Believe him or not, Matt Barnes says he wasn’t trying to hit Manny Machado in the head on Sunday, just as Machado claims he didn’t intentionally take out Dustin Pedroia with a spikes-high slide two nights earlier. Those are their stories, and they’re sticking to them. And round and round we go.
But the only thing we know for certain about this silly affair between the Orioles and the Boston Red Sox came tumbling out of Pedroia’s mouth before he boarded the team bus to the airport on Sunday evening in Baltimore.
“It was definitely a mishandled situation,” he told reporters.
And here’s something else we know: Odds are, this isn’t over.
In case you missed it, this all began in the eighth inning on Friday night, when Machado slid high into Pedroia, jarring the Red Sox second baseman’s left ankle and surgically repaired left knee. Pedroia has missed the past two games, and because swelling is still present, he’s expected to undergo tests on Monday at Massachusetts General Hospital.
It was inevitable that the Red Sox would exact revenge for their de facto captain. But they didn’t hit Machado -- or even brush him back -- on Saturday night. And while a six-run lead in the eighth inning on Sunday made for good timing, Barnes’ 90 mph heat behind Machado’s head (the pitch wound up hitting the bat) was hardly the proportional response that jibes with baseball’s unspoken code.
The dugouts didn’t clear, but Barnes was ejected on the spot. And as reliever Joe Kelly warmed up, Pedroia whistled from the dugout to get Machado’s attention and told him how much he disapproved of his teammate’s actions in an exchange that was captured so perfectly by cameras from both New England Sports Network and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network that any amateur lip reader could follow the conversation.
Pedroia: “It’s not me. If that was me, we would’ve hit you the first day [after the slide].”
Machado pointed to his head, making clear that Barnes was out of bounds.
Pedroia: “I know. That’s bulls---. We should’ve hit you the first at-bat yesterday. I know that, and you know that. It’s not me. That’s him.”
Could there have been a stronger rebuke?
Pedroia laid it on even thicker after the game, telling reporters what he declined to say in the two previous days, namely that “there was zero intention of [Machado] trying to hurt me,” that he’s “not mad” at Machado and that he even loves the Orioles star third baseman. Pedroia said he hadn’t spoken to Barnes but knew the hard-throwing right-hander didn’t intend to hit Machado in the head -- which seems plausible, considering the barbarism associated with the alternative.
If Pedroia was attempting to make peace with the Orioles, it was wise. The teams play 14 more times this season, including a four-game series at Fenway Park that begins May 1. Pedroia knows there isn’t much time for cooler heads to prevail. He also knows they should.
Had Steven Wright hit Machado with his floating knuckleball on Saturday night, this whole thing would be over. Even if Barnes had only drilled Machado in the thigh, both sides could’ve moved on, with the Red Sox having gotten their pound of flesh.
But now, after Barnes went head-hunting, an Orioles pitcher might decide to target a Red Sox hitter next week. Machado isn’t advocating for that, but neither is Pedroia, who nevertheless admitted he would’ve expected to get hit if he had been the one who slid into Machado.
“That’s baseball,” Pedroia said. “I get drilled, and I go to first base. That’s it.”
If only it had been that simple on Sunday.