake, we respect the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight. Major League Baseball remains united for change in our society and we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice.” Walker tweeted his approval of his team’s protest postponement decision the same night they made it. One day later—gone.

If timing is everything, this timing looks more than a little out of time. It may not even pass the proverbial smell test.

Pappas, who died in 2016, was a white man born in Detroit of Greek parents. (His name at birth: Miltiades Stergios Papastergios.) Walker is a black man born in Shreveport, Louisiana; his father was black, his mother a Mexican-American woman who raised him alone. One dead pitcher and one living one can now hold hands as they say, plausibly enough, that baseball still has growing pains over intolerance not solely regarding a racial issue.

The game has never been entirely comfortable with players known to be outspoken on all sorts of matters. Once upon a time, the Chicago White Sox tried to compel the late pitcher/author Jim Brosnan to sign a contract enjoining him from writing for publication without prior team approval. The author of from-the-inside baseball classics The Long Season and Pennant Race elected to retire rather than allow the White Sox to decide what he could or couldn’t write.

When the then-Florida Marlins traded first baseman Carlos Delgado to the New York Mets after the 2005 season, Delgado—who’d sat in the dugout as a Blue Jay and a Marlin during seventh-inning-stretch playings of “God Bless America,” in protest the Iraq War and using his native Puerto Rico’s island of Vieques as a bombing practise spot—changed his protest tune, possibly under compulsion from the Mets’ front office.

“The Mets have a policy that everybody should stand for ‘God Bless America’,” Delgado said at the time, “and I will be there. I will not cause any distractions to the ballclub . . . Just call me Employee Number 21.” Said Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon at the same time, “He’s going to have his own personal views, which he’s going to keep to himself.”

Delgado didn’t act during playings of “The Star Spangled Banner,” but on Wednesday Mets outfielder/first baseman/designated hitter Dominic Smith did. A young black man who’s a product of south central Los Angeles, Smith took a knee during the song’s pre-game playing to protest the Blake shooting.That contravened his stance in the George Floyd aftermath, when he said a knee wasn’t enough compared to teaching and learning.

There went that idea. Though his teammates had his back, too, refusing to criticise and some supporting him publicly (outfielder Michael Conforto in particular), Smith spoke for himself at a press conference. In tears. Asked by a reporter to describe the most difficult part of the past two months, Smith paused, then sighed, then said through a few sobs, “I think the most difficult part is to see people still don’t care . . . it just shows the hate in people’s hearts and, I mean, that just sucks.”

The Mets’ administration hasn’t said or done anything regarding Smith as I write. That can be considered good if we’re talking about dealing him out of town, post haste or otherwise, as the Mariners may or may not have dealt Walker over his comments. But that can be bad if we’re talking about whether Smith’s team above and beyond his clubhouse teammates will stand for his elementary right to speak his mind and heart.

I’ve said it before in these pages, but I’ll say it again: I have skin in the game of police lawlessness. I’m the paternal grandson of a New York police officer whom you could call both a true man’s man and yet one of the gentlest and most playful of men you’d ever meet in your life, especially with any and all of his eight grandchildren.

Grandpa Walter would have been as appalled at police officers behaving like the thugs they’re charged with apprehending as he would have been about people using police criminality as an excuse to break entire cities. If he’d been presented with the case for doing away with the “qualified immunity” that shields police officers from consequences for their crimes, I believe Grandpa would support its end, as I do.

But I think baseball fans and those who play and administer the game should want to know, for dead last certain, whether the Mariners traded Taijuan Walker—a serviceable, about-average major league pitcher—because it was an already-in-the-works trade on baseball grounds alone.

If they really did, they’re guilty perhaps of bad timing alone. If they didn’t, well, Lucy, they got some splainin’ to do. Did they deal Walker out of Dodge because the very thought that he spoke out proudly and unapologetically on behalf of his teammates postponing a game in protest of racism and police lawlessness offended them?