The Boston Red Sox could not have been happy upon seeing the highlights of Saturday night’s Canada-Mexico game at the World Baseball Classic. That’s because their team’s long reliever Alfredo Aceves, representing Mexico in the tournament, was smack dab in the middle of a crazy bench-clearing brawl.
With Mexico down six runs in the ninth, pitcher Arnold Leon took exception to Team Canada’s Chris Robinson bunting for a base hit. Leon then proceeded to throw three consecutive pitches at the next batter, Rene Tosoni, finally hitting him on the third try. This, of course, resulted in both benches emptying, and a dangerous brawl, complete with punches and NFL style tackles, took place in the center of the diamond.
Somehow, Aceves ended up at the bottom of the pile.
Canada batting coach and former MLB all-star Larry Walker had this to say about Aceves: “I grabbed him, and I had a hold of him, and I think I saw Satan in his eyes. That was scary looking. I was just hoping he wouldn’t throw any punches at me because I would have been in trouble.”
Well that about sums it up, doesn’t it? Aceves, as the Red Sox know all too well, is no stranger to controversy. In fact, he seems to have an affinity for it. But, in this case, I’m inclined to give Aceves the benefit of the doubt.
Looking beyond the fact that Team Mexico was completely in the wrong here, Aceves was correct to stick up for his teammates. Leon and Mexico third baseman Luis Cruz clearly misunderstood the rules when they conspired to throw at Tosoni in retaliation for the ninth inning bunt. They failed to recognize that Team Canada was not attempting to run up the score in violation of a MLB “unwritten rule”, but rather, they were conforming to WBC standards, which include run differential tiebreakers and a 10-run mercy rule.
Looking at things from Aceves’ point of view though, all he did was react to a batter threatening his pitcher. None of that other stuff matters. Aceves stuck up for his team, his teammates, and his country, and for that, the Red Sox should not be embarrassed. They should be impressed.
To say that Aceves “took one for the team” would be an understatement, as the pitcher was pummeled in the melee. When the dust cleared, Aceves was lumped up pretty good with what Red Sox manager John Farrell described as “a couple of welts on his head” from taking several “left hooks”.
When these types of baseball brawls take place, it takes a player with a fearless-type mentality to start mixing it up in the middle of the pack. Every team needs a couple of guys on their roster that are willing to do the dirty work. Is Aceves a hothead? Sure he is. But he’s also a competitor, and he proved on Saturday that he’s willing to stick by his teammates no matter the situation.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)