If Joe Maddon had just had the foresight to have one of his pitchers buzz the tower a couple of times, he might still have his hair instead of that silly mohawk, and he might still have his job instead of the summer off.
That is the major takeaway from Major League Baseball’s reaction to Sunday’s Mariners-Angels brouhahahahahahaha, in which 11 uniforms and an interpreter for Christ’s sake were issued suspensions totaling 47 games. And most amazingly of all, the most punished person was Angels manager Phil Nevin, who replaced Maddon 20 games ago and will miss the next 10 for apparently giving the day’s starting assignment to reliever Andrew Wantz so that he could throw at Julio Rodriguez and Jesse Winker.
We say “apparently” because he got the longest suspension, and though he denied his crimes against the rotation, he did so in such a weird way that he almost turned himself in instead.
“That’s not factual, but I don’t want to get into a war of words with that,” Nevin said Monday when asked if he’d ordered Wantz to Wantz. “What’s done is done. Yesterday’s over and done with. We’re focused on the White Sox today.”
Well, he didn’t get to focus on anything. He isn’t allowed to focus on anything until Baltimore next month, and besides, who denies something by saying, “That’s not factual” unless what they really mean is, “That is factual”?
This is the liveliest either team has looked all season. The Mariners cannot hit, or at least do not hit, and the Angels hit E when a 14-game losing streak torpedoed a quick start and rendered yet another Mike Trout season inert. The two teams have essentially the same record at the 75-game mark, and this will almost certainly still be the case after the suspensions are served, because whether it’s potentially felonious retributive justice or lads-will-be-lads hijinks, they are sort of who they are, have been, and will continue to be. The Angels haven’t won a playoff game in 13 years, and the Mariners haven’t been in one in 21.
Still, with all due respect to Maddon’s hair, the Angels showed a level of mostly discredited old-time gumption by retaliating for an Erik Swanson fastball near Trout’s head Saturday night. It isn’t so much that Wantz went out to heat-seek as many Mariners as Seattle manager Scott Servais sent to him (how he skipped leadoff hitter J.P. Crawford and third hitter Eugenio Suarez is left to your own detective skills), but rather the number of non-combatants who were willing to get in the brawl from the Angels’ side. Anthony Rendon got five games even though he is out for the year with a broken wrist; assistant pitching coach Dom Chiti got five; last night’s fill-inmanager, Ray Montgomery, got dinged for two; catching coach Bill Haselman one; and interpreter(!!!) Manny Del Campo got two for being the first to engage Winker and set the fuse alight. That’s commitment to the bit.
Or maybe it’s an acknowledgement that if someone has to stand up for Trout as he watches yet one more triumphant season fade to gray-on-pewter, everyone has to. By now it must pain the organization that they have the best player of the last decade and also the most amazing phenomenon since Babe Ruth and still have only four managers and a magnificent team-wide tantrum to show for it. Yes, it’s childish and yes it’s dangerous—it’s an upset that with the Angels’ luck, Trout and Ohtani weren’t actually hurt in the brawl, though Seattle backup catcher Luis Torrens actually did get hurt and is now on the 10-day IL—but for once it isn’t the utterly performative milling-around-and-yell-fuck-and-horseshit-a-lot bench-emptiers we are used to seeing.
Eventually, this all sort itself out and both teams will return to their individual torpors, meeting again in August so that we can relive those glorious times when they all went mental on each other. Until then, there is the business of replacement baseball. The Angels beat the equally soporific White Sox Monday night, even though Trout and Ohtani went one-for-seven with five strikeouts, while the Mariners gave up more homers (five) than they got hits (three) in a 9-2 loss to Baltimore. Those four teams are the ninth-through-12th cluster at the lower end of the American League standings that nobody is clamoring to know anything about, but at least for one day they got people to pay attention to them. Plus, the real winners out of all of this are Abigail Courtney, Sofie Dill, and Simranjeet Singh, who became famous because, as someone once said, normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different will lead us into tomorrow.
And that includes, of course, the interpreter.