Mariner defends his airspace

Richie Sexson starts a brawl after a high, but not really inside, pitch.


King Kaufman
May 9, 2008 11:20PM (UTC)

Richie Sexson of the Seattle Mariners sparked a bench-clearing brawl Thursday when he charged Texas Rangers pitcher Kason Gabbard after Gabbard threw a pitch that was ...

High.

Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez had hit Ian Kinsler with a pitch in the top of the fourth inning following Kinsler's home run in the second. According to baseball's weird unwritten rulebook, that's OK. Guy hits a homer off you, go ahead and plunk him. Kinsler dutifully took his base.

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Then, and this makes a little more sense, it became Kinsler's pitcher's duty to hit a guy on the other team. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because if everyone on both teams agrees that it's somehow OK to plunk a guy for hitting a home run, why is it then necessary to retaliate for that plunking? It's either OK or it's not, right?

Or am I trying to make too much sense of lizard-brain stuff?

Anyway, Gabbard threw a pitch to the 6-8 Sexson in the bottom of the fourth that was about eye level, but over the plate. Sexson yanked his head back and immediately charged Gabbard, throwing his helmet. It was an unusually intense baseball fight, but it didn't escalate beyond wrestling and yelling. No punches were thrown.

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OK, heat of the moment, but after the game, a 5-0 Rangers win, Sexson was still angry, complaining about the height of the pitch.

"I'm 6-foot-8. He can hit corners at will," he said. "Six-eight and all of a sudden he's up that high? I'm a huge target. How hard is it to hit me? Hit me in the back or thigh. Up near my face is no good."

Even if it's over the plate? In the same breath, Sexson complains that Gabbard has pinpoint control and that he threw the ball at his face, only Gabbard would have missed Sexson's face even if he'd stood still.

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He'd have been better off not mentioning the hitting the corners at will thing. There's very little evidence Gabbard has any idea where the ball is going when he throws it. He's walked 70 and struck out 79 in 131 and a third career innings. Sexson could argue -- if he just didn't mention the corners thing -- that Gabbard was throwing at his head and missed over the plate. Then again, Gabbard could argue he was trying to hit him in the butt.

Rangers manager Ron Washington sniffed that Sexson overreacted. "If we wanted to hit him, we would have hit him." Eh, maybe. Sexson was suspended for six games by Major League Baseball Friday. He figures to keep playing while he appeals.

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Kind of a weenie move by MLB.com not to have Sexson's charge as one of its "top highlights" Friday morning. I mean, "Byrdak's nice double play" is ... nice. But I think your average fan would rather have a look at the rare honest-to-goodness let's-fight mound charge than a "nice double play."

MLB surely doesn't want to look like it's promoting brawls, hockey-style, but I don't think that's much of an issue given how rare actual fighting is in the major leagues.

At least for the time being, you can watch it on Yahoo or YouTube.

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The best part of the highlight is about a minute and a half in when Milton Bradley of the Rangers, trying to get Rangers catcher Gerald Laird to back away from the confrontation, picks his teammate up like a little boy and carries him several feet. Bradley, then a San Diego Padre, blew out his knee last year when his manager at the time, Bud Black, pulled a similar maneuver on him.


King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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