Last month, New York Met Jordany Valdespin won his way into the hearts of his teammates by hitting a game-winning grand slam against the Dodgers. After a night of celebrating and bonding, a Mets teammate somehow found the courage to muster this high praise for Valdespin: "He is getting better … He still has a ways to go, but he is getting better."
Less than three weeks later, Valdespin found his name in the news again. Though it was again because of a home run, it was hardly a joyous time. And this time, Valdespin's teammates had nothing positive to say. In the bottom of the ninth in a game the Mets trailed 7-1, Valdespin crushed a ball down the right-field line. He watched the ball and slowly trailed it up the line before rounding out his trot in the normal fashion.
Over at the Tater Trot Tracker, where I follow such things, Valdespin's trot was a bit on the slow side at 25.06 seconds. That happened to be the slowest trot around baseball that night, but it's a mostly unremarkable time. Only a few days later, for example, there were three home-run trots (from Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Beltran, and David Ortiz) that were slower than Valdespin's when he offended the baseball gods (Ortiz, it should be noted, was nearly four seconds slower).
Here's video of the controversial trot:
For some reason, this upset the whole of the baseball world. Mets announcer Ron Darling said, "You don't flip your bat like it's your moment; there's no moment. You're losing." Mets manager Terry Collins seemed perfectly agreeable to the Pirates exacting revenge on Valdespin the next night in the form of a ball to the ribs. Mets teammate LaTroy Hawkins called it a "boneheaded move" that left the bullpen "dumbfounded." When the Pirates did take their revenge during Valdespin's pinch-hit appearance the next night, Mets teammate Marlon Byrd said, "The Pirates did what you were supposed to do... We would have done the same thing to another team. Any of the 29 other teams would do the same thing."
Again, all of this hullabaloo was because Valdespin did this after hitting his home run at the end of a game his team was losing.
Okay, fine. I can see how Valdespin's antics upset the baseball community enough that everyone from his teammates to the umpires agreed that he deserved the target he was painted with. After all, he was slow out of the box and he was slow on the bases on a late-inning home run in a game in which his team was getting stomped. Like Marlon Byrd said, that's the kind of thing that anyone would get hit for.
Now that we know exactly what it takes to make the entire baseball world agree that you deserve a beaning, we can go back and correct a little bit of history. Here are five trots at least as egregious as Valdespin's that never resulted in an intentional hit-by-pitch that we now know must be punished. It's never too late for justice!
Alfonso Soriano, September 29, 2012
9th inning, down 8-0, vs. Arizona (2-run home run)
Watch the video here, since it's much too important to be embedded.
It's not the bottom of the ninth, since this game took place at Chase Field, but everything else checks out. The Cubs are even losing by a larger margin than the Mets were. As the ball takes flight, Soriano drops the bat with a little bit of style before strolling out of the box. For the record, Soriano's trot ends up clocking in at 26.15 seconds, more than a full second slower than Valdespin's. In his four plate appearances against the Diamondbacks the next night, Soriano was not hit once. Thankfully, the injustice can be remedied this weekend when the Cubs host the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field. It's the lesson of Jordany.
Bobby Abreu, April 13, 2010
9th inning, down 7-1, vs. New York (grand slam)
This grand slam with one out in the ninth inning ended up bringing the Angels to within two, but it wasn't enough. The Yankees would win 7-5. After all, no one can truly expect the losing team to find enough runs to tie the game with only two outs left. Because of that, Abreu's cocky, celebratory dance out of the box here, with the flashy bat drop, is clearly uncalled for and deserving of a fastball to the ribs. Sadly, Abreu had ten more plate appearances against the Yankees in the next two nights and was not touched once. Maybe if he ever finds his way onto a club this year, the Yanks will take the cue they learned from the Mets and Pirates and teach Abreu a lesson.
Luke Scott, July 26, 2010
7th inning, down 8-2, vs. Toronto (2-run home run)
A big blast to center field in a six-run game and Scott just stands there, bat in hand, admiring the flight of the ball. His trot around the bases clocked in at 26.09 seconds, more than one full second slower than the Valdespin blast. Scott played every inning against the Blue Jays the next two nights and was not thrown at. Marlon Byrd would not approve.
Juan Rivera , April 9, 2010
9th inning, down 10-2, vs. Oakland (solo home run)
It's hard to get more pointless than a solo home run in the ninth inning of a 10-2 ballgame, but that didn't matter to Juan Rivera. With his blast to center field in Anaheim, Rivera slowly walked out of the box as he watched the ball fly before casually, but stylishly, dropping the bat at his feet. Valdespin wishes he could look that good. Rivera was not plunked in any of his eight at-bats against the A's over the next few nights.
Russell Branyan, August 26, 2011
8th inning, down 11-2, vs. Texas (3-run home run)
If you thought the Valdespin celebration in a 7-1 game was bad, you have to watch this mammoth home run from Russell Branyan in an 11-2 game. The ball, flying down the right-field line in Texas, lands in the upper deck of The Ballpark. Meanwhile, Branyan tosses his bat aside like a used toothpick and stands there for a moment to admire his handiwork. He then embarks on his long trip around the bases, finishing up his home run trot in 27.47 seconds, two-and-a-half seconds longer than Valdespin. As you might have guessed, Branyan and the Angels ended up losing the game after what turned out to be the Muscle's final career home run. Branyan had one more at-bat against the Rangers in his career, but it was a pinch-hit appearance in a tight game. Even if the Rangers did want to hit him, it would have been inadvisable. But, now, with the unprecedented solidarity inspired by the Valdespin home run, it's obvious that Rangers players would be thrilled to get their shot at Branyan. The solution? Give him a contract so that he will finally have his due against the Rangers. And if that means we get a few more Russell Branyan home runs in our lives, the better!
It's truly a win-win for everyone. We need to make it happen so at least something good can come out of this whole stupid business with Jordany Valdespin and the Pirates. Otherwise, we might end up taking the lesson that baseball's "unwritten rules" about showing up another team are random and capricious, targeting players that everyone already dislikes, and not making any real sense to people who have spent more than six months outside of a 10th-grade-type atmosphere. We can't have that!