One of baseball’s most talked about stories over the weekend was the feud between Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia and Red Sox infielder Eduardo Nunez.
It all started last Thursday (8/31) when Nunez led off in the first inning against Sabathia with a bunt, reaching on an error from the big lefty. Here’s the video:
As NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley mentions, it’s not a good bunt by Nunez since it was right back to the mound. Sabathia’s poor throw also received criticism from Eckersley—”You gotta make that throw, come on now!”
It’s clear that Sabathia had time to make an effective throw to first for the out, but didn’t. No big deal, just get the Eck treatment and move on, right? Well that’s what he did, tossing six innings of one-run ball for his 11th win to continue his season-long dominance against the Red Sox, improving to 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA.
Still, he took offense to Nunez for bunting.
Following the Yankees’ 6-2 win that night, he called Nunez’s actions “weak” and confirmed he was fueled “big-time” for the rest of the game. He took a couple other stabs at the Red Sox: “It is what it is, just shows what they’ve got over there”, “I mean let’s go, let’s play! Swing the bat!”
Check out this more extended clip of him postgame:
NESN analyst and MLB Hall of Famer Jim Rice was one of the first to weigh in on Sabathia’s comments. Take a look at his awesome rant:
— Tom Caron (@TomCaron) September 1, 2017
“Lose some weight, go out there, and pitch.”
Rice is usually pretty calm and laidback, so this was definitely different to see from him. Tom Caron at one point in the clip states “You’re fired up” after Rice struggles to speak. No doubt, a NESN moment that will live forever. And Rice is right, maybe Sabathia’s leg would be better to field a bunted ball if he was in better shape. Just saying.
Sabathia fired back at Rice, saying: “I just hope when I’m that age, I’m not that bitter.”
So where does Nunez fit into this whole war of words? Sabathia suggested that Nunez apologized, which Nunez confirmed.
“I say, ‘I’m sorry but I have to do it.’ That’s my game. … If I have to do it twice, I have to do it. It’s my game. It’s my job. It’s my team. And if I have to bunt four times in a row, I’ll do it. I don’t care if he’s mad or not. You know? That’s what it is.”
It’s no joke that Sabathia’s been battling a bad knee, spending a stint on the 10-day DL in August because of it. Nunez and the Red Sox had the right idea by bunting. They wanted to take advantage of a disadvantage Sabathia had, which was his knee, and it’s probably why he made a terrible throw to first base. It didn’t produce any runs or a win, but it made sense. It’s just baseball.
“He (Sabathia) want respect,” Nunez continued. “People know he was on the DL for a knee. So he don’t want people bunting. But like I say, it’s not my problem. It’s my game. I don’t have any power. If I have to bunt four times, I will bunt it. It’s not my fault. What do you want me to do?”
The feud pretty much stopped there.
Nunez, not known for his power, has hit eight homers with the Red Sox since his first game with the team on July 28. His most recent one came Friday night, one day after bunting against Sabathia:
This homer gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead in an eventual 4-1 win, so technically it was the game-winning homer for Boston’s only win of the four-game series. Sabathia told Nunez to swing the bat, and that’s what happened.
Gotta give credit to Nunez for standing firm and not backing down from Sabathia’s comments. His response was professional, and he didn’t seem fazed at all. Especially with a dinger the next night.
In my opinion, Sabathia made these comments in order to fire himself and his team up, and to try and put some pressure on the Red Sox. He was right in suggesting their offense isn’t that strong. It’s not. It’s something that should be a concern for Boston down the stretch as several players have regressed this year. By saying what he said, he was attempting to try and get inside the heads of the Red Sox.
How will Boston respond?
Nothing wrong with some good old fashioned trash talk. That’s all this is. All meant to get people fired up and talking for a few days before it wears off. And it’s only added to the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, which Sabathia’s been part of for nine years now. He’s been in the league since 2001 and has been successful, so he’s sort of earned the right to fire shots like this at the opposition.
Still, Sabathia’s comments can come across as childish to some. Nunez is right, it’s not his or anyone’s problem that he has a bad knee. But complaining about the opposing team bunting because you’re not 100% physically? Come on, C.C.! Get in better shape then!
The comments seem to indicate a lack of accountability. Not wanting to truly give it all he’s got on the field. But hey, he’s rich. Just ask Pablo Sandoval about being content with your money.
Trying to get baserunners and score runs is the entire point of the game. It’s what the Red Sox were doing. But again—trash talk is trash talk. Sabathia’s rich, I’m sure he can handle the backlash of some people upset at him for his comments which were well within his rights to say. Maybe he was bored. Maybe he felt like trolling. You never know. It made headlines though, and adds to the anticipation for the next time these two teams meet, whether it be the playoffs or 2018.
Stay entertaining, Red Sox/Yankees rivalry.