Posted by Kevin Durso
“Now this is a mêlée.” Those were the words from Phillies’ radio voice Scott Franzke as the Phillies and Giants both emptied off their benches in Friday night’s brawl. There was no doubt that both the Phillies and Giants had their share of differences, particularly the war of words that had been bounced back and forth in the weeks between the two series played between the same two teams that met in the battle for the NL Pennant less than a year ago. Face it, folks, this is a full-fledged rivalry now.
The Phillies and Giants are no stranger to confrontation. It was last October when the first bench clearing in recent memory took shape. Chase Utley was hit by a pitch from Jonathan Sanchez. Utley flipped the ball back toward the mound. Sanchez took exception and starting shouting at Utley. Utley didn’t seem to want any part of it. That set off both teams, and a subtle confrontation broke out. No punches or pushing, but for Game 6 of the NLCS, something to pay attention to.
Friday, with the Phillies leading 8-2 in the sixth and threatening for more, Shane Victorino was hit by a Ramon Ramirez pitch. There was no question it was on purpose. Some related it to the Phillies’ lead, and Jimmy Rollins’ steal of second base, as if the Phillies were running up the score. The Phillies had scored four runs in the fourth inning, two on a two-out home run by John Mayberry Jr. They had scored three more in that sixth inning, all with two outs. It was hardly running up the score, but more just plain playing fundamental baseball. Still, next thing you know Victorino is being held back, gloves are off, Eli Whiteside has Placido Polanco in a headlock, and Carlos Ruiz and Victorino are two Phillies on the bottom of the pileup. Three ejections were the result of the brawl, as Victorino, Whiteside, and Ramirez all got tossed.
It’s hard to believe this thing will blow over without suspensions. Victorino made his way back into the pile after being held back by an umpire. Whiteside essentially started more of the shoving and brawl by looking for anyone in a gray Phillies jersey. Ramirez really started it all with the purpose pitch. Honestly, Victorino and Ramirez should share a similar length suspension, somewhere between three and five games. Whiteside should get a minimum five. Umpires and officials look to prevent these kinds of things. The fact that Whiteside didn’t look to protect his pitcher by keeping things cool show he was the true instigator. Victorino had every right to enter the pile, because, as his manager noted, "He hit Vic and then came off the mound at him. Vic almost has to go, unless he wants his teammates to call him chicken. That's the way baseball works. I've been playing for almost 50 years. He pretty much called him out." When asked if Rollins’ steal upset the Giants and sparked the purpose pitch, Manuel answered, "I think us hitting them upset them."
The Giants seemed to want to talk about them being in the Phillies’ heads. It certainly seems that with that kind of showing, as unsportsmanlike, bush-league, and gutless as it is, it shows the Phillies had turned the tide. They were in the Giants’ heads, and Ramon Ramirez had finally snapped when he knew he had one batter left. With nothing to lose by hitting him, Ramirez went for it.
This is now a rivalry, folks. There’s no way you can be a Phillies’ fan right now, and not hate what the Giants did Friday. There’s no way a Giants’ fan doesn’t hate the Phillies, and people like Victorino, who felt the need to keep the brawl going. That’s the nature of sports. And with so much talk being thrown around, it was easy to get caught up in it. Fans are usually expected to, that’s the way these things work, and that’s why people root for their team, their city, their state, whatever. But, when the players lose their heads over it, it shows just how vulnerable they are. The Phillies didn’t lose their heads. They responded to the Giants losing theirs. The Phillies’ response to all that was a hearty “if that’s the way you want to play, fine, we’ll play that game.” It’s another reason the Phillies are such a good ballclub this season.
The Giants are a good, talented team. But, teams that sink to the level that the Giants did on Friday seldom come out on top. Teams that can play with the best tricksters and deal with the mind games the Phillies had to will usually be the story. Want proof? Which team has the chance to sweep this afternoon? That’s the only case you need. Check the standings and check the scoreboard. The Giants have won one game since taking two of three from the Phillies. The Phillies have won nine in a row. The Giants are watching the NL West get away from them. The Phillies are running away with the NL East. Two teams on the opposite end of the spectrum.
It should be no coincidence that the Giants allowed all their frustration to boil over and get out of control with the Phillies in town. Whatever happens for the rest of the season and the playoffs, any game between these two teams will now have special meaning.