Red Sox: Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton questions Dustin Pedroia’s leadership

Sep 23, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) looks on before he bats against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) looks on before he bats against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton tries to pin the blame on Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia for his teammate almost being hit by a pitch.

Don’t blame Dustin Pedroia for Manny Machado almost getting hit in the head by a fastball from Boston Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes.

The incident can certainly be interpreted as retaliation for Machado’s dirty slide that took out Pedroia earlier in the series, which is clearly how the Baltimore Orioles view it. Sending a message by beaning an opposing hitter in these situations has long been the expectation in baseball, but you never aim for the head.

The veteran Pedroia is well are of that, which is why he expressed his disappointment in his teammate’s actions when discussing the events following Sunday’s game.

"“I just told him I didn’t have anything to do with that,” Pedroia said, per WEEI’s Ryan Hannable. “That’s not how you do that, man. I’m sorry to him and his team. If you’re going to protect guys, you do it right away. ”"

Machado glared into the Red Sox dugout after the pitch, to which Pedroia reacted by adamantly proclaiming his innocence in the matter. Pedroia could clearly be heard yelling back that if it were up to him, Machado would have been drilled in the previous game.

Pedroia went on to say that he’s not upset with Machado for making what he deemed a “bad slide” that had no intention of trying to injure him, but not everyone is buying his statement. Orioles closer Zach Britton went as far as to question Pedroia’s leadership in the clubhouse, blaming the veteran second baseman for failing to stop Barnes from head-hunting.

"“Dustin, him telling Manny, ‘Hey, that didn’t come from me’ may be even more frustrating,” Britton told “Because he’s the leader of that clubhouse and if he can’t control his own teammates, then there’s a bigger issue over there.”"

Seriously? So it’s Pedroia’s fault that Barnes threw near Machado’s head? Baltimore had to expect some retaliation, so there’s no reason why Pedroia should have sent a message to his pitching staff asking them not to throw at Machado. Did he really have to specify, “don’t throw at his head?” That should have been self-explanatory.

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Barnes has since denied any intention of hitting Machado in the head, claiming that he was merely trying to throw up and in to induce weak contact, only the pitch got away from him. I’m not sure anyone completely believes that, as it seemed clear he was trying to hit Machado.

However, he may be telling the truth about not aiming for his head considering how genuinely apologetic he was in the aftermath. When Pedro Martinez used to throw at a guy’s head, he made sure the message was heard loud and clear, never backtracking on his intent with phony excuses. If Barnes was actually attempting to deliver a similar message, calling it an accident defeats the purpose.

Regardless of Barnes’ intent, Britton was wrong to blame Pedroia. We don’t know what Pedroia said to his teammates behind closed doors, or if he said anything at all. He made it pretty clear that Machado should have expected to be hit in retaliation for his slide. You get drilled, take your base and move on – that’s how baseball players have always policed the game on the field. Throwing at someone’s head isn’t part of that tradition and there’s little reason to believe Pedroia instructed Barnes to do that. If Barnes did it on his own, that’s on him.

Britton is attempting to stir up controversy by implying that there’s instability in the Red Sox clubhouse, which is rubbish. If Pedroia specifically said not to throw at Machado’s head and Barnes did it anyway, that would be one thing. What evidence do we have that this conversation between Pedey and the pitching staff ever occurred?

Anyone who has followed Pedroia’s career knows he plays the game the right way. He’s also not shy about speaking his mind, so there’s no reason to believe he’s hiding some devious intent.

It’s also worth noting – the pitch didn’t actually hit Machado! While we shouldn’t condone the behavior of throwing anywhere near a batter’s head, the fact remains that Pedroia is still sidelined by an injury caused by Machado’s dirty slide, while Machado wasn’t actually hurt at all.

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This should be a closed issue with both teams moving on from the incident, yet Britton had to fan the flames by taking a shot at Pedroia. Expect the bad blood between these division rivals to linger into their upcoming series next week.