The Birds Nest

Orioles Play Heated Series in Boston

Fenway fans make racist remarks to Adam Jones while Manny Machado nearly gets plunked.

What a strange, intense inferno of a week it’s been for the Orioles.

This, all in the last two nights in Boston: Adam Jones said racist fans repeatedly heckled him in the outfield on Monday, at least one tossed a bag of peanuts at him, and stadium officials eventually escorted that guy out of Fenway Park; many more (non-racist-name-calling) Red Sox fans gave Jones a standing ovation on Tuesday before his first at-bat in a sign of support; but the good feelings ended just one batter later, when Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale threw yet another ball of rubber, twisted-yarn and cowhide at nearly 100 miles per hour in the direction of Manny Machado’s head.

It’s often easy to lose track of who holds the moral high ground in the weird, childish, and occasionally embarrassing tit-for-tat world of unwritten baseball rules. Maybe the latest Missile at Manny, the fifth (!) by a Red Sox pitcher this year, was in retaliation from Monday, when Dylan Bundy hit one of their guys or because Manny took some extra time rounding the bases after a cathartic home run.

However, the fan tossing food and the racist words at Fenway is more cut and dry. Even the Red Sox owners requested to meet with Jones on Tuesday morning to apologize and address the situation, and Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker tweeted:

What’s more, Jones said to media on Monday night, the incident is bringing to light a very dark underbelly of baseball fandom and he thinks it’s important to speak on it rather than stay silent. He said it wasn’t the first time he’s heard the n-word on the road in Boston, and a few black Major League Baseball players have said the same the last two days.

“It’s frustrating for me,” he told reporters. “I am a grown man with a family to raise and I am not going to let somebody just sit there and berate me. Let’s be honest with ourselves—this isn’t the only place that’s like that. It’s all about having a conversation and, once you have the dialogue, that means you can work toward something.”

But the latest on-field events last night, even if linked indirectly by the sole discretion of one pitcher, did nothing but keep open the unresolved, simmering tension between the two teams that started more than a week ago, when a Machado slide into little-guy second baseman Dustin Pedroia was perceived as a “dirty” play.

Manny insists that high-leg wasn’t intentional, and he’s obviously seen and heard enough about all the shenanigans. Machado unleashed another towering homer last night, against Sale, and after Boston’s 5-2 win last night (oh, yes, the scoreboard; remember that’s why they play? And the O’s are still tied with the Yankees for first place in the A.L. East), he lost it, as players sometimes do in post-game interviews with media after wild, temper-raising affairs.

“I’ve lost mad respect for that organization, for that coaching staff, for everyone over there,” Machado said amid a profanity-laced tirade that will probably endear the Gold Glover even more to dedicated O’s fans.

Here’s the NSFW without headphones version (unless your office-mates are cool), and here’s a cleaned up version with MASN’s Gary Thorne after the game, who sounds like he wishes he could have asked more.

In more than one way, the O’s take on the personality of their bench leader, Buck Showalter. The manager has never been one to steer completely clear of controversy and not speak his mind. Close observers will remember him digging at the Yankees and Red Sox in Men’s Journal article shortly upon arrival in Baltimore.

One of Machado’s salient points in his rant is, if he charges the mound, he’ll get suspended “for a year,” he said—not really, but a long time, like the five games he got in 2014 for throwing a bat—while a pitcher who intentionally throws at a hitter maybe gets a game or two.

And to think, the Orioles still have two more games to play in Boston this week.