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Ruminations on Retaliation, Part II: Sox seldomly defend selves

Ozzie Guillen took Tuesday's plunkings a little too well.
Ozzie Guillen took Tuesday's plunkings a little too well.

This is the second of a two-part series. Read the first part so the following makes more sense...

The stage is set for Mark Buehrle to send a message to the Cleveland Indians tonight, and like they always say, revenge is a dish best served with 84-mph heat.

When Buehrle broke Ramon Castro's throwing hand with a pitch Castro couldn't pick up, Ozzie Guillen joked that he didn't think Buehrle was capable of inflicting harm with his fastball. So it's far from an ideal arrangement, but there's really no way around it. The point of Buehrle plunking a guy is to trigger the warning from the umpire, which would hopefully take away half the plate from a Cleveland pitching staff that doesn't have the greatest command, and whether it inflicts any memorable pain is secondary.

But if it works like the last time this task fell on Buehrle, the Indians will be happy for the free base. Unless he ends up hitting Travis Hafner in the face again, but I don't think anybody would advise that.

Last September, Buehrle had to hit a Minnesota Twin the day inning after Paul Konerko took a Carl Pavano fastball to the face and secured his place in in portable DVD player lore. Buehrle technically got the job done, but as it so happens with this revenge thing, it came back to bite the Sox. He hit Michael Cuddyer to lead off the second, but it sparked a three-run inning, and the Twins held onto the lead the rest of the way. That loss sealed a Minnesota sweep, so, yeah, it ended up as little more than an empty gesture.

I'm trying to think of the last time the Sox aggressively and effectively executed the score-evening HBP, and the last one that comes to mind is the one that resulted in a three-game suspension for David Riske back in 2006, when he hit St. Louis' Chris Duncan. Sidney Ponson already prompted the warning by himself when he hit two batters with the bases loaded. Normally, pitchers wouldn't use a run-scoring situation for petty vengeance, but Ponson has a history of being an idiot, and Tony La Russa enables such behavior when he's unhappy -- and at that point, the White Sox were leading 13-2.

Riske did what he had to do -- with two outs and first base open, he drilled Chris Duncan, which made his dad very sad. He was ejected, but Neal Cotts finished the inning and the White Sox went unscored upon.

That's a little sad that June 19, 2006 is the most recent example that comes to mind when thinking of this particular brand of swift baseball justice. The closest one I can think of was Bobby Jenks throwing behind Ian Kinsler in 2009,  which isn't quite the same thing. If anybody can fill in that gap, let me know.


Guillen was also suspended a game, and that was one of a few problems he faced during that time, as all his ... idiosyncrasies ... came to a head. At the time of the Duncan plunkin', he was dealing with the fallout for using a gay slur on Jay Mariotti, and six days earlier, he embarrassed himself and the organization with The Sean Tracey Incident.

Earlier that season, Guillen acknowledged he had a burgeoning reputation as a "headhunter." He earned it more with his words than his actions. Three months after he started managing the Sox, he told the media that he wanted his players to slide hard enough to "break the bone," which was an overreaction to Carlos Lee's weaksauce attempt to break up a double play after Torii Hunter knocked Jamie Burke out of a game.

But the Sox didn't play a particularly nasty brand of baseball, and when The Sean Tracey Incident blew up in the media and Jon Garland tried to coax another Traceyesque reaction from Guillen a month later, the Sox have almost entirely removed themselves from the retaliation game. I wrote a piece about it on Sox Machine in 2009, and little to nothing has changed, despite the occasional tough talk.


It's not all on Guillen, though. After I mentioned The Sean Tracey Incident on Twitter, Chris Rongey responded over a couple of tweets:

More often than not, pitchers take it upon themselves to do that. Usually not from the dugout [...] It happens, just not often. Almost always left to P's. That's why "unprotected" hitters get mad at teammates 4 non-retaliation

That's true, and it's likely a byproduct of the Sox's preference for rather vanilla personalities. The Sean Tracey Incident took place because Javier Vazquez failed to retailiate for Vincente Padilla's dual-plunkings of A.J. Pierzynski -- even though Vazquez knew they were intentional. He just... didn't act on it. One month later, Garland threw behind Kinsler for more Padilla misdeeds, which triggered the warning but didn't really punish Padilla for his recklessness.

Buehrle aside, the last four pitchers who I can remember throwing at a hitter in defense of their own are no longer on the team (Tracey, Riske, Jenks, and D.J. Carrasco, who somehow missed Billy Butler in 2008). What's left are a bunch of guys who aren't in the business of starting (and/or continuing) something.


It's the same story with position players. When Alexei Ramirez took the fastball to the shoulder, a mound-charging would have been defensible. He was the third player hit over the course of three innings, the second hit by Josh Judy, and the pitchers were increasingly high and tight.

But Ramirez, like Konerko and Gordon Beckham before him, took his base after walking off the pain. And that led me to wonder if the Sox had anybody capable of starting a fight.

A.J. Pierzynski is the obvious answer, but I don't see it. He might be the "meanest player in baseball," but it's in the manner of the wrestling heel he aspires to be -- the worst is when the refs aren't looking. In plain and open sight, he mostly abides by the rules. I could see him gunning hard for the takeout slide of Jason Kipnis, but I don't think he's a guy who would be the first to sprint to the mound.

Carlos Quentin would be my next guess, but he had an opportunity to rush the mound after Zack Greinke buzzed his tower, and he resisted the urge. Looking up and down the roster, I'd guess Shane Lindsay could handle himself, if Foster's commercials and Crocodile Dundee are any indications. Otherwise, it's pretty slim pickings.

They do have one more option, though, and he's only a phone call away: