Chris Sale goes rogue in the clubhouse, Joey Votto shuts a kid down and more
America’s pastime is weird. And controversial. Hence the title of this lookback at the MLB season as the regular season draws to a close and the final playoffs spots get snatched up. The game never ceases to produce close calls and strange new events so let’s take a look at them in chronological order.
Adam Laroche retires after the White Sox objected to the amount of time his 14-year-old son was spending around the team (March 16)
In between stories about Yoenis Cespedes’ fleet of expensive vehicles, spring training delivered an unusual controversy at White Sox camp when… well, you know the story. White Sox ace Chris Sale exchanged words with Chicago’s general manager Ken Williams over their handling of the matter. A rumored player boycott never materialized but the drama did reach morning television when the veteran first baseman appeared on “Good Morning America” to explain his decision to walk away from baseball.
Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images
A Cubs fan rushes the field after Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter and joins the celebration (April 21)
You can’t do that. Alas, he evaded security and he did. "I made my way toward Arrieta and I said 'You're the man, Jake,’” 22-year-old Dylan Cressy said. "And he mouthed 'Thanks, man.' That was my last memory before I got my arm shoved behind my back and cuffed."
A rally cat crashes the field in Anaheim (May 12)
There’s lots of ballpark dogs but not many felines. This qualifies as weird.
Rougned Odor introduces his fist to Jose Bautista’s jaw (May 15)
After Bautista’s takeout slide at second base, the Rangers and Blue Jays reignited the animosity stemming from the 2015 ALDS and Bautista’s momentous bat flip. The melee marked the grandest brawl of the season; players rarely throw or land punches as solidly as Odor did. "I'm not going to criticize players for playing hard,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Things happen. It was ugly. It looked bad; the whole situation was not pretty at second. It's two guys who play the game with passion.” A couple weeks after the incident, Bautista opened up about it, saying, “Was [Odor] out to play baseball that day? Maybe partly,” Bautista told Tom Verducci. “Part of me also thinks that he was looking for a fight.”
Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images
The Indians' 14-game winning streak gets snapped amid a “shocking” call at the plate (July 2)
In the bottom of the eighth in Toronto, Blue Jays outfielder Ezequiel Carrera got mowed down at the plate when he tried to give the Jays a 7-6 lead. After a 3-and-a-half minute review, he did. The umpires overturned the call on the field (an out) and ruled Carrera safe, finding that he touched home before catcher Chris Gimenez applied the tag. It was extremely close and is hard to tell from any angle. Indians manager Terry Francona took exception over what he deemed a lack of conclusive evidence. "If he would have been called safe, I don't know how they would've overruled it to call him out," Francona said. "I know they keep telling us it has to be conclusive … I was shocked.”
NL All-Star manager Terry Collins of the New York Mets does not play any Mets in the All-Star Game (July 12)
On one hand, it’s good that Collins didn’t force Mets’ representatives Bartolo Colon and Jeurys Familia into action (two more Mets, Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes, sat out with injuries). On the other hand, it’s just not what anyone would have expected with a Mets skipper in charge. Collins said later that the plan was to use Familia only in a save situation and to use the rubber-armed Colon if the game went to extra innings. Fair enough.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY SportsNoah K. Murray
The White Sox suspend pitcher Chris Sale for cutting up throwback jerseys with scissors before his scheduled start (July 23)
This is one of the weirdest, most head-scratching baseball incidents of the decade. A grown up human man slashed the team’s throwback jerseys in the clubhouse because he was ticked off that the team, in Sale’s view, was putting public relations and jersey sales before player comfort and winning. Specifically, the team stuck him with a 5-game suspension for “violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment.” There are numerous ways to convey a point and Sale chose a decidedly unorthodox approach. It’s been a strange year for the South Siders.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
Kid asks Joey Votto for his batting gloves, gets unexpected response (July 28)
It happened in San Francisco when a kid sitting in a front row seat made the request, to which Votto replied, "You're sitting in the front row, you're elite. This isn't a 'Make A Wish' situation." Lesson learned: if you're a fan of an opposing team, do not call on the Reds first baseman seeking handouts. Also in May, Votto was booed in Los Angeles for stomping on a paper airplane that landed on the diamond and in Philadelphia, he pranked fans by pretending to throw a souvenir baseball into the stands. He’s basically baseball’s official infield trollmaster.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
The Yankees become deadline sellers (July 25-31)
The Yankees’ “No Runs DMC” bullpen got dismantled in late July when the team shipped flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs for prospects, including shortstop Gleybar Torres, and sent top lefty reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians for outfield prospect Clint Frazier and three others. It was necessary and fruitful for the Yankees’ farm system but very, very strange seeing the Evil Empire engage in selling at the deadline.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
An umpire ejects an unruly fan in Philadelphia (August 2)
The guy was shouting foul-mouthed remarks and sexual innuendo and repeatedly telling Giants players that they “sucked.” Finally home plate umpire Bob Davidson had heard enough, walked toward him, pointed to him and ejected him, prompting security to escort the man out. "People cheered me. Which is unusual in this town for me” Davidson said later.
Heisman Trophy winner, former NFL quarterback, TV analyst and all-around good guy Tim Tebow becomes a New York Met (Sept. 8)
Publicity stunt or an honest investment in a guy who hadn’t played organized baseball since high school? All he did was crush a home run in his first pro at-bat on September 28 in a Mets instructional league game in Florida. We shall see.
APLuis M. Alvarez
MLB suspends San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller for 30 days for withholding medical data on players (Sept. 15)
In order to gain an advantage in trades with other teams, Preller reportedly had the Padres keep two sets of medical files on its players -- the truth, and one to share with other clubs engaged in trade discussions. The offending practice came to light after San Diego sent Drew Pomeranz to the Red Sox and Colin Rea to the Marlins and those teams learned about some oral medications that the Padres hadn’t revealed. Meanwhile the Marlins sent Rea back to the Padres after the pitcher went down with (pre-existing) elbow discomfort in his first start for Miami.
There’s still a few days left for some good on-field weirdness before the playoffs begin.