No time for petty drama during the playoffs

Los Angeles Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez, left, and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, right, argue in front of home plate umpire Jerry Meals after Dodgers' Yasiel Puig was hit by a pitch in the third inning of Game 1 of baseball's NL Division Series in Los Angeles, Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez, left, and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, right, argue in front of home plate umpire Jerry Meals after Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig was hit by a pitch in the third inning of Game 1 of baseball’s NL Division Series in Los Angeles, Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Look at the picture above. It’s stupid. And unnecessary. All of it.

First, some context.

In case you missed it, which you probably didn’t if you’re reading this website, Yadier Molina and Adrian Gonzalez got into a pretty heated discussion last night after Adam Wainwright hit Yasiel Puig with a 90 mph pitch in a 1-1 count.

These two teams have history in this department, dating back to last season when several Cardinals pitchers hit Dodgers batters. Joe Kelly hit Hanley Ramirez with a fastball that injured his ribs so badly that he was never able to recover and be effective the rest of the series.

It carried over to this season to a July 20 game on Sunday Night Baseball. Carlos Martinez hit Hanley Ramirez in the top of the fourth, prompting home plate umpire Ed Hickox to immediately warn both benches given the history. Clayton Kershaw promptly drilled Matt Holliday in the bottom of the fourth in what was an obvious retaliation, but for some reason wasn’t ejected.

Anyway, Trevor Rosenthal then plunked Ramirez with two outs in the top of the ninth of what a 3-3 game at the time. Yeah, he clearly threw at him on purpose.

So here we are Friday night, a rematch of two very good teams who played a very heated NLCS last season. These two teams go about their business in polar opposite ways and it’s resulted with some predictable clashing.

So when Wainwright hit Puig in the middle of the count, Gonzalez started screaming at Molina. Some shoving and loud noises happened along with the benches clearing, which is usually the extent of baseball fights, and for the most part calmed down after that. There was no retaliation from Kershaw who, along with Puig, understood that Wainwright was not trying to hit him on purpose, almost as if they understood that a veteran pitcher hitting a batter on purpose and putting a runner on in what could’ve been a tight pitchers’ duel in a very important Game 1 of the NLDS would be asinine.

But this was just so foolish. Watch the Vine below.

I have no idea what Gonzalez said to him, or if there is even more back story between those two that we don’t know about. But I do know this: This is the playoffs. There is absolutely no time to mess around with this kind of stuff. You have 11 games to win and your focus should be on nothing other than winning those four games.

Molina clearly shoves the umpire in this video, and the umpire would’ve been completely justified in ejecting him. Moreover, Major League Baseball could very easily suspend Molina like they did when his “spittle” landed on the umpire in Milwaukee in 2011 because even if you disagree that this is a “shove,” he still put his hands on the ump — twice — and we’ve all seen the punishment dished out when players or managers put their hands on an umpire.

In a five-game series, losing Molina for even one game or the rest of a game for something this unnecessary would just be foolish, both from a production standpoint and depth standpoint. The Cardinals would be down to just Tony Cruz at catcher.

The bar for ejection or suspension in the postseason might be higher than, say, in June, but why even take that risk? It’s not worth it, in my opinion.

As this discussion played out over Twitter last night, a lot of people remarked that “this is what makes Yadi who he is,” or some similar sentiment. Now, I don’t mean be all sanctimonious here, but if we’re being honest, saying that’s what makes Molina who he is takes away from who he really is, and that’s a damn good baseball player.

Tensions were still high after the game, and an understandably frustrated Gonzalez maintained that Wainwright hit Puig on purpose. Stupid as well, but whatever.

But I wasn’t particularly encouraged by Molina’s postgame comments, either.

Yuck. As an aside, I thinks this kind of talk comes off rather trashy and immature. This is the kind of language you’d expect from hormonal boys in a high school locker room, not from the face of your organization.  Molina did say later that he and the Cardinals “have a ton of respect” for L.A., but that still doesn’t negate what else he said.

Compare his response to Wainwright’s, who also helped defuse the situation by walking away from the scuffle and talking calmly with Puig.

That’s how you handle something like this. I think both Wainwright and Molina are leaders in their own way, and there are times when Molina’s “edge” and intensity are extremely valuable. Yes, that is what makes him who he is, because he’s typically good at channeling that intensity in better ways. I’m not arguing that Molina lost focus or the team lost focus. Clearly that’s not the case because they scored eight runs in the 7th inning to win 10-9.

What I am arguing, however, is that in this particularly instance, I prefer Wainwright’s method of handling drama. He understood the task at hand was far more important than whatever nonsense Gonzalez was spewing to get in the Cardinals’ collective head.

It doesn’t appear that any punishment will come from this, which is fortunate for both teams, especially the Cardinals.

This is going to be a heated series, and it’s entirely possible another situation like this arises. Molina and the Cardinals can’t afford to let that stuff distract them or end up costing them. The goal of winning each game has to trump everything else.

 

You can reach Cole Claybourn @HighSock_Sunday on Twitter or by email at highsocksunday@gmail.com

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