Dave Dombrowski saw Mike Rizzo, the general manager of the Washington Nationals, on Tuesday night as they were leaving Citizens Bank Park after the Phillies dropped the first game of the two-game series.
“He said, ‘Oh, it was a tough one,’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and that was it,’ ” Dombrowski said.
Hours later, Rizzo had a lot more to say.
In a Wednesday morning interview on Washington’s 106.7-FM, Rizzo called Joe Girardi a “con-artist” and said what the Phillies manager did on Tuesday night was “embarrassing for Girardi, it’s embarrassing for the Phillies, it’s embarrassing for baseball.”
Girardi petitioned the umpires on Tuesday to inspect Max Scherzer for foreign substances after he was already checked twice. Girardi implicitly told the umpires to check the pitcher’s hair. They did and said they found only sweat.
Rizzo thought Girardi was using gamesmanship to disrupt Scherzer.
Girardi was ejected an inning later after he left the dugout and started to approach the Nationals dugout while their coaches were yelling at him. Nationals manager Davey Martinez appeared perturbed with Girardi and Scherzer said after the game that he was confused as to why Girardi suspected he was using sticky substances on the mound. But no one spoke as loud as Rizzo.
“It’s totally improper for him to say that, in my opinion,” said Dombrowski, the Phillies’ president of baseball operations. “But first of all, I’ve known Joe Girardi for a long time. I’ve known Mike Rizzo for a long time. I’ve known Davey Martinez for a long time. He’s the first player I ever traded for. I’ve known Max Scherzer for a long time. I have the utmost respect for all of them.
“Joe Girardi is the furthest from a con man of anybody that I know. He’s a very sincere individual. He was within his rights. In fact, I’ll tell you, I’ve called the commissioner’s office. And because there is part of this rule that says if the umpires think you are playing gamesmanship that they can refuse to go out to the mound and check the pitcher. And they can also suspend you. That’s part of the rule. They already have talked to the umpires. The umpires felt it was completely legitimate. Because they saw the same thing that Joe saw, him going to his hair like that. So they thought it was a legitimate check.”
Girardi said he did not have an issue with what Rizzo said.
“Obviously, he’s going to protect his club and he’s entitled to his own opinion, but so am I. That’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “That’s America, right?”
But was he bothered that Rizzo questioned his character?
“You know what? People who know me, that’s who I worry about about my character,” Girardi said. “I know Mike from friendly passing. He’s always been nice to me. But Mike doesn’t really know me. And I don’t really know Mike. So, I’m worried about what my family feels about my character.”
He said after Tuesday’s game that he was not engaging in gamesmanship with Scherzer and said so again on Wednesday. Girardi said he’s seen Scherzer pitch for 11 years and never saw him comb his fingers through his hair the way he did Tuesday night.
Scherzer said he does not normally do that, but was touching his hair to get sweat on his fingers so he could rub that with the rosin powder. He usually touches his neck, but it was not warm enough for sweat to build.
“I mean, obviously, you’re going to take a lot of heat for it. But if I worried about taking heat about things I did in this game because I think they’re right, that’s the wrong thing to do. Right?” Girardi said. “I told you, I have a ton of respect for what Max has done in this game and how hard he’s worked. I know what he does, how hard he works. He gives you 200 innings every year. He’s a Hall of Famer. But I have to do what’s right for our team.”
Major League Baseball started to crack down this week on pitchers using foreign substances for added grip as pitch speeds, spin rate, and strikeouts are at all-time highs. The umpires check each starting pitcher at least twice while inspecting each reliever after he is finished.
The rollout was not perfect. The Phillies and Nationals had their issues and Oakland reliever Sergio Romo dropped his pants when he was checked by an umpire. Scherzer nearly removed his pants, but the umpires told him to stop after he unbuckled them. The pitchers have their gloves, hats, and waists inspected to see if they’re hiding any tacky substances.
“The most important thing to check is the fingers, right?” Girardi said. “Can they come up with something they swab and they know if it’s different than rosin and water? I don’t know. That would be a much less invasive thing to do. It would probably work better.”
Before Dombrowski crossed paths on Tuesday night with Rizzo, he talked with Girardi in the manager’s office. Girardi, Dombrowski said, was “bothered by what took place.”
“I know part of it is because he has some friends on the other side who said some things that I heard were not very nice,” Dombrowski said. “If you’re a con man, that type of stuff doesn’t bother you. He’s a very legitimate, sincere individual and he’s trying to do the best he can to win a baseball game — by the rules. ...
“I think he said afterward there were guys on the other side that he’s known for a while who said some things that probably bothered him. I didn’t ask him who did, but that’s my assumption. It would be like if one of my friends said something to me or one of your friends said something to you that you’ve known for a long time, it would probably bother you.”