YET ANOTHER BRAWL:
The mound and dugout altercations between RHP Matt Garza and C Dioner Navarro during yesterday's 6-3 loss to the Rangers got their spin in the morning papers today. The information you'll get from the involved parties and Manager Joe Maddon is something to the effect of how the two players are fierce competitors who got caught up in the heat of the moment, and that the issue will be handled "in-house". Should you believe that this incident is no big deal? You are well within your rights to think otherwise, but the Rays are 100% correct in keeping you ignorant. Regardless of what the "truth" is here, the aftermath is nothing that needs to be paraded about in the media. It was embarrassing enough to see the incident itself occur in such a conspicuous setting, and the Rays are right in stemming the tide of information leaking outward about this going forward.
Listen, regardless of the specificities of the incident, we can gather that Navarro is not a culpable party, at least in any meaningful sense. First of all, he doesn't have any sort of track record that would indicate that he works poorly with his pitchers. Secondly, Maddon all but indemnified him from blame in the matter in his postgame remarks. Can't get much more explicit than that, at least as far as stuff like this goes.
So that leaves us to this conclusion: Garza needs to grow up. This isn't the first time he's been held captive by his hot temper on the mound, certainly not if you include his days in the Minnesota Twins organization. This is a problem that has been ongoing throughout his development, and that it is continuing now without seemingly any improvement over the years is discouraging. I'm going to go ahead and speculate that perhaps Navarro didn't handle Garza well following 3B German Duran's home run. That's obviously something he needs to work on as a catcher, adjusting to the mental temperaments of his battery mates, but this is by no means laying the blame on him. He obviously should facilitate a productive relationship with whomever he is catching, but Navarro can't be a full-blown psychologist. There are some issues greater than even he can address at play here, and it is Garza's responsibility to get a grip. Lasting immaturity is guaranteed to hinder his advancement, and there is a sense of personal responsibility in that he needs to take care of matters himself. As it is, given that he is a valuable commodity in the organization, the team inevitably will have to step in to facilitate a lasting improvement in that regard.
While we're at it, the zealots calling for Garza's head need to cool it as well. It would be the pinnacle of absurdity for the team to give up on Garza at this point and try and deal him, or worse. It's not even a particularly good idea to demote him. I've never been a big fan of his, but for the love of all things holy, he isn't even old enough to legally rent a car yet. Is his maturity behind where it should be? Obviously. But the problem is just that, immaturity and the inability to exercise self-control. This isn't some inoperable character flaw that is bound to keep perpetuating itself; it can be mitigated given time and proactivity from all of the involved parties. His peripherals have been unsatisfactory thus far, but his performance to date has been very much in line with that of RHP Andy Sonnanstine and RHP Edwin Jackson, and over the long haul it will improve. Give him time, both on the field and off.
Both RaysBaseball.com and the Tampa Tribune ran blurbs (an entire story in the team website's case) painting the impending decision of who will be replaced upon the return of RHP Troy Percival to be a "tough choice". Of the present bullpen personnel, only RHP Grant Balfour is mentioned as a potential target to be jettisoned, in both pieces.
The nature of both pieces is cocerning to me, if only because of the conspicuous lack of "Gary Glover" on the chopping block. He should definitely be placed on the hot seat, and there is absolutely no valid reason for Glover to be given an unquestioned pass at a detriment to Balfour when he hasn't been appreciably better. I will be exceedingly disappointed if the implications in this article prove to be true. His success in Boston notwithstanding, Glover has been the weak link in the bullpen since RHP Scott Dohmann was jettisoned, and probably before that as well. The "long relief/mopup" benefit that he brought to the table last year isn't even a factor anymore either, since the team has RHP Jason Hammel for those situations. Now granted, Hammel hasn't been particularly effective, but there's no way a young pitcher like Hammel gets exposed to waivers.
The presence of Hammel does sort of add an interesting wrinkle to this situation though. I would not be surprised if Executive VP Andrew Friedman were burning up the phones inquiring to see if there is any interest around the league in Hammel. Obviously if he's here, there's no way he will get the ax in lieu of Glover or Balfour, but the Rays may just opt to skip that decision altogether and see what value they can get for Hammel. Granted, they might need him for a spot start soon due to the brawl suspensions, but that's nothing that RHP Jeff Niemann can't take care of, given that he has options left. With Hammel proving ineffective in the bullpen, and no rotation spots expected to be open for him in the near-term, Hammel's career could be at a dead end here that the Rays might be wise to try and navigate out of.
Both papers are reporting that DH Cliff Floyd has been kept out of the lineup for the past two days due to no health issue, but rather an overarching desire to keep hot-hitting Willy Aybar in the starting lineup. With the Rays facing Angels lefty Joe Saunders this evening in Anaheim, Floyd will get his third straight day off. He is expecting to be in the starting lineup tomorrow night.
Meanwhile, the Rays' swing through Anaheim brings an annual slew of re-unions for numerous personnel on both sides. For the first time, that will include Percival, who last pitched at Angel Stadium when he threw out the first pitch at the Angels' home opener last year. Though not active, he will throw a simulated inning either today or tomorrow in Anaheim as he continues his recovery process.
Lastly, here are the previously-undisclosed fines that MLB doled out to Rays players for their involvement in Thursday's bench-clearing brawl in Boston:
The going rate seemed to be $500 for each suspended game as Jonny Gomes and James Shields (who got a slight discount) were fined $2,500, LF Carl Crawford and Jackson and $2,000 and Akinori Iwamura around $1,500.