Dustin Pedroia has some explaining to do.
Maybe he can clarify everything. Maybe he called Matt Barnes on Monday to explain what he meant when he told Manny Machado on the field for all the cameras to capture, “It’s not me, it’s them.”
But the most prominent voice in the Red Sox clubhouse in a post-David Ortiz world definitely has some explaining to do.
Let’s remember Pedroia’s words in 2012 during a radio interview with WEEI.
The second baseman revisited famous comments he made about Bobby Valentine that season, when Pedroia spoke up in defense of Kevin Youkilis after Valentine was critical of Youk.
“I’m proud to a point where, you know, to be a team leader, you need to have your teammates’ backs under any circumstances,” Pedroia said. “I felt like Youkilis was kind of thrown in a corner by himself. When the top dog comes down on you that hard, you know, I felt like Youk needed someone to be there for him to have his back.
“I would rather have people calling [into radio stations] saying however they feel [about me] than for me to walk into work and have to look at Kevin Youkilis and have him say, ‘Hey, man. He didn’t have my back when I needed him the most.’ To an extent, I’m proud that I said that because Youk knows now that under any circumstances I’ll have his back. That goes for all my teammates. I love them.”
Under any circumstances, Dustin? All of your teammates?
Zach Britton questioned Pedroia’s leadership for the stupidest of reasons. Apparently, per Britton, Pedroia was supposed to prevent Barnes from throwing a pitch too close to Manny Machado’s head.
That was a silly shot for Britton to take.
But there is an actual, legitimate leadership question facing Pedroia — which is bizarre, considering he tried to defuse a bad situation, and that he’s the only player injured through all this.
Moments after Barnes nearly hit Machado in the head, Pedroia told Machado, “It’s not me, it’s them.”
Machado spiked Pedroia on Friday. The Red Sox tried to throw at Machado on Sunday in a failed attempt at a tit-for-tat exchange.
But Pedroia distanced himself from teammates at that point. Importantly, per Pedroia's own words, he did not do so only because the pitch to Machado was dangerous.
Pedroia said if it were him, he would have thrown at Machado sooner after the initial incident, which was Friday.
The idea that retaliation has to come immediately is strange. Maybe some prefer it that way, but that’s not some sort of widely known baseball-ism.
It’s one thing to admonish Barnes for throwing high and tight. It’s another to suggest Barnes never should have committed the act in the first place because of timing.
Barnes was trying to do one thing: protect Pedroia. He failed. Did Pedroia fail at protecting Barnes?
No one in their right mind would suggest Barnes acted properly by throwing near Machado’s head. Likely, what Barnes meant to do was what most of the baseball world expected: continue a tradition of retaliation via plunking, not a beaning.
Should baseball outlaw retaliatory pitches? Without question, player safety would be improved if punishments were harsher — incredibly harsh — for throwing at hitters.
But it’s a separate debate.
Baseball operates this way right now. Do not pretend Pedroia was attempting to be some sort of catalyst of change for the betterment of the game and player safety.
He said after Sunday’s game that if he had spiked Machado, he would expect the Orioles to plunk him.
“If I slid into third base and got Manny's knee, I know I'm going to get drilled,” Pedroia said Sunday. “That's baseball. I get drilled, and I go to first base. That's it.”
Barnes attempted that and failed. Pedroia embarrassed Barnes for that for reasons beyond the obvious sin: the pitch’s location.
“It’s not me, it’s them,” Pedroia said.
At the very best, Pedroia may have calmed the beef.
If he doesn’t apologize; if he doesn’t speak up during the game, doesn’t say he loves Manny Machado; it’d be a given that this fiasco carries over when these teams meet again next week.
It’d be automatic that someone else on the Red Sox gets hit.
Now, it’s harder for the Orioles to justify another volley, another retaliatory measure.
Machado was not hit with a pitch. Pedroia was the only one hurt. He and Barnes apologized. The Sox screwed up, and very publicly tried to own it.
The one thing Britton got right in an interview with BaltimoreBaseball.com was his attitude toward what happens now.
“I think we’ve talked about it already, as a team, and we’ll see how (the Red Sox) choose to act,” Britton said of what comes next. “Whether or not they choose to act professionally or unprofessionally when we get to Boston.”
The Sox would be insane to further this thing. The Orioles would be smart not to.
Pedroia might have saved a ball from finding one of his teammates’ ribs. That may be worth a teammate’s temporary unhappiness.
But Pedroia might regret his choice of words, and how he went about it in the heat of the moment.
“I love Manny Machado,” Pedroia told reporters Sunday. “I love playing against him. I love watching him.”
Does Matt Barnes know right now that he’s loved too?