April 11, 2017

Pregame Pete: On team meetings, bat flips, and purpose pitches

The new digital board on the wall outside the front door of the home clubhouse and in the hallway leading into manager Pete Mackanin’s office flashes, among other things, the day’s lineup, an hour-by-hour weather forecast, and news relevant to that afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

On Tuesday, one of those messages: Team Meeting at 3:45.

The Phillies have such meetings every homestand, one player said, but this one was at least curiously timed as it came on the heels of a game the Phillies lost in the late innings, when they narrowly escaped a bench-clearing brawl with the New York Mets.

With one out in the eighth inning of a tie game, second-year reliever Edubray Ramos let loose on a 96-MPH fastball that sailed about two feet over the head of Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera in the first meeting between the two players since Cabrera ripped a walk-off home run (and celebrated emphatically) in a late September game at Citi Field last season.


Ramos’ ill-timed pitch came up during the five-minute meeting, but it wasn’t the only matter discussed.

“We went over a number of things,” Mackanin said. “I have my little fine system and I collected $17 today. One of those things, guys were late to stretch, seven of them at once. So that was $7 right there. So we made a killing today.”

Mackanin’s fine system, a fun way to keep his players in line, accumulated just under $1,500 last season, with the money going to clubhouse attendants, grounds crew members, and charities. It’s unclear if Ramos had to throw a dollar into Pete’s pencil holder pouch on Tuesday; the manager and the 24-year-old right-hander met privately before the team meeting.

“He told me that he did not do it intentionally,” Mackanin said. “So I’ll take him at his word.”

Was that the answer he wanted to hear?

“That’s the answer he gave me,” he said. “We’ll leave it at that.”

But did Mackanin make it clear that it wasn’t an ideal time for a purpose pitch, in the even that Ramos does decide to throw one of those on purpose on day?

“I explained to him what happened,” Mackanin said. “I don’t want, I’ll never ask a pitcher to hit a guy, but I can’t tell people what to do. If a pitcher doesn’t like a hitter, you do what you have to do for whatever reason you want to do it. If you don’t like how a guy dives over the plate and you want to come way inside and if you hit him, you hit him, that’s up to you, I can’t tell you not to do that. But I will never ask a pitcher to throw at a hitter in the event that something bad happens. But, I basically gave him the different scenarios, and said, as long as you don’t hit anybody, I can understand it. Not condone it, but understand it. But in that situation, it’s wrong.”

Ramos kept his comments brief a night earlier with the press, but said the same thing, that the pitch wasn’t thrown on purpose, that it “got away” from him. Cabrera also feigned ignorance with the Mets press corps, saying he didn’t even realize it was the same pitcher he homered off of until he got back in the clubhouse. It didn’t dawn on him after the pitch or when Cameron Rupp prevented him from rushing to the mound, apparently.


It remains to be seen if the Mets will retaliate. Matt Harvey starts for New York tonight. Perhaps if Noah Syndergaard was starting, we could guarantee at least a brush-back pitch.

Maybe it’s all a little silly, this business of players policing games by plunking opponents with pitches. What’s not silly or funny, however, is a 96-MPH pitch directed toward someone’s head.

Mackanin has one solution: less celebrating from hitters.

“I know there’s a big contingent of people that think it’s fun, let the players enjoy it,” Mackanin said of the Great Bat Flip Debate. “But if I’m a pitcher on the mound and I’m trying to make a team or stay on a team or not get sent down, I don’t want somebody rubbing it in when a guy hits a home run off me. Fans might like to see it I guess but for me, it’s just unprofessional. … Any time I hit a home run I just put my head down. I didn’t want that pitcher bearing down on me. Everybody’s different. I can’t tell somebody how to react.”


Well, what about the people that say if you don’t want a hitter to celebrate, make a better pitch?

“It’s funny, I was watching some video about baseball fights (the other day),” Mackanin said. “It was just a vignette of different fights and one was Jose Fernandez hitting a home run, I guess his first home run in Miami and there was an incident that happened. Brian McCann I think was the catcher, he met him at home plate. One of the broadcasters said ‘What’s wrong with that? Let him enjoy it. It’s his first home run, let him enjoy it.’ Well, you know what? If I’m that pitcher, that might cost me a job because I’m not pitching well. I’m not going to be real happy about it. Be a good loser but be a good winner.”

One of the interesting dynamics, when coaches and players begin criticizing opponents celebrating, is the irony when it’s pointed out that they might have players exhibiting the same such behavior in their own clubhouse.

“But if I’m a pitcher on the mound and I’m trying to make a team or stay on a team or not get sent down, I don’t want somebody rubbing it in when a guy hits a home run off me. Fans might like to see it I guess but for me, it’s just unprofessional."

Odubel Herrera is mostly harmless, playing the game with flamboyant energy, or as one writer more accurately called it, “an innocent exuberance.” But he flips his bat routinely, regardless of the outcome of his plate appearance, on home runs, sacrifice flies, and walks alike.

“He’s been spoken to many times,” Mackanin said. “The one thing I will say: I don’t like when players flip the bat on a home run, but how can you mad at a guy that when he walks he flips the bat? If you get mad at that – I don’t see why you get mad at that.”

But what if someone does get mad and a purpose pitch comes in on his hand, and God forbid, injures him and sends him on a lengthy trip to the disabled list?

“We saw it happen last year,” Mackanin said of Herrera getting hit intentionally. “He was drilled a half dozen times last year. He is who he is and he’s been spoken to about that and to be careful about that type of thing, but once again, you can only do so much, if that’s who he is and who he wants to be, then he has to suffer the consequences.”


Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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