Unfair to Fault Youkilis for Standing Up for His Teammates

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Unfair to Fault Youkilis for Standing Up for His Teammates "There are two real culprits in this Tigers-Red Sox mess, when a brawl broke out in the bottom of the second," wrote ESPN.com's Keith Law on Tuesday.

"First is Kevin Youkilis, who showed once again that he can't keep his emotions in check by charging the mound without a moment of hesitation after he was hit by a pitch. Tigers starter Rick Porcello backed off and raised his hands as if to ask why Youkilis was rushing the mound. Those of us in the scouts' seats had the same reaction."

"Huh?" you're asking. Wait, it gets better.

"He had a win in his sights; was he really throwing at Youkilis," Law asks, "or was it another two-seamer that ran too far to his arm side? Youkilis had probably already decided he wanted some pretense for charging the mound (maybe to get Porcello out of the game?) and he should be suspended for acting like a fool.

"The second culprit was the umpiring crew."

OK, I can't disagree with him on his final point. Home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora should have issued a stern warning to both teams an inning before when Porcello threw way, way inside to Victor Martinez in the bottom of the first, presumably as payback for first-time Red Sox starter Junichi Tazawa pelting Miguel Cabrera a half-inning earlier.

But given that the umpires had clearly already let the horse out of the barn, let's get to Law's assessment of the event in question.

Youkilis "can't keep his emotions in check"? Now, I won't disagree with the fact that Youk — an All-Star for the second time in his career this season — gets a little hot under the collar every time he strikes out. That's his M.O. It's not completely out of character for people who are great at what they do to be hard on themselves. But, quick, name the last time he did anything inappropriate to another player. I didn't think you could.

Next, Law — and the rest of his Ivy League cronies in the luxurious scouts' seats — couldn't understand why Youkilis was rushing the mound? Really?

OK, I agree that Porcello did look incredulous and scared half to death, wondering why the angry-looking, barrel-chested Sox third baseman was headed his way. Maybe the pitch did get away from him.

But how can Law suggest that Youk had no just cause for charging the mound? Maybe because he had already gotten hit Monday night in retaliation? Maybe because he got hit again on Tuesday night, his 10th HBP of the season, after his teammate Victor Martinez had already been thrown at by Detroit's rookie right-hander? By his count, the score wasn't even and he wouldn't stand for it anymore.

"Youkilis wanted some pretense for charging the mound"? I would contend that Porcello gave him precisely that.

"It looked like there was intent there," Youkilis told reporters after the game. "Two days in a row and the way it was going, I had had enough of it. At some point you have to protect yourself as a hitter, and for your teammates. I just felt like I had to do what I had to do."

Can't blame a guy for that.

The most ridiculous of Law's claims? That Youkilis charged the mound to get Porcello out of the game. Wow.

Who goes up to the plate thinking, "This is the at-bat where I'm finally going to start a fight with the pitcher." That's one of the more absurd things I've seen a sports writer suggest in quite a while. (And I've read a lot of Woody Paige columns.)

How much sense would it make for an All-Star player in the midst of a team-wide slump at the plate to predetermine — in the second inning of a game, no less — that he would go after the pitcher, undoubtedly get thrown out himself and risk his own fine and suspension, simply to get a rookie pitcher thrown out of the game? I've heard more viable conspiracy theories from Mel Gibson.

"If I was an ultimate fighter, I think I would have had a plan [in charging the mound]," Youkilis said after the game. "But I didn?t plan for that to happen. I was going up there trying to have a good at-bat and get on base. I got on base, but it wasn?t the way I like it."

Interviewed on ESPN Radio's All Night with Jason Smith, Law suggested that Major League Baseball should come down hard and hand Youk a weeklong suspension.

Yes, he's likely to get a couple of games for charging the mound and inciting the brawl, a penalty that could be especially significant with two more games against the Tigers and a weekend series in Texas on the horizon.

But really? It's hard to pass judgment on Youkilis for standing up to the indifferent umpiring crew, standing up for his teammates and really just standing up for himself.

Seems like only a fool would criticize someone for that.

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