On a night when the Washington Nationals defeated the San Francisco Giants 4-2 and ran their winning streak to four games, there was another story making headlines: Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and right fielder Jayson Werth had a shouting match in the dugout in the bottom of the first inning.
So what caused these two clubhouse leaders, easy going and hard-playing guys to start shouting at each other?
It all began at the top of the inning, when Joaquin Arias blooped a hit down the right field line for a double. Werth, playing with the sore right knee suffered on a play at home plate on Sunday, ran to grab the ball. Meanwhile, Arias bolted to second, Werth spun, double-clutched and lobbed the ball back to the infield.
Then Gonzalez walked Brandon Belt, then got Buster Posey to hit the ball to the the right side of the infield. First baseman Adam LaRoche shuffled to his right to field the ball and fired to shortstop Ian Desmond. The Nationals had a chance for a double play, but Gonzalez was too slow getting to the bag. He held up his left hand, warning Desmond not to throw to an empty first base.
Gonzalez was able to get out of the inning without a run scoring and as the team entered the dugout, Werth wanted to know why the pitcher did not cover first base so that the double play could be completed. Gonzalez shouted back that it was because of his falling off the mound to the third base side of the mound, causing him not to be able to get to the bag in time.
The two shouted at each other for a few minutes, and then it was over. Neither wanted to address the issue after the game. In his post-game press conference, manager Davey Johnson was quick to dismiss the shouting match. “Oh, just a little camaraderie going on,” Johnson said. “Spirits are high. I like it. No big deal.”
I saw the shouting match on TV during the game and I have read a number of accounts of this story. Frankly, it seems that many that saw the two fighting felt that this was two men reacting to the Nationals’ bad season.
Here is why I don’t think that is true. First of all, both men are good friends who often play pranks on each other. The dust up between Gonzalez and Werth can be summed up as the first act of the famous William Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing.
Both are clubhouse leaders in different ways. Gonzalez is outgoing, always quick with a smile or a joke. Werth is quiet, bright and more of a one-on-one kind of a guy. He has a sense of humor and it often comes out, but not usually during games.
On game day, these two good friends and teammates could not be more different. Gonzalez is loose, talking to anyone who will listen — even the fans. However, Werth is all business once the game is about to begin, he is almost zen-like in his focus on the game. Every detail is pored over, and he often talks to his teammates during the game.
Whether it is making sure that Bryce Harper is positioned properly in left field, or asking Ryan Zimmermann about what kind of pitches he is getting, Werth is simply making sure he knows what is going on at all times.
So on Monday night, Gonzalez and Werth had words. Nothing to see here, keep moving and yes, I have no doubt that come this evening when the Nationals host the Giants, it will be business as usual. I say chalk this up to Gio being Gio and Jayson being Jayson, and their spat will be long forgotten as they go for five straight wins.
Rant Sports columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc