Buck Showalter, 21st Century Hero

Wednesday night, Jonathan Papelbon threw a couple of fastballs in the general direction of Manny Machado’s face. If you want to see testosterone-fueled brutality in all its stupid ugly idiotic glory, here you go:

Papelbon was seemingly “retaliating” because Machado did or said something wrong after hitting a go-ahead homer off Max Scherzer in the seventh inning. Whatever. If anyone had a right to be frustrated, it was Scherzer, for throwing a hitter like Machado a fastball down the middle.

Anyway, Papelbon got kicked out of the game and later suspended for three games (of course he’s appealing, just because).

The suspension is good news unless you think (as I do) that it should have been six or seven games, or maybe just the rest of the season. Bu there’s even better news: The Orioles did not retaliate. Which surprised some people, including Bryce Harper, who said afterward, “I mean, Manny freaking hit a homer. Walked it off and somebody drilled him. I mean, it’s pretty tired. It’s one of those situations where it happens and, I don’t know, I’ll probably get drilled tomorrow.”

Harper was right: It’s pretty tired.

But he was wrong about Machado walking it off, and he was wrong about getting drilled. From the great Jason Turbow’s blog:

With that comment, Harper all but validated whatever response Showalter had up his sleeve. People filled the ensuing hours with discussion about when and how and on what part of the body Harper might wear one. And then we were surprised.

Showalter demurred.

“You’re not supposed to do that,” he said in a Baltimore Sun report. “The best retaliation would be to win another game, right? That’s usually how it works. … The greatest form of revenge is success, isn’t that what they say?”

Can it really be that simple? Yep. Thursday saw no retaliation of any sort, save for Machado calling Papelbon a coward. And sure enough, the Orioles won. Like Showalter himself said, “That hurts more, especially when you take the high ground.”

Showalter knows whereof he speaks. Machado himself spurred a similarly embarrassing affair only last year, and the O’s skipper appears to want no part in revisiting any part of that mindset. Wednesday, Papelbon proved himself again as a heel who it’s fun to root against, but that, in sports, is old hat.

In avoiding unnecessary conflict, Showalter gave us the opposite—not just somebody worth cheering, but somebody worth emulating, a clean-cut cat whose clear-eyed logic carried the day. With the Orioles still holding an outside shot at a wild-card spot, Showalter allowed his team to do the one thing that’s absolutely necessary for the good of its immediate future: concentrate on playing baseball.

Well played, Buck. Well played.

Indeed. My apologies to Jason for the long clip, but I couldn’t figure out what to leave out. Suffice to say, things that should have long been unacceptable – destroying catchers at home plate, throwing at hitters’ heads after some perceived slight, retaliating for any number of things – are now becoming unacceptable. It can’t happen soon enough, and kudos to Showalter for hastening the inevitable.