Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rays needed to wait on revenge against Crisp

The Rays and Red Sox brawl to ignite the tensions that originated during Wednesday’s game when Coco Crisp slid hard into second baseman Akinori Iwamura.

Associated Press

The Rays and Red Sox brawl to ignite the tensions that originated during Wednesday’s game when Coco Crisp slid hard into second baseman Akinori Iwamura.

BOSTON — Perhaps the Rays made their point. On the other hand, they also lost their game.

Pardon me for asking, but isn't that supposed to be the important part?

Yep, the Rays showed those infernal Red Sox that they weren't going to take any guff. On the other hand, they also gave away their best shot at retaking first place.

Forgive me for wondering, but isn't that the thing that is supposed to matter?

That's why Thursday night's fight seemed like such a losing proposition for the Rays. Somehow, they forgot what they were supposed to be fighting for, and before you knew it, they were once again on their way to being knocked out in Fenway.

Look, I have nothing against baseball brawls in general. They happen. Orchestrated properly, they can be an absolutely entertaining way to watch players compare their flexed biceps. Also, it is hard to criticize the Rays players for being so eager to stick up for one another. And, yes, it is true that the increasingly annoying Coco Crisp makes a perfectly lovely target while at bat.

Still, this was not the time.

Furthermore, this was not the place.

This game was about first place, remember? This was about the Rays trying to salvage a game in the torture chamber called Fenway Park. This was about Tampa Bay pitcher James Shields proving that he could help stop his team from sliding further away from the momentum it had built for the first two months of the season.

Ask yourself: Was leaving a bruise on Crisp's leg more important than all of that?

Oh, somewhere down the line, the Rays were going to go after Crisp. For 100 years, baseball has been played that way, and everyone, including Crisp, knows it. After the way Crisp had taken out Tampa Bay second baseman Aki Iwamura the night before, everyone who has ever gripped a bat knew that, eventually, the Rays would take a shot at getting even. Maybe two.

But in the second inning of a game this size? How smart is that? Why not wait until the eighth inning of a game that has already been decided? Why not wait until the next time the teams played? What not drive Coco cuckoo from the waiting for revenge to be served cold?

Instead, Shields plunked Crisp right away, and Crisp charged the mound, and suddenly, YouTube had itself a brand new fight scene.

And just like that, the Rays' chances of winning were done.

"I'm all about protecting my players," Shields said. "What he did yesterday was absolutely a dirty play and bush league. If I've got to get out in the second inning, I've got to get out."

And the idea of biding one's time until a later moment?

"I thought I should set the precedence right away," Shields said.

When the brawl was over, the umpires ejected Crisp, Shields and Jonny Gomes. Ask yourself this: In what world would you ever trade Shields and Gomes for Coco Crisp?

Put it this way: Getting those two out of the lineup is the most damage that Crisp could possibly do to the Rays. In hindsight, that might be the worst realization of all: The Rays were rope-a-doped by Coco Crisp.

It could have been worse. Did you see the roundhouse right Shields threw at Crisp. Yeah, Crisp was indeed lucky that Shields missed. Given the fragile state of pitchers' hands, however, Shields is also lucky that Shields missed. A broken hand certainly wouldn't have done his teammates any good.

It was an ugly fight, even by brawl standards. Shields was body slammed by Boston coach DeMarlo Hale. Crisp accused Carl Crawford of pulling his hair. Gomes had a Shelly Duncan flashback.

The worst of it is yet to come. Soon, the suspensions will come down from the commissioner's office. This fight didn't just hurt the Rays on Thursday; it will hurt them for games to come.

For the record, none of the Rays had a problem with Shields throwing at Crisp at the earliest opportunity. The general opinion seemed to be that quick retaliation was the best of all possible kinds.

"It's one of those things that baseball players do," manager Joe Maddon said. "When you think one of your guys has been unfairly, wrongly attacked, the natural tendency is to protect one of your own."

Again, Shields' heart was in the right place. After all, one of the reasons this team is so much better than past Rays teams is the chemistry in the clubhouse. Who knows? If the Rays believe this will deepen their bond, perhaps it will.

However, the Rays have done a pretty fair job of feuding with the Red Sox for most of their existence, and it hasn't done them a lot of good in the past. We have seen Gerald Williams vs. Pedro Martinez and Ryan Rupe vs. Trot Nixon and Scott Kazmir vs. Manny Ramirez and Lou Piniella vs. Curt Schilling. We have seen hit batters and cleared benches and puffed-out chests. And it has never really altered the standings.

A pitcher the quality of Shields, however, makes all the difference in the world. The longer he is on the mound, the better his team's chances are of winning.

Excuse me for saying so, but on Thursday night, that should have been the point.

Rays needed to wait on revenge against Crisp 06/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 9, 2008 9:44am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Muslim faith greater than fear for Wharton's Rania Samhouri (w/video)


    TAMPA — Rania Samhouri graduated Monday night from Wharton High School, and many times throughout the ceremony she flashed back to a moment that changed her life.

     Rania Samhouri stretches after track practice on Monday April 24, 2017 at Wharton High School in Tampa, Florida. Rania, who is Muslim, recently started wearing her hijab during track competitions. She graduates from Wharton this year and will attend University of South Florida on scholarship next year.
  2. Bucs' Doug Martin relying on strength from drug rehab to power his return


    TAMPA — He would not talk about the drug he abused. He would not identify the rehab facility he entered in January or how long he was there.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  3. NCAA: Former USF basketball assistant gave improper benefits


    TAMPA — Former USF men's basketball assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided impermissible benefits, including lodging at his home, for two prospective student-athletes while they received on-campus tutoring, according to findings reported to the school by the NCAA.

  4. Back to .500, Rays feel ready to roll (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Who wants to be mediocre? Middling? Average? Run-of-the-mill?

    Rays catcher Jesus Sucre tags out the Angels’ Mike Trout trying to score from second base after a perfect peg from rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. in the first inning.
  5. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. preserves shutout with perfect throw

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The closest the Angels came to scoring off RHP Matt Andriese in Thursday's 4-0 Rays victory occurred in the first inning, when DH Mike Trout tried to score from second on a single to right. But the throw from RF Steven Souza Jr. was on the money, and Trout was out.

    "That …

    Colby Rasmus collects high fives and shoulder rubs after driving in all four of the Rays’ runs in their victory Thursday. Rasmus had two run-scoring hits a day after hitting a home run.