The ugly and tense divorce between Ubaldo Jimenez and the Colorado Rockies became downright dangerous on Sunday afternoon.
Facing his former team for the first time since he was traded last season, the Cleveland Indians pitcher drilled shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the elbow during the All-Star's first at-bat. He then charged Tulowitzki, causing the benches to clear.
Tulowitzki was sent to the hospital for X-rays (take a sigh of relief, fantasy owners, they turned out negative) while Jimenez was somehow allowed to remain in the game. The righthander was tagged for six runs over 4 1/3 innings of work and exited the game to a shower of boos from the pro-Rockies crowd at Salt River Fields.
Tulowitzki later said that he didn't know if the HBP was intentional or not. But Rockies manager Jim Tracy didn't hold back, saying it was "the most gutless act I've seen in 35 years in the game."
"Five days before opening day, you're going to take a pot shot like that? It's the worst I've ever seen. I've lost all respect for him, and that's a very difficult thing for me to say with all the players I've had to manage over the years," Tracy said. "I've lost all respect for him, every bit."
The game was not broadcast, but here's video of the incident that a fan shot from behind home plate. (And here's a view that was shot from the center field camera.)
It probably comes as no surprise that Jimenez later blamed the incident on bad command and said he charged because Tulo had been yelling names at him from the batter's box. ("I mean I am a man," Jimenez told reporters. "He was calling me a chicken.'')
The "just an accident" claims, however, are a tough story for us to swallow after Jimenez spent most of his spring grinding a giant axe against the Rockies. Colorado starter Jeremy Guthrie said there was no way the pitch could be interpreted any other way than intentional.
Troy Renck of the Denver Post sums up the beef that led to the plunking:
Jimenez has expressed his anger toward the Rockies this spring, admitting that he felt underappreciated last season because he was not awarded a contract extension like Tulowitzki (seven years, $134.5 million) and Carlos Gonzalez (seven years, $80 milllion). He told CBS Sportsline a few weeks ago that being in Cleveland was like "heaven."
Tulowitzki responded in The Denver Post 10 days ago, saying, "If someone doesn't want to be here we always say, 'Please, go up to the manager and tell him you want to leave or that you don't think this is the best place for you.' That was kind of the case with him."
Jim Tracy said on Saturday that he hoped the issue had been "put to bed," but it's clear from Sunday's game that it was nowhere close to being settled.
It's really a shame, too, because Jimenez has gone from being a great story — he started the All-Star Game for the National League in 2010 — to a well-earned reputation as one of baseball's biggest malcontents. Just because Jimenez isn't happy he prematurely opted for the security of a four-year contract (with two club option years for 2013-14) doesn't mean he can take out his frustration on one of the game's brightest stars. The Rockies reportedly will ask the commissioner's office to review the incident and I think Jimenez should receive a loud and clear message through a suspension. Enough is enough and if Jimenez is really the man he claims to be, he'll move on and show some contrition.
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