The Boston Red Sox, having dropped the first two games of this crucial series in Tampa, find themselves in danger of being swept with a loss Wednesday. Could it be time to ratchet up the intensity? After all, the latest chapter between these two teams has been surprisingly tame considering AL East supremacy in on the line.
Heading into this series, Boston and Tampa had developed a well-established history of violence over the years, with no less than ten episodes of ugliness over the years having cemented these foes as the fiercest of rivals.
Well, maybe it’s Boston that needs that spark right now. After all, with all the crap that’s gone on between these two clubs, the Sox led the all-time series 117-61 before suffering huge losses the past two nights. On Monday, Justin Masterson plunked Willy Aybar with a pitch, but that wasn’t serious enough to spark another melee.
The fun dates back to August 29, 2000, when Pedro Martinez, who (coincidentally or not) had lost to the Rays twice in his previous three starts against them, nailed Gerald Williams with a pitch, causing Williams to charge the mound. Rays hurler Dave Eiland throws at Brian Daubach, and the benches wound up emptying twice on the night. Eight players get the heave ho.
A month to the day later, Tampa beats the Sox, eliminating Boston from playoff contention. After finishing things off for the final out, Rays closer Roberto Hernandez gives the Boston bench a “bye bye” wave. Clearly, the Sox are unimpressed, so the next night, when Hernandez failed to protect a 2-1 lead, surrendering a two-run homer to Morgan Burkhardt as part of a three-run rally, the Sox respond with their own waves to Hernandez, mostly of the one finger variety.
Things are quiet for a year and a half, but then on May 5, 2002, Rays starter Ryan Rupe hits both Nomar Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand in the first inning. Then Trot Nixon loses control (uh, ya) of his bat after swinging and missing and the bat goes flying towards Rupe. Later, Randy Winn gets hit by a pitch.
A couple of months later, both Manny Ramirez and Brent Abernathy get plunked twice, causing ejections for Esteban Yan and Rays manager Hal McRae.
Less than two months later, on September 9, Derek Lowe nailed Felix Escalona twice, despite a warning from the Commissioner’s office.
The next night, Doug Mirabelli, Garciaparra and Lou Merloni are all drilled by the Rays. Both Lowe and Lee Gardner get suspensions for this one.
Flash forward just over two years to late-September 2004. Manny Ramirez and Kevin Millar are plunked on consecutive at bats by Scott Kazmir, causing the benches to empty. Earlier in the game, Bronson Arroyo had hit Aubrey Huff and Tino Martinez. Both Manager Lou Piniella and Kazmir were ushered from the game for this episode.
On April 24, 2005, Lance Carter threw behind Ramirez. Manny responded by going yard. Then Carter threw behind David Ortiz. Ortiz’s response? He made a move towards Carter, sparking a melee in which six players were ejected and eight were either fined or suspended. It turns into a war of words off the diamond when Curt Schilling uses his radio show to criticize Piniella. Rays announcer Joe Magrane responds by calling out Schilling on the next Rays telecast, which caused Schilling to drag Magrane through the mud. Good times.
Things are quiet until March 2006, when during a Spring Training game, crazy man Julian Tavarez kicks Joey Gathright as Gathright was scoring on a wild pitch. Tavarez slapped and punched Gathright, causing another emptying of the benches. In the scrap that ensues, Ty Wigginton busted a bone in his right hand. Tavarez earned himself a ten-game suspension for this squirreliness.
Last season remained more or less episode-free, but last month, on June 5, there was finally an episode in Boston when James Shields hit Coco Crisp in response to Crisp’s hard slide into Akinori Iwamura the night before. The upshot was that three players got kicked out and eight got suspended. Sweet!