BOSTON, MA - JULY 8: David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox shouts at pitcher Kevin Gregg #63 of the Baltimore Orioles after a close pitch in the eighth inning at Fenway Park on July 8, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
"I think it was a little bush league, bottom of the eighth, two outs, up by six, swinging 3-0. I don't think we were hitting anybody intentionally there. But if it's got to come down to that, it's got to come down to it."
"He's been leaning out over the plate the whole series, and he does all the time," Gregg said. "I'm going to pitch in to be able to get him out. He disliked it. That's part of the game. He doesn't have to like it but I'm going to pitch in there to get him out. Apparently, he thought I was throwing at him but if I was going to throw at him, I would've hit him. If I was going to throw at a guy, I'm going to hit the guy, I'm not going to miss him. I believe I can hit a guy if I want to, and I wasn't trying to hit him. I was trying to pitch in and get him out."
-Kevin Gregg (ditto)
First off, let's get this out of the way: No, Kevin Gregg, you probably are the only player not named Kyle Farnsworth who does not get the benefit of the doubt re: your ability to hit someone. See: the two-thirds of your pitches that don't find the zone, and the punches that did not find David Ortiz.
Now let's really get into this thing.
Following yesterday's brawl, the Orioles were throwing out equal parts justification (Markakis) and vitriol (Gregg). At the center of it seems to be this unwritten rule whereby a team with a seemingly unassailable lead should lay down and die late in the game so as to...I don't know...not make the other team feel bad?
The first issue I'm sure most of you will notice is how one-sided this deal seems to be.
Why is Gregg pitching inside, ostensibly?
"To get Ortiz out."
Even giving Gregg the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't trying to hit Ortiz for all the damage he'd done in the series so far, does it not seem a bit unfair that an incredibly wild pitcher gets to risk hitting an opponent in the spirit of competitive play while the opponent is not supposed to play competitively? If Ortiz should not be swinging, then don't come in on him three straight times. That's the sort of thing you might consider should be saved for one-run games, kind of like swinging 3-0 with a runner on third.
But I encourage Gregg to come inside--not throw at him, but come inside--because the idea that a team should stop scoring runs in the eighth inning of a blowout is crazy. And if any matchup proves this, it's Red Sox - Orioles.
I wonder, did the O's simply lie down in the top of the ninth on Mother's Day, 2007? Do they wish they hadn't?
Or perhaps it was the Sox who left runs on the table on June 30, 2009, when a 10-1 lead evaporated in the last two innings of the game?
Ortiz was entirely right to swing at that 3-0 pitch. He's not obliged to make Kevin Gregg or the Orioles feel good about themselves, and if Gregg is going to pitch seriously, he should absolutely expect to have serious swings taken against him.
Oh, and for what it's worth, it's absolutely moronic for any player to be complaining about high payrolls. Or does Gregg not understand why he's making five million a year instead of a few hundred thousand?