The Headhunter Gets Captured By The Game

Vicente Padilla still doesn’t get it. He didn’t get it as a starter; he doesn’t get it as a reliever. The problem is that one of his teammates is probably going to get it. Maybe in the back, maybe upside the head, certainly on Padilla’s dime, sooner or later. It’s happened before, to other teammates on other teams. It’ll happen again. And if it isn’t because of his propensity to hit batters, it might be because of his big mouth.

The designated hitter rule keeps Padilla from standing in at the plate, but if he should have to cover first base on a play don’t be surprised if the next Yankee to face him decides to plow him under the pad.

They call him the (head) hunter . . .

The Yankees and the Red Sox have enough history between them without Padilla continuing a feud with Mark Teixiera that goes back to their days on the Texas Rangers. Days during which Teixiera established himself as a productive and likeable player and Padilla established himself as a pitcher with little enough to offer above and beyond headhunting.

This installment began Friday night, when Teixiera had the pleasure of ripping a triple off Padilla in the seventh inning, driving home a go-ahead run. Talk about the headhunter being captured by the game: Once upon a time, the first two times Teixiera faced Padilla, he took Padilla over the fence. The third time, Teixiera got drilled.

Now, after the Yankees whipped the Red Sox to begin a two-out-of-three-ain’t-bad weekend against the Olde Towne Team heading into the All-Star break, Teixiera couldn’t resist gloating in the clubhouse when the game was over.

“He doesn’t have too many friends in the game. Guy throws at people. Fact of the matter, I’m not saying anything that’s news,” Teixiera said after Saturday’s game. “In the NFL, he’d probably be suspended by (commissioner) Roger Goodell eight games or a whole season. There’s only one guy in baseball. No one else does this. That’s the thing that is unbelievable to me.”

Padilla didn’t take that lying down. Not him. “In this sport, as competitive ball players, we get pretty fired up,” he told a Spanish-language interviewer. “So I think, maybe, [Teixeira] picked the wrong profession. I think he’d be better off playing a women’s sport.  I just think he’s scared to face me. I don’t throw at people to hit them on purpose. I throw inside, and I’ve always thrown inside. It’s not my problem if the ball hits someone. I’m worried about throwing strikes, and I’m going to keep playing my game.”

Let’s see. As of this writing, Mark Teixiera has faced Vicente Padilla eighteen times, lifetime. He’s walked three times, struck out twice, hit two bombs, has three hits total against Padilla—the third hit was that Friday night RBI triple—and driven in six runs. The numbers equal a .273 batting average, a .500 on-base percentage, and a 1.000 slugging percentage. Teixiera also has a league-wide reputation for playing even while injured.

And Teixiera’s afraid to face Padilla?

Teixiera tags Padilla Friday night . . .

Padilla forgets conveniently enough that what Teixiera feared most involving him was being drilled in retaliation for a Padilla plunk. It’s what practically every hitter in the Texas lineup during Padilla’s stay there feared the most, with or without Teixiera as a teammate.

In fact, the events that led directly to Padilla’s purge from the Rangers began after he drilled Teixiera twice in a game, in June 2009. The Yankees retaliated by sliding hard into shortstop Elvis Andrus on a play at second base and then damn near taking Nelson Cruz’s head off with a pitch. The Rangers put Padilla on waivers post haste as a warning, then counseled him that, with a hundred days left to go on his incumbent deal, if he wanted another major league deal anywhere, never mind in Texas, he needed to knock it off with the Show-wide perception of him as a headhunter. Padilla actually behaved himself for his next eight starts.

Then, in early August 2009, facing the Athletics, two batters after Scott Hairston took him over the fence, he drilled Kurt Suzuki—who just so happend to be 5-for-9 lifetime against Padilla at the time.  Two innings later, the A’s struck back, Chad Reinke drilling Michael Young.

Two days later, Padilla was designated for assignment. The Rangers had had it. Either Padilla went or some Ranger hitter was going to be killed. Making it worse, Teixiera says, was Padilla’s reaction when Young got drilled: “They showed him laughing on the bench. That was the last straw in Texas . . . Michael Young’s one of my best friends in baseball, so we obviously took exception every time that we get hit because of his actions. That’s putting our season and our team in jeopardy.”

Padilla, for his part, also tried painting Teixiera with the race brush after Saturday’s remarks, claiming the first baseman has problems with Latino ballplayers in general, a charge Teixiera all but laughs off, even challenging reporters to ask his Latin teammates about it. Then, Padilla noted this: “We used to be friends, but then there was this incident when I hit someone unintentionally and then he got hit and then he said he would retaliate and hit me with a bat.”

When Padilla first went to the Rangers and Teixiera became a teammate, Teixiera came to a point where he tried to get Padilla to cut back with the brushbacks and knockdowns. That didn’t exactly sit well with Padilla. He was going to continue pitching his game, by God, and if it meant his teammates were going to get hit in retaliation, oh well.

You can only hope Padilla hasn’t said anything like that to any Red Sox teammates edgy about eating dirt in retaliation for a Padilla duster. The Red Sox have enough problems without a reckless relief pitcher getting one or more of their hitters decapitated.

If there was a laugh to be had over it all, it probably came from Teixiera about the “women’s sport” crack. He doesn’t think he should be playing a women’s sport. “I guess women’s boxing is pretty tough,” he told the Boston Globe. “I don’t know if I could handle that.”

2 responses to this post.

  1. It is easy for Padilla to say Teixeira should be playing a women’s sport, when he has nailed 116 batters in his career, while being hit only 3 times during his career. It is easy to throw at batters in the AL, since he knows the other team can’t retaliate since he doesn’t bat. Surprising stat about Padilla is that he has hit only one batter in 526 pitches this season at the All-Star break. He still ranks up there as one of my most disliked players, since he is hiding behind the DH rule, while subjecting his own players to being hit in retaliation.


    • Andrew—I still haven’t forgotten the brawl he triggered with the Los Angeles Angels when he plunked several Angels, including and especially Vladimir Guerrero, in 2007. If I remember it right, Padilla’s Ranger teammates didn’t look like they were in that big of a hurry to stand by their man. Padilla may not be the worst headhunter who ever took the mound, in history or among his contemporaries, but he’s at least the least shameless about it. He can be a good pitcher but he seems so much more interested in establishing his (actual or alleged) manhood than in working a strike zone that he’s hittable in his own right—the hitters have a lifetime .268 average against him through this writing.


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