Baseball investigating actions of Prince Fielder outside Dodgers clubhouse
Prince Fielder became a 21st century baseball villain Wednesday.
He was booed when introduced for each of his five hitless at-bats in the Milwaukee Brewers’ 4-1 victory over the Dodgers. The fans at Dodger Stadium cheered whenever he missed a pitch. They snickered when the bulky All-Star made an awkward head-first slide stealing second base in the third inning.
He tried to charge into the Dodgers’ clubhouse the previous night to look for Guillermo Mota, who hit him in the thigh in retaliation for an earlier pitch by Milwaukee Brewers reliever Chris Smith that hit Manny Ramirez.
“I’m a little surprised and disappointed that this is taking all the attention,” Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said.
The disappointment was understandable. The surprise, not as much.
Videos of Fielder shouting obscenities and being restrained by teammates outside the Dodgers’ clubhouse were posted on the Internet and replayed over and over by ESPN. Something that would have taken place out of public sight decades ago was available for everyone to see.
That drew The Circus back to Dodger Stadium, only this time the questions about steroids, suspensions and dreadlocks were replaced by inquiries about protecting hitters.
Torre, who had admittedly grown tired of being asked about Ramirez’s alleged drug use in recent weeks, didn’t seem to appreciate the line of questioning.
“Do you want to talk about this, Scott?” he called out to traveling secretary Scott Akasaki, who was standing nearby when Torre met with reporters.
Torre and Milwaukee Manager Ken Macha wouldn’t say how they expected Mota and Fielder to be disciplined, if at all. League spokesman Pat Courtney said Bob Watson, baseball’s chief disciplinarian, was investigating the incident.
In the hours leading up to the game, Torre said the umpires hadn’t issued any warnings and sarcastically added, “I’ll send you a wire up in the press box.”
If he did, the message never got there. The wireless network in the press box was down for the most of the game.
Torre said after the game that the teams were never warned. Turns out it wasn’t necessary. The only player hit by a pitch was Brewers shortstop Craig Counsell -- and he was hit by a 71-mph curveball from Jason Schmidt with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.
Mota was light-hearted when recalling the incidents of Tuesday night.
As replays of Fielder’s failed attempt to enter the Dodgers’ clubhouse played on a television set in the locker room, he was asked by Jeff Weaver, “Where were you?”
“In the weight room waiting for him,” Mota said, eliciting laughter.
“Is it Mike Piazza II?” Mota asked, alluding to a 2003 incident in which the then-New York Mets catcher stormed the Dodgers’ spring training clubhouse looking for Mota after being hit by a pitch, only to find Mota had left the premises.
Mota said he didn’t try to hit Fielder but acknowledged that he was intentionally pitching inside as a response to the Brewers hitting Ramirez two innings earlier.
“I didn’t want to hit nobody, but I wanted to send a message that if you do that, we can do that,” he said.
Catcher Russell Martin said Tuesday night that the Dodgers didn’t want to find themselves in the kind of situation they were in last October in the National League Championship Series. In Game 2 of that series, Brett Myers of Philadelphia threw at Ramirez and Martin. Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley never responded. The Dodgers lost the game and the series.
But Torre and coach Larry Bowa dismissed the idea that Mota’s retaliatory pitch was some kind of sign that the Dodgers were a tougher team this season.
“Trying to connect the dots with a real long line,” Torre said.
Like Torre, Macha was trying to leave the matter in the past. But that didn’t prevent Macha from expressing his displeasure with the Dodgers for throwing at his star player in the ninth inning of a lopsided game.
“People pitch inside for two reasons,” Macha said. “Number one, to get the outside part of the plate [by backing off the hitter]. Number two, to injure someone. Our guy was trying to get the outside part of the plate. Their guy was trying to injure someone.”
Macha implied that Ramirez was a coward for not being in the Dodgers’ lineup Wednesday night. Ramirez pinch-hit with two on and two outs in the seventh inning and grounded out.
“No Manny?” Macha said. “Shock!”
Fielder didn’t answer many questions, calling over Brewers spokesman Mike Vassallo at one point to keep away reporters.
Did Fielder think he wasn’t subject to baseball’s unwritten rules? If he was so angry, why didn’t he charge the mound? What was he thinking when he walked to the entrance of the Dodgers’ clubhouse?
Fielder wouldn’t say.
The Dodgers had eight extra security guards in and around the clubhouse Wednesday.
William Gomez was the only one guarding the front door Tuesday night when Fielder showed up.
At first, Gomez said he figured Fielder was just another opposing player trying to use the adjacent weight room. But he realized something was amiss when he heard Fielder argue with teammate Ryan Braun and say Mota’s name.
Gomez, who has manned the Dodgers’ clubhouse door for seven years, said he sensed some hesitation in Fielder.
“It seemed like he wanted to get in, but he really didn’t want to get in,” Gomez said. “If he really wanted to get in, he would have pushed me out of the way.”
Times staff writers Kevin Baxter and Mario Aguirre contributed to this report.
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Not coolest customers
Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder and Dodgers reliever Guillermo Mota, the primary figures in Tuesday night’s ninth-inning altercation at Dodger Stadium, are no strangers to clashing with opponents. Here are some of the lowlights of both players’ careers:
Sept. 2008: During a rough series in Chicago, Fielder is photographed in the Brewers’ dugout flipping off Cubs players and their fans.
Aug. 2008: Teammates had to restrain Fielder in the Brewers’ dugout after he shoved Manny Parra twice and shouted at him after the pitcher was removed from a game with the Reds for a pinch-hitter.
Aug. 2007: Fielder is suspended for three games -- later reduced to two -- and fined an undisclosed amount for “inappropriate and aggressive conduct” during a confrontation with plate umpire Wally Bell in a 6-4 loss at Houston. The first baseman was ejected after arguing a called third strike and had to be restrained by bench coach Dale Sveum and Manager Ned Yost.
May 2007: The day after being hit by a pitch, Fielder homered twice then scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of a win over Pittsburgh, celebrating the final score with a lengthy fist-pumping celebration at home plate that ended only when plate umpire Tim Timmons stepped in. Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit called the display “bush league.”
March 2002: Mota, then with Montreal, plunks New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza in the seventh inning of a spring training game. When Mota is removed from the game an inning later, a screaming Piazza charged him from the Mets dugout and grabbed him by the jersey and throat before being separated by teammates.
March 2003: Mota throws at Piazza twice, narrowly missing him with the first pitch but nailing him in the shoulder blade with the second. An enraged Piazza charged the mound but never reached Mota, who backed off the mound after throwing his glove at the Mets catcher. Both players were ejected and given five-game suspensions, but that didn’t soothe Piazza, who charged into the Dodgers’ clubhouse looking for Mota, who had left.
Nov. 2006: Mota, then with the Mets, is suspended for the first 50 games of the 2007 season for failing a drug test.
-- Kevin Baxter