Benches Clear in Atlanta: Overview and My Take



I have always loved a good bench clearing in baseball.  It gets the players, coaches, fans, and fans watching at home fired up.  It suddenly makes the game even more interesting because you watch for any type of possible retaliation.  Last night in Atlanta, the benches cleared between the Braves and the Pirates.  It wasn’t the most exciting bench clearing as no punches were thrown and everything quickly dissipated, but it did result in three ejections.

It was just the first inning when all the action occurred.  Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove threw one high and tight on Braves’ Josh Donaldson that caught his jersey enough to give him a free pass to first base.  It was then that things escalated out of nowhere.  Words were exchanged and Musgrove and Donaldson started advancing towards one another and were held back by other players.

Donaldson, who is a known hothead, seemed to instigate the incident, which would surprise nobody.  As he was slowly taking his base, he looked at Musgrove, yelling “What are you looking at?”  Musgrove took exception to the words, began walking towards Donaldson, and as he got close he threw his glove and hat on the ground ready to fight.  Pirates’ first baseman Josh Bell held back Musgrove, while catcher Elias Diaz held back Donaldson.  Musgrove would get ejected for throwing his hat and glove on the ground, insinuating he was preparing to fight, and Donaldson was ejected for shoving Diaz, who was holding him back, out of the way trying to get to Musgrove.

Umpire Brian Gorman later said that he felt Donaldson was the instigator and Musgrove went too far in throwing his glove and hat on the ground, looking to fight.  He felt that both players were aggressors in the incident, therefore justifying both of their ejections.  Pirates manager Clint Hurdle also got tossed in arguing against his starting pitcher getting ejected when he claimed it was Donaldson who instigated the whole thing.

After the game Josh Donaldson was asked about it and said, “I wasn’t really upset about the pitch, it barely clipped me.  But most of the time when somebody hits you…I felt like he came down the mound.  I looked away to try to give him a chance to look away from me.  He kept coming down the mound and looking at me.  Obviously he had a problem with me.”

Musgrove told reporters, “I did nothing more than stand my ground.  I hit him with a pitch and  he stared at me trying to intimidate me.  I’m not going to let that happen.  I looked back at him.  He had a few words to say.  He crossed the line and came at me.  I took my hat and glove off and got ready to fight.  I don’t know what else I could have done in that situation.”

The whole thing was odd because it came out of nowhere.  There is no prior history between the two players or the teams.  To me (and as a Braves fan), Donaldson is someone who seems to always be looking for controversy.  He enjoys it and thrives off it, and always has.  I think that’s what happened last night.  Everyone could tell the pitch wasn’t intentional, but as soon as it clipped his jersey, he paused long enough to give a stare at Musgrove, taking objection to the pitch.

There’s no doubt Musgrove didn’t like the initial stare from Donaldson, as any pitcher wouldn’t.  It was just a fastball that got away from him.  But when Donaldson takes a few steps down the line and looks back at Musgrove and he is still looking at him, Donaldson felt he had enough reason to start walking towards him instead of first base.  Musgrove didn’t have to look at Donaldson for as long as he did, but it’s crazy to think that it only takes a look from another player to get Donaldson riled up.

Overall, it wasn’t much, as the whole thing cleared up quickly.  It really benefitted the Braves, getting a solid starter in Musgrove tossed in the first inning, while only losing Donaldson who has been struggling anyway.  I don’t think enough happened last night to where we will see any payback or anything, but it will make Thursday’s game between the two teams a little more interesting with Musgrove back on the mound.