Despite the brawls, baseball is slowly showing signs of maturity

Tim Brown
MLB columnist

The game just might be maturing. A little.

Twice in six weeks, in the throes of grown men hurling hard objects at one another from 20 paces, franchise players said, in essence, Uh-uh, not me.

In late April, amid the Boston Red Sox-Manny Machado dust-ups, Dustin Pedroia tapped out. He’d been spiked by Machado. He’d limped from the field. He’d lost games for it. And when Matt Barnes sought revenge near Machado’s ear hole, Pedroia stood near the center of the squall and said, “It wasn’t me.” Basically, it was them, not him, and he would not stand on the side of dangerous, reckless overreaction.

And on Monday, Buster Posey watched slack-shouldered from behind the plate as Bryce Harper pointed his bat, shouted his warning, then galloped to the pitcher’s mound. Once there, Harper intended to extract his reprisal. Truth is, Hunter Strickland, Posey’s pitcher, gave as good as he got, which Posey could clearly see from a distance of those 20 paces.

He didn’t move. Not for a long time. When he did move, by then trailing the plate umpire and nearly everyone else, Posey arrived at the scrum at a saunter. He didn’t so much as raise his mask or jettison his mitt, then skipped away from the liquidy goings-ons, like a man with his briefcase retreating slightly when the bus doors opened. Like a man who’d been told, “I’m gonna smoke him. Let him come.”

Either way. Uh-uh. Not me.

Conscientious objectors, perhaps.

By any definition, Posey is a team leader for the San Francisco Giants, as is Pedroia for the Red Sox. Posey does not shout and hyperventilate like Hunter Pence does. He does not snort and brood as Madison Bumgarner does. He does, however, set a tone of preparation and production and decorum and professionalism.

By any definition, Buster Posey is a team leader for the San Francisco Giants. (Getty Images)

And while the tiny little world upon that pitcher’s mound raged, Buster Posey stood there as if to say, “All right, get it out of your systems and then we’ll get back to what we’re here for.”

One could argue Posey might’ve done more when the fight spread beyond Strickland and Harper, maybe grabbed a fistful of a jersey to help end it, maybe helped a fallen teammate to his feet, but then one goes tearing into a melee of a few dozen men and takes his own chances.

Posey, like Pedroia before him, had the right idea. Just because 10 or 20 or even 24 guys think the proper action is to start pounding the other 10 or 20 or 24, that doesn’t make it so.

Maybe you thought the brave ones were out there endangering their teeth and careers. And, hey, they’re welcome to have at it. Maybe you thought those are the real leaders.

Uh-uh.

***

Mike Trout is done for a while with a thumb injury, and so it would seem are the Los Angeles Angels, which isn’t a new bit of insight. If they are to weather the month-and-a-half or two without Trout, they’re going to have to do everything better than they did for the first two months, but let’s peek at the offense.

Take OPS, minimum 100 plate appearances, Trout’s teammates, and where they rank in the American League:

C – Martin Maldonado, seventh of 14.

1B – None qualified. Over 75 plate appearances, Jefry Marte is 15th of 16 and C.J. Cron is 16th.

2B – Danny Espinosa, 15th of 15.

3B – Yunel Escobar, seventh of 13.

SS – Andrelton Simmons, seventh of 15.

LF – Cameron Maybin, fourth of 13.

(CF – Trout, first of 13.)

RF – Kole Calhoun, 12th of 12.

DH – Albert Pujols, 11th of 12.

In the positions where you might expect some offense – on the infield and outfield corners and at designated-hitter – the Angels rank next to last, (last,), seventh, fourth, last and 11th in OPS.

Trout’s thumb surgery is scheduled for Wednesday. The Angels could be headed for the more trying recovery.

***
WHAT ELSE:

Jose De Leon, the 24-year-old right-hander traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers in January for Logan Forsythe, on Monday had his first win in his first appearance for the Tampa Bay Rays. In the right place at the right time, he allowed four hits, three walks and three runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Texas Rangers.

This should perk up the Boston Red Sox: Upon Monday’s return, David Price averaged nearly 95 mph with his fastball. He hasn’t had that kind of consistent velo in five years.

Koda Glover, the 6-foot-5 Oklahoman who was next up on the Washington Nationals’ closer carousel, hadn’t allowed a run in eight May appearances through Monday. In that span, he’d struck out nine and walked one in 7 2/3 innings and allowed a .185 batting average. He finished a game last week with a 96-mph slider. It doesn’t mean the Nationals’ ninth-inning issues are over. It does mean they appear covered for the moment.

Pitchers’ wins are pitchers’ wins and all, and yet Edinson Volquez won Monday for the first time since Aug. 25. He’d started 16 games between wins, seven for the Kansas City Royals and nine for the Miami Marlins. His ERA in those 16 games was just over 6.

Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella stood Tuesday night watching batting practice at Angel Stadium. He talked about this player and that, mused over the trading deadline that’s still two months out, and then seemed to get a bit wistful over the old ballpark. Turns out, when his father emigrated from Italy he settled in Southern California. One of his first jobs was working the parking lot at what was then called Anaheim Stadium. John, the son, years later became an intern for the Angels, left for the Yankees and eventually landed a job with the Braves.

***
INCOMING:

The Rangers are all over the place, the Houston Astros hardly ever lose, and June dawns with a chance for the Astros to force the Rangers into some early wild-card ponderings.

The Astros won three of four from the Rangers in Houston a month ago, which maybe doesn’t seem like much, except the Rangers had won 72 of the previous 100 games in the series, including 28 of 38 over the past two seasons. So, of all the humps the Astros have cleared since the tear-down, rebuild, relevance era, beating the Rangers occasionally is not insignificant.

They’ll play three this weekend in Arlington.

Probables:

Friday: Dallas Keuchel vs. Yu Darvish

Saturday: Lance McCullers vs. Andrew Cashner

Sunday: Brad Peacock vs. Martin Perez