Punching, ducking, weaving
by Matt Worley
On Tuesday night, Pedro Martinez, arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball, hit the first batter of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with his fourth pitch of the game. After the ensuing melee, Pedro retired 24 straight batters, almost pitching a no-hitter until giving up one hit in the ninth.
The scene in the first inning was pure sandlot. After getting hit in his arm and turning toward first, Tampa Bay's Gerald Williams rubbed his sore arm and looked at Martinez. Something in Pedro's look made Williams suddenly turn and run at Martinez on the mound. One push (not really a punch, his hand was open) was all he got before being caught from behind by Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. Williams' legs were taken out by third baseman Lou Merloni soon after--and then came the key hit of the fight--with the Red Sox's Brian Daubach flying in from first and giving Williams a huge hit in his side. Daubach hit Williams so hard, he hurt his own shoulder.
For the rest of the night, Daubach had a huge target on his head, and Tampa Bay, who has been out of the playoff race pretty much since the start of the season, decided to let a bit of frustration out on a team in the playoff hunt. In the end, eight Devil Rays (including the manager and two coaches) were thrown out of the game.
I believe that Martinez wasn't trying to take out Williams, he was just a little wild at the start of the game. The fact that he pitched a perfect game--with the exception of the hit batter and one hit in the ninth--exonerates Pedro for me. When one of the best pitchers in the game is mad at you, he doesn't have to resort to plunking hitters in the head--he just mesmerizes you with the artful voodoo pitching he does so well.
I'm not really a Red Sox fan or anything, but I do appreciate talent. And the fact that Martinez didn't have to hit anyone else to make his point is amazing to me. Because the rules of baseball (and many of these are not written down anywhere specific) are really on the side of Tampa Bay. Retaliation is the name of the game. It's not just about the one hit batsman, it's about taking out people in the pile. It's not just about who gets thrown out, but also the players who stay in and have to yell and grimace and insult the other team for the rest of the game. It's easier to get thrown out and go to the showers than it is to stay in and duck out of the way of the high fastball.
Earlier this week, around the time Martinez and Williams were just getting into it, the case of Wen Ho Lee took an interesting turn. As most of you know, Lee has been locked up for quite a while this year for mishandling secret government information. The prosecutors (on behalf of the U.S. government) have argued that Lee is a risk for flight and, if out of jail, would put the interests of our country at great risk. They really like using the word "risk."
Lee is not charged with spying. He's charged with mishandling secret nuclear weapon information. Essentially, he moved some stuff from one computer (let's call it X) to another less secure computer (we'll call that one Y). The difference between X and Y is merely the sign on top of the monitor that says "This stuff is a secret, please use discretion with its handling."
I use computers for a living and the difference between one computer and another is just an icon on my desktop. If I move one file from Yoda (I'm using code names here) to Darth Vader, then I have committed the same crime as Wen Ho Lee--except it's top secret advertising information and the government doesn't care.
In other words, I think the government's case against Lee is a crock. The judge in this case has started to think the same thing and granted Lee bail last week, making Friday the great homecoming day for the jailed Lee. Of course, the prosecutors had a few high fastballs to lob at Lee's head. Unfortunately, the judge couldn't send the prosecutors to the showers. In an 11th hour attempt to keep Lee behind bars, the prosecutors submitted an appeal and a motion to change venue. Keeping Lee behind bars merely because decisions on these moves must be made before bail can be officially granted.
I must highlight another fact the defense pointed out this week: Most government workers caught spying or mishandling information are not thrown in jail or prosecuted for their treachery. They are debriefed, sent to the showers and asked to look for another job. But Lee is of Chinese/Taiwanese decent, so he's put in jail. Much like the thousands of Far Eastern decent during WWII. We didn't throw German descendants into prison camps (I'd probably have heard about it, because I'm a quarter German), just those of Japanese decent.
I think the government needs to be suspended for a couple of games, Lee needs to go free and Martinez should get the Cy Young award for Tuesday night's performance alone (sorry David Wells). Of course, not many hear my shouts and insults from the cheap seats.