Dan Schlossberg's Holiday Report: There's No Place For Hotheads In Our Game • Latino Sports


Dan Schlossberg’s Holiday Report: There’s No Place For Hotheads In Our Game


NEW YORK – Displays of temper often make bad situations worse.

That’s especially true in baseball, where arguments, inflammatory words, and provocative gestures can spark injury-inducing brawls.

Just last week, veteran catcher Miguel Olivo got so upset at Alexander Guerrero, his own teammate, that he bit off a large chunk of the infielder’s ear. Never mind that the Cuban second baseman is the top prospect in the Dodgers’ farm system. Position players are paid to put the bite on opposing pitchers, not on parts of the body.

Olivo, a 15-year veteran, was unceremoniously released while Guerrero was sent to the surgeon for the first of many grafting operations.

Temper has tempered Chris Johnson's numbers this season

Temper has tempered Chris Johnson’s numbers this season

In Atlanta a few days later, the Braves pulled starting third baseman Chris Johnson out of a game early after he went berserk following a strikeout. Johnson, whose .321 average ranked second in the National League last year, has let his temper run wild before — even causing a confrontation with mild-mannered first base coach Terry Pendleton.

The Braves, who gave Johnson a four-year contract extension just last month, have to be concerned: Johnson’s average and power have plummeted in direct proportion to his temperamental outbursts. He has only one home run — pathetic for a corner infielder — this season.

Carlos Gomez, All-Star centerfielder of the Milwaukee Brewers, is another whose temper interferes with his ability. He had a notable nose-to-nose last year with Brian McCann, then Atlanta’s catcher, after admiring his own home run.

Another young NL outfielder of promise, Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers, also needs to modify his behavior. And we’re not just talking about flipping bats. Don Mattingly, Puig’s mild-mannered manager, is on the case.

Yasiel Puig's personality places a world of potential in jeopardy

Yasiel Puig’s personality places a world of potential in jeopardy

Pitching inside is part of the game but charging the mound shouldn’t be. Yet pitchers who routinely brush batters back can expect occasional confrontations.

Although ex-Met Pedro Martinez has a good chance to reach the Hall of Fame next year, more fans remember his fight with Don Zimmer than his three Cy Youngs. Although it was just one of many brawls between the Yankees and Red Sox, the matchup was one-sided, with the svelte pitcher pummeling a man not only twice his age but twice his girth.

Keeping cool is an attribute both on and off the field. Cal Ripken, Jr. was ejected only three times in 21 years and Al Clark says the last and final heave-ho, which the now-retired umpire imposed, might have been a deliberate ruse to rest on a hot Sunday afternoon to be followed by a long plane flight.

Like E.F. Hutton, when Cal Ripken talked, people listened.

On the other hand, few appreciated the antics of Albert Belle, George Bell, Carlos Zambrano, and other players who let their tempers short-circuit their talent.

Elsewhere around the majors:

Nolan Arenado, the probable starting third baseman for the 2014 National League All-Star team, ruined his season (and probably Colorado’s) with a head-first slide that fractured his finger . . .

Tommy John has more wins (288) than anybody not in the Hall of Fame but he and fellow lefty Jim Kaat (283) look like long-shots to reach the Cooperstown gallery . . .

Robinson Cano inspired the ire of Yankee Stadium fans

Robinson Cano inspired the ire of Yankee Stadium fans

Not surprisingly, star second baseman Robinson Cano was the target of vociferous boo-birds when he returned to the Bronx for the first time after jumping to the Seattle Mariners as a free agent . . .

The Chicago White Sox sorely miss injured rookie first baseman Jose Abreu, a Cuban refugee who was the American League’s leading slugger when sidelined by injury . . .

Texas manager Ron Washington must be a magician to get anything out of a team that lost Nelson Cruz to free agency and more than a dozen others, including most of the starting rotation, to the disabled list . . .

Not only did the Boston Red Sox lose nine straight but capped the streak by blowing a 5-0 first-inning lead in Tampa and losing 6-5 in 15 . . .

Don’t look now but the streaking Toronto Blue Jays, least in the AL East last year, took over the top spot for the first time since July 6, 2000. Three players acquired last year have been instrumental in the rise of the Jays: sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the best 1-2 punch in any lineup, and veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, the ex-Met.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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