The Yankees swept the Devil Rays in Tampa this weekend and are on the brink on clinching the American League East. But things got nasty before it was all said and done. On Saturday night, the Yanks and Rays exchanged hitting opposing batters, and yesterday, emotions boiled over.
D-Rays starting pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez---a high-strung, square-jawed kid with a yellow mop of hair who looked like he just stepped out of a David Lynch casting session---threw high and tight repeatedly to the Yanks during the early going yesterday. He moved Bernie, Godzilla, Boone, and Enrique Wilson off the plate, before finally plunking Nick Johnson in the 5th. He brushed Jorge Posada back later in the inning too.
Posada took exception, stepped out of the box and glared into the D Rays dugout. Well, that was all it took to get Lou Pinella going. Sweet Lou yelled something at Posada who promptly grounded out. But on his way down the first base line, Jorge had some cherce words for Gonzalez. The pitcher charged Posada at first, but both players were restrained. The benches cleared and who do you think was in the middle of things, yelling the loudest?
That's right, Sweet Lou himself. According to the morning papers, he called the Yankees "a bunch of crybabies." Then, there was a Yankee yelling back. Wanna guess who? None other than Sweet Pea himself, Bernie Williams. Now that was worth the price of admission.
No punches were thrown, and nobody was ejected. Roger Clemens had a 3-0 lead at the time, and he got through the 5th and 6th inning before he retaliated. With two out in the 7th, the Rocket airmailed one over catcher Javier Valentin's noggin (he nipped him with the next pitch). The Yankees won 6-0.
"I said that the Yankees are a bunch of crybabies," Piniella said. "Not all of them. I said they've got a bunch of them."
..."The amazing part about it is, when the Yankees buzz people in, or when they hit people, it's O.K.," Piniella said. "When it's done against them, they don't like it. They've got a bunch of talent on that team; they've got a great team. I respect them as individuals. But at the same time, let's play baseball. The rules aren't supposed to be circumvented in their favor."
Who is the cry baby here? Joe Torre remained calm.
"I'm not saying we don't all yell at the opposition once in a while, but I think Lou is frustrated," Torre said. "He's had a long year. He's not used to losing a lot of games. But I think this ball club has won more games than maybe they would have with someone else there."
Meanwhile, after losing a crusher on Saturday, the Red Sox came back with their ace and a win yesterday, and Boston continues to lead Seattle by 2 1/2 games for the wildcard. (It would take a monumental collapse on Boston's part to miss the postseason now.) The Twins and A's--thank you Mr. Lily---all but have their divisions locked up.