Too Much Cream?
The Cubs pounded the Pirates today 11-1 at Wrigley Field. Jerry Hairston, the Cubs' newly installed center fielder, had an interesting game.
Hairston went hitless in his first three at-bats. With the bases filled and the Cubs up 7-1 in the sixth, he lined a Brian Meadows pitch down the left field line for a grand slam home run, the first of his career.
With two out in the top of the eighth, Hairston--who plays a very shallow center field--misjudged a ball hit by Michael Restovich, then broke back and outran his mistake, sticking his glove high in the air to snag the line drive.
Hairston made a show of his play, rolling over, getting up slowly, then tossing the ball into the stands before trotting in to the dugout.
Jose Mesa was the Pirates' new pitcher, and Hairston came up with nobody out and a man on first. Mesa threw a 94-mph fastball behind him, sending baserunner Ben Grieve to second on a very wild pitch.
Plate umpire Larry Poncino immediately hit Mesa and manager Lloyd McClendon with a warning.
Three pitches later, Hairston popped up to third base. On his way back to the dugout, he cut toward the mound and said to Mesa, "I'm gonna get your ass." (The TV cameras picked up Hairston's words very well.) Mesa walked off the mound toward Hairston and said something in response. Hairston scurried into his dugout, but Mesa continued to gesture toward him. The umpires moved toward the mound, and first base ump Gary Darling ejected Mesa.
This decision, possibly premature, inflamed an already bad situation. Mesa was furious and had to be restrained. Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon put on a lengthy and entertaining argument, gesturing at the mound, then at the Cubs dugout, then drawing a line with his hands to show the path that Hairston had taken.
Oddly enough, considering his role in the fray, Hairston remained in the game, playing center field in the top of the ninth. He did an ESPN postgame interview on the field, which was also strange, because he had only a minor role in the Cubs' victory.
Speaking of the incident in a post-game press conference, Hairston said, "It was two guys letting testosterone take over," and admitted surprise that Mesa would have thrown a pitch at him.
Hairston has called by scouts a very competitive player, perhaps overconfident and hard-assed. There's a great phrase in Spanish, meant to convey a person's sense of self, that would seem to fit what we saw of Hairston today. Translated, the phrase comes out something like "he has a little too much cream in his taco."
Maybe that's one reason why Dusty Baker has been reluctant to play him too much before Corey Patterson's demotion.