"The lady doth protest too much, methinks." - Shakespeare
Nature abhors order, yet admires design symmetry. The Code of Hammurabi, an ancient judicial standard, looked to proportional punishment. And so the law of the baseball jungle persists, except for the Oakland A's.
Friday night, after David 'Big Papi' Ortiz hammered a couple of Barry Zito offerings for outs, Zito came up and in, grazing Ortiz' hand. Craig Breslow, the molecular biophysics Yalie, sought physical retribution plunking Frank Thomas with an inside fastball.
Yesterday, after Danny Haren, empowered absent batting in the American League hit Jason Varitek with a fastball thrown BEHIND him. Trust me, as a former college pitcher, even a mediocre one, I know that righthanded pitchers don't throw behind lefthanded hitters by accident. Later, Curt Schilling went to the Darwinian well and hit Nick Swisher just above the hindquarters. Naturally, the umpire warned both benches, and life went on. Except for the A's.
Ken Macha stormed out of the dugout, thunderstruck by Schilling's 'protection', demanding justice. Milton Bradley ("consider the source" as Bouton would say) took umbrage with the fans, likely exchanging pleasantries and expletives. Nick Swisher took a wait and see attitude, as in wait until tomorrow, and see what happens.
I'm not defending headhunting, which by and large has decreased from the days of Gibson and Drysdale. Whether through fines and suspensions, administrative sanctions, or memories of the Conigliaros and Pucketts of the world, beanballs seem fewer. Maybe simply fewer muscleheads match the muscled up hitters of the 21st century.
But let's not forget who started the insanity last night, Barry Zito, seeking to defend his turf with some chin music to the Red Sox primary power threat. And let's also remember that last evening it was Danny Boy who elected to play hardball with the Red Sox captain and the Red Sox ace on the hill.
Rest assured that both managers and front offices have gotten the word already from the Major League Baseball offices to cool it. And be equally sure that this isn't the end of it, especially with young players and hot heads.