Game 34: Hunter, Norris and many others on fracas
Torii Hunter has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best people in the game. It’s a rarity to see him react like he did Monday. The only time he came close as a Tiger might have been last year, when an opposing pitcher threw a ball up and in near his head, and even that didn’t compare.
Bud Norris’ pitch was a 93-94 mph fastball (depending on the stadium radar gun or the Gameday reading) at Hunter’s ribs. Not even the 10-minute “cooling off” period postgame could cool his emotions about it.
“The guy had control,” Hunter said. “I was actually thinking he’s got good stuff today, he’s pitching pretty well. And boy, he just all of a sudden lost it? I mean, get in front of a pitching machine — I want all the people out there to get in front of a pitching machine, put it on 94, just hold your ribs up and take one, see what how turns out for you.”
Norris denied the pitch was intentional.
“First of all, I respect him and the game he’s played for a long time,” he said of Hunter. “I respect everything he’s done, but at the same token, I’m trying to do my job playing the game.
“I threw a first pitch slider. He took a really aggressive hack at it. Tried to throw a four-seam slider in, and it kind of got in on me. Late in the game, 115 pitches, whatever it may be, I’m sorry he didn’t appreciate it, but at the same token, I’m trying to throw a ball over the plate and get an out, ground ball to third base or something.”
Here’s how crew chief Bob Davidson described it:
“Kinsler hits a two-run homer and then the next hitter gets drilled. I thought [plate umpire James] Hoye handled it properly. I think that’s what anybody would have done. It’s a fastball that drilled the guys in the ribs, and I think Hoye did the right thing [to eject him]. That’s pretty much what it was.”
At some point, the pain over the pitch turned into anger.
“You know what, sometimes it comes out in all of us,” Hunter said. “We have anger issues and we just have to try to control them. If I hit you in the ribs at 94 miles an hour, it stings and all you see is red, I can’t explain it to you. You just try to calm yourself down.
“You saw me walking around, just trying to calm myself down. It was painful, especially when you think that it was on purpose. If I didn’t think that was on purpose, if Kinsler didn’t hit a home run, I wouldn’t have argued right there. I’d just take the pain and walk to first.”
That, he clearly didn’t do.
“It’s just like a pickup basketball game. You know, two guys, they get a foul and we argue, we do what we do,” Hunter said. “That’s just sports. That’s baseball. It’s just adrenaline going. Once you calm yourself down, you think about the situation and it doesn’t make sense. I’ve got kids in college. I can’t be doing that.”
Said Norris: “He’s entitled to his opinion, but I think he did overreact a little bit. I didn’t like the first swing he took on my slider, so I didn’t think I was going to jump out to the other half of the plate again. I know I worked inside, on both sides of the plate with [catcher Steve] Clevenger all day and got some ground balls in. Tried to throw a four-seamer in. He didn’t like it, and I guess he did overreact if that’s the way he feels.”
And then Norris took it a step further, seemingly suggesting Hunter’s reaction drew the ejection:
“His reaction kind of stirred the umpire too, stirred up their bench too.”
Asked about that, Hunter said: “I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t know what happened. I mean, I wasn’t trying to get him ejected or anything. I was just talking to him. We had a nice talk.”
That talk might well have gotten Norris the final cause for ejection.
“I don’t know exactly when I decided when to throw him,” Hoye told a pool reporter. “When I did throw him, I guess that’s when I decided. I don’t know when, the sequence of events.”
Norris’ catcher, Steve Clevenger, said the ejection caught him by surprise. He also brought up another issue, when Ian Krol was missing inside on Nick Markakis in the seventh inning.
“We’ve been working in all game long,” Clevenger said. “Krol came in the last inning and buzzed Nicky a couple times and nothing was said, but when we worked in and got hit, he ejected him. I don’t agree with the call, but the call is the call.”
Then came the second blow-up, bringing Hunter to yell back and forth with Norris, who by then was on his way into the Orioles dugout.
“Before he got to the dugout, he looked back and said something,” Hunter said, “staring at me, saying something, I don’t know. But I’m too old for that, man. I mean, picking on the old guy? Come on. Really? I’ve probably got more hits than he does days in his life.”
Said Hoye: “I think Bud Norris was the instigator in that position again.”
He has been there before, including this season. Benches cleared at Fenway Park a few weeks ago after Norris hit David Ross with a pitch. Norris now has hit five batters this season. Just two Major League pitchers, Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton and Texas’ Robbie Ross, have more.
“I heard bad things about him,” Hunter said, “but I mean, you can’t go by what you hear. But after tonight, maybe so.”
Norris, understandably, does not appreciate the reputation.
“A lot of people have a lot of opinions but I’ll tell you right now, I’m going out there and trying to get outs,” he said. “David Ross apologized immediately after that one. I don’t know what’s going to happen here. Torii can take what he wants from it.”
Hunter did, however, downplay the reaction springing up about umpire Paul Nauert putting a hand to his face, a highlight that got a ton of play on Deadspin immediately afterwards.
“No, no, that’s my guy,” Hunter insisted. “He was trying to cover my mouth. That’s my buddy. I’ve known him too long. He said you’re way better than that, and he’s right. I’m sorry to fans. I apologize to the fans for my reaction. Sometimes you just have the passion and things like that happen.”