Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez has some punkish tendencies.
That much isn’t up for debate.
In baseball circles, standing and admiring a ball that you belted deep to center — after flipping your bat — and then having to run like heck for a triple when the ball doesn’t traverse over the wall qualifies as a bit punkish.
Such was Gomez’s precise behavior in the third inning on Sunday against the Pirates, a display that caused starter Gerrit Cole to involve himself in a shouting match with Gomez.
Eventually it led to Gomez getting hot at Cole, which led to the benches and bullpens clearing, which led to punches and will most likely lead to suspensions.
Here’s a thought: Maybe no one was right here.
Yes, Gomez broke some unwritten rule of baseball (that some might think is archaic) by showboating, but couldn’t Cole have gone about getting his pound of flesh in a much more effective manner? I think so.
First, let Cole tell a tad of the story, starting with after Gomez dived headfirst into third base with the aforementioned triple …
“I said what I said,” Cole recalled of the incident in a postgame interview. “He stood up and yelled back at me. I took a step forward and I just repeated what I said the first time. And then guys got in between us and I kind of just left it at that. I wasn’t looking to create the kind of mess that he created.”
The kind of mess that Cole created was his teammates having to take up for him — and one having to absorb a sucker punch. Travis Snider was on the wrong end of a chump shot by a member of the Brewers, forcing his eye to get busted. Snider, who along with Charlie Morton and Russell Martin were the first Pirates off the bench, were just going by protocol in baseball’s code. That is to say, they saw their teammate in a dustup, and standard operating procedure is that everyone has to come out of the dugouts and bullpens to get it sorted out.
So often these things rise to — maybe — some shouting and shoving.
This one escalated above that.
Cole said that he never swore at Gomez, but simply chided him for admiring a batted ball that wasn’t a home run. In a way, to those married to the old-school code of baseball, Cole comes off as a grand keeper of all things right with the game for that action. He presents himself as a player who is standing up for the dignity and grandeur of our majestic pastime.
That’s all well and good. And, to some, probably very commendable as, again, Gomez has a history of punkish tendencies.
But follow something here …
The Pirates play the Brewers 12 more times this season.
There’s a very good chance Gomez will get an at-bat in one of those games. There’s also a very good chance that Cole pitches in at least one of those games.
See what I’m getting at here?
See where I’m going with all of this?
It will be fashionable here in Pittsburgh to blame Sunday’s incident wholly and exclusively on Gomez, as he plays with flash that borders on brash and, undeniably, can exhibit some punkish behavior over the line of acceptability in baseball.
Such a notion is too easy, however.
If even just a little, Cole must wear some blame in all of this. The young fireballing righthander for the Pirates could have gotten even down the line somewhere.
If Gomez’s grandstanding bothered him so much, Cole should have filed it away and squared things up the old fashioned way — with some 98mph heat smack-dab into Gomez’s thigh or backside.
If Gomez wanted to fight someone then, so be it.
But on Sunday, the mess Gomez unquestionably started by being a knucklehead was only exacerbated by Cole’s shouting.
Perhaps next time Gerrit Cole will understand you counter an action with an action — even if it’s months down the road.
That’s the best way to settle scores in baseball. Words just muddy everything up.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.