Salk on Mariners: How ex-MLB’er explains Angels’ likely side of story
Following the Mariners’ brawl with the Angels on Sunday, the majority of opinions heard in Seattle took the M’s side of things. But that’s not to say everybody agrees that the Mariners were without fault for the beef with their American League West rivals.
On Tuesday’s edition of The Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports, Salk shared insight he got from talking to several anonymous former MLB players about what went down between the M’s and Angels in Anaheim. The majority still agreed that the Mariners were largely in the right, but Salk did get a look into what he called the “dissenting opinion” that understands the path that the Angels took under interim manager Phil Nevin’s direction.
For a quick snapshot of the incident to provide context, the Angels were upset about a fastball in the ninth inning of Saturday’s 5-3 Seattle win by M’s reliever Erik Swanson that went over superstar Mike Trout’s head. Nevin and several Angels watched the Mariners celebrate their win on the field, then Nevin was seen clearly yelling expletives from the Angels’ dugout at the Mariners and pointing at his head. Trout also shared his displeasure with the pitch while talking to reporters after the game.
Before Sunday’s series finale the next afternoon, Nevin switched course from his original scheduled starting pitcher, José Suárez, to rookie relief pitcher Andrew Wantz to serve as an opener – or as it turned out, to throw at a pair of key Mariners hitters and keep Suárez ready to pitch the rest of the game after Wantz was ejected. Wantz threw the first pitch to Seattle’s No. 2 batter Julio Rodríguez behind the 21-year-old rookie’s head, and after the umpires inexplicably issued only a warning and didn’t eject Wantz or Nevin, Wantz hit Jesse Winker with the first pitch of the second inning. That led to jawing between Winker and the Angels’ dugout, which set off a wild brawl.
Nine people were issued suspensions by MLB for the incident Monday, including Winker, Rodríguez and J.P. Crawford for Seattle.
OK, so what’s the Angels’ likely view on all of this?
“(The dissenting opinion) basically says that the Angels shouldn’t have thrown twice, that it’s still bush league to throw twice, but that they had to respond. After what had happened with Mike Trout, they had no choice,” Salk said, relaying the thoughts of one former MLB player. “So his argument kind of went like this: 1, no issue with the opener. In fact, he said he kind of liked them making it obvious rather than hiding… ‘We’re bringing in an opener, there’s going to be a (pitch at one of the Mariners’ hitters).’ … We’re telling you what’s going to happen.”
It boils down to the fact that the unwritten rules are different when it comes to Trout, one of the best players in the game.
“Essentially the quote is you can back guys off the plate, but you better have enough control not to hit them or we’re gonna hit you back,” Salk said. “OK, you want to throw inside? Fine. But you better have enough control not to hit a guy because if you do, we’re going to have a problem, especially with an all-time player like Mike Trout. You can’t have guys missing when you go up and in to Mike Trout. So if they do, you have to send a message back, regardless of intent. It doesn’t matter whether they were trying to hit Mike Trout – they came near Mike Trout and therefore we have to retaliate.”
There’s also the matter of how bad a pitch that it is in the area of a star player’s head is seen in the game.
“A ball that misses a head is way worse than being hit in the back, and because (the pitch to Trout) came above the shoulders, it rose to a new level. And maybe Swanson wasn’t trying to hit him, but he wasn’t trying hard enough to not hit him, if that makes sense,” Salk said, summarizing the former player’s take on the matter. “Alright, maybe you weren’t trying to hit my guy, but you weren’t trying hard enough to not hit my guy. And because of it, we’re trying to make sure Mike Trout doesn’t get beaned and gets pitches where he wants them over the course of the season. And so in his view, yes, it’s old school, but if you don’t have enough command to throw inside, don’t do it. Because if you take somebody out, you’re going to get hit back.”