I blame the cold weather.
And the time-honored baseball tradition that goes back to the days of Old Hoss Radbourn and King Kelly: an eye for an eye, blood will have blood.
We had three flare-ups from Wednesday's action, two in the Yankees-Red Sox tilt at Fenway and one at Coors Field, when Nolan Arenado charged the mound against the Padres with anger boiling in his veins. Worth noting: Both were intra-division episodes, which perhaps fueled the fires and also means it might not be the last time we see these teams going at each other.
Let's start at Fenway, where the benches first emptied when Tyler Austin slid into second base and caught the back leg of Brock Holt with his spikes. Austin slid into the bag but sort of flipped his leg out as Holt stretched for the throw from third baseman Rafael Devers. The slide was in the gray area of being a slightly dirty play, especially considering Holt wasn't trying to turn a double play. On the other hand, if you see the replay from the left-field camera, Holt didn't stretch for the ball until Austin had started his slide. Holt also should have done a better job of getting out of the way. But again, the spikes were up.
That led to an exchange of words and a more or less conventional emptying of the benches and bullpens, with phone numbers exchanged and dinner dates planned. Aaron Judge had a big grin on his face, although Austin seemed a bit too riled up for his own good and had to be restrained.
Move ahead to the seventh inning. Joe Kelly throws high and tight and plunks Austin, who slams his bat down in disgust, and it's on. I mean, it wasn't a 1970s or '80s brawl, but there was some pushing and shoving going on and Austin threw at least one punch that landed on Red Sox coach Carlos Febles. Kelly and Austin were ejected, and, really, it could have been much worse:
One of the most fascinating parts of the brawl was how Judge corralled Kelly toward the Red Sox dugout without escalating the situation. Could have buried him
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) April 12, 2018
CC my man bum hip just wrecking guys
— Jared Saul (@JaredSaul) April 12, 2018
Giancarlo Stanton got his official introduction to the rivalry. He thought the Red Sox were a little out of line. "That slide wasn't a bad-enough play, if bad at all," he said, although admitting he hadn't seen the replay. "Their feet got caught up. ... He wasn't aiming for him or gunning for him. I don't see it at all."
Really, why would you want to fight the Yankees? It's like "Mad" Max fighting Master Blaster in the Thunderdome without a whistle. You want Mookie Betts throwing punches at Judge? You want Andrew Benintendi going after Stanton? The Red Sox are lucky Judge is a gentle giant and merely grabbed Kelly in a headlock. It's like when nobody wanted to mess with Frank Howard, even when he was just a first-base coach -- that's an offensive tackle just waiting there to mess you up.
If you're a Red Sox fan, you're mad hot at Austin. If you're a Yankees fan, you're mad hot at Kelly. In my humble opinion, the biggest issue here was it took Kelly two pitches to hit Austin, as he'd thrown inside earlier in the at-bat. The baseball code says you get one chance to throw at a guy; don't blow it.
Of course, this rivalry goes back decades. The truth is -- don't deny it, Boston fans! -- the Red Sox have always kind of been the punks here. I mean, what did A-Rod do other than try to slap the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove? Next thing you know, Jason Varitek is shoving a hand in his face. There's Pedro throwing down old man Zimmer. Or Carlton Fisk throwing the first punch at Lou Piniella after the two got tangled up at home plate back in '76. Oh, yes, thems were the days.
I kid, but this is serious stuff: Don't fight, kids. It's not the right way to play the game.
Did Arenado do the right thing when he charged after Padres pitcher Luis Perdomo after Perdomo threw a pitch behind him? Is there a right way or wrong way to handle these issues in the heat of the moment? Obviously, nobody likes a baseball purposely thrown in his direction. Instinct takes over. In this case, however, Arenado needed to show a cooler head. For starters, you're the best player on the team; you don't want to risk getting injured in a fight.
But also: He should have been expecting the pitch. If anything, he should be mad at his pitching teammates, not Perdomo. Rockies pitcher Scott Oberg had hit Manuel Margot on Tuesday, with Margot landing on the DL because of bruised ribs. German Marquez hit Hunter Renfroe in the hand earlier in Wednesday's game. Last week, Oberg had hit Christian Villanueva -- after Villanueva had hit the first two of his three home runs.
In the middle of the fracas, Padres coach Mark McGwire grabbed Arenado's jersey. Dennis Lin of The Athletic reported after the game:
"He was explaining something. I was trying to explain something," Arenado said later. "I have respect for Mark. He said, 'Three of our guys.' He was in my face. I could hear everything."
Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez stood beside his teammate during the exchange, attempting to broker an uneasy peace.
"There were some words," Gonzalez recalled. "[McGwire] said we hit a couple guys, and he was like, 'What do you expect? Of course, we're going to send a message.'"
An eye for an eye. "I think it shows we have each other's backs," Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer said. That's one way to put it.
The Yankees and Red Sox meet again Thursday. The Padres and Rockies meet again on April 23. If baseball history has taught us anything, it's that Wednesday's episodes probably won't be the end of things. Just ask Old Hoss Radbourn.