Twenty minutes ago, Jonathan Papelbon struck out Carl Crawford to seal a Red Sox victory over the Rays. By putting two runners on, Papelbon made it exciting, but he rebounded to strike out Carlos Peña, B.J. Upton and Crawford to end the game.
In celebration, the Red Sox closer pumped his first, not once, not twice, but three times. He’s just having fun, said former Mets GM Steve Phillips a minute or two later as the ESPN team wrapped up their broadcast.
Flashback to Friday night in Baltimore. With the Yanks up 4-0, the first two Orioles hitters in the bottom of the ninth reach base. CC Sabathia digs deep to end the game by striking out Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Melvin Mora, the meat of Baltimore’s lineup. The big man does a fist pump. It’s his second complete game in pinstripes and his first shutout of the season.
Today, though, the Yankees experienced a different twist on the fist pump. Joba Chamberlain, pitching through his now-routine first inning troubles, allows a three-run home run to the Orioles’ clean-up hitter Aubrey Huff. As Huff slowly circles the bases, he fist-pumps toward Joba and then does it again in front of the Orioles dugout.
That Huffian fist pump becomes the story of the game. When will Joba retaliate, wonders the YES Network announcers. Who will he hit, they ask. When Huff steps up to the plate a few innings later, nothing happens, and that trend continues through the game. Joba goes six innings, is involved in no incidents and walks away with a win.
As the game unfolds, reaction comes in from all other. Kimberly Jones chimes in during the game:
Last year, an Oriole who shall remain nameless said he would WALK around the bases if he hit a home run against Joba. Today in the Orioles clubhouse, a few players wanted to know why Joba pumped his fist Tuesday against the Red Sox when his team was losing. (As if we know.) And so, Aubrey Huff hits a home run and makes sure to pump his fist as he rounds first and as he crosses home. Hmmm.
After the game, Joba and Aubrey say all the right things. “I honestly didn’t see it,” the Yanks’ hurler said. “He did what he was supposed to do with the pitch. He hit a home run. If he wants to do a backflip, he can do a backflip. It doesn’t bother me.”
“He’s done it a couple of times to me when he’s struck me out,” Huff explained.”For me, it’s just in good fun. I always told the guys that if I get him, I’m going to give him a nice fist pump. For me, it wasn’t really showing anybody up. I was just trying to have some fun with it. He does it all the time and I figured you know what, why not?”
Huff defended his actions and made a good point in doing so. “He does that stuff all the time as a pitcher, so I was just having a little fun with him out there,” Huff said. “That’s just part of the game. You get excited in situations like that. I wasn’t showing anybody up. I was just having a good time. If you want to do that stuff, you got to expect the hitters to get you, too.”
Within baseball, the fist pump engenders a lot of discussion. Mostly, the players take it in stride. They recognize what adrenaline does and how different people cope with the rush of the game in different ways. Not everyone is as stoic as Mariano or as demonstrative as Joba, but those who show emotion in the macho world of sports can always expect it to get shoved down their throats when they fail.
Now, tonight, Yankee fans were dismayed to hear Peter Gammons preaching against Joba’s fist pump while praising the enthusiasm of the Red Sox. You know what though? It doesn’t matter. What Gammons says, what Steve Phillips says, what Bryan Hoch says in trying to maintain suspense for the next Huff-Chamberlain showdown — none of that matters.
When the dust settled today, Joba Chamberlain and the Yankees walked away with a win. That’s what counts, and if the Orioles want to demonstrate on the field, they’ll walk away knowing who won the game. You can bet your bottom dollar that Aubrey Huff would trade all the fist pumps in the world for that W, and this weekend, it belonged to the Yanks.