Martin Maldonado, the Milwaukee Brewers’ backup catcher, came into this weekend’s series in Pittsburgh with 151 games of big league experience spread across four seasons. Even so, the 27-year-old Puerto Rican remained one of the hundreds of relatively anonymous players helping comprise the back-end of 25-man rosters across the Majors. Fast forward to Monday and Maldonado might have positioned himself as the most fearsome player in the game, in a sense.
Friday night Maldonado began his reign of terror knocking the cover off a baseball on a grounder to Pirates’ third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Everyone involved had a laugh about it. Milwaukee’s longtime radio voice Bob Uecker said it was a “new one” for him.
There were considerably less laughs Sunday afternoon when Maldonado found himself in the middle of a brawl between the two National League Central rivals, triggered by Carlos Gomez having the audacity to flip his bat and admire a ball that only ended up as a triple. Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole took issue, the benches cleared and Maldonado slugged Travis Snider square in the head with one of the most vicious baseball punches we’ve seen this side of Nolan Ryan.
Maldonado, for his part, said he was only sticking up for his teammate. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
“I saw Snider and Martin over Gomez. I could tell it wasn’t fair, so I had to protect my teammate,” he said. “I don’t worry about (a suspension). That’s part of baseball. Whatever happens.”
Russell Martin, the Pirates starting catcher, was much less milquetoast in his post-brawl comments and offered a different interpretation of “fair”, telling TribLive:
“The fair thing would be for our team to hold down Maldonado so Travis (Snider) can go back and sucker punch him right in the face,” Martin said. “That would be the fair thing to do.
“It’s like a band of brothers out there, you are going to protect your own guy. But there are certain rules of combat that apply.”
Snider, mind, was also on the bench when the brouhaha began but took it upon himself to run out like a “superhero” according to Gomez.
The Pirates play the Brewers in Milwaukee for a three-game series on May 13. Should be a fun one. Be sure to dust up on baseball’s rules of combat beforehand.