SOME OCTOBERS, as
if with a wink and a grin, baseball grants a peek at its future, slipping the
best of its coming attractions into the Sturm und Drang of the postseason. The
1951 World Series gave us the sweet synchronicity of rookies Mickey Mantle and
Willie Mays facing each other. In 1995, Manny Ramirez and Chipper Jones, both
23 and playing in their first postseason, squared off in the Fall Classic. Last
October the opening game of the National League Championship Series brought
another clash of phenoms, though seeing was less revelatory than hearing,
"Get your ass down to first base and shut up!"
people. What's next for baseball, which is still trying to distance itself from
the Steroid Era, was articulated last Oct. 11 in the middle of the diamond of
Chase Field in Phoenix. There was Colorado Rockies rookie shortstop Troy
Tulowitzki, a day after turning 23, giving an earful to Arizona Diamondbacks
rookie rightfielder Justin Upton, two months removed from his 20th
A pitch from
mild-mannered Rockies lefthander Jeff Francis had hit Upton with the
Diamondbacks trailing 5--1, a runner on second and no outs in the seventh
inning. Upton was slow to take his base, and his body language made clear he
thought he'd been plunked on purpose. Tulowitzki directed Upton to quietly haul
a certain body part of his as well as the rest of himself to first.
"Why would we
hit you?" Tulowitzki barked. "You're a .200 hitter! We want you in the
box! Shut up and go to the bag!"
training Tulowitzki explained the outburst: "Upton should have been happy
he got hit in that situation. Get a runner on base, and you can start
something. He took too long to get to first, and I saw that Jeff didn't like
it. But Jeff's not the kind of guy who's going to do anything to anybody, so I
felt I needed to say something. I respect guys who play the game the right way,
and I didn't feel [Upton] did the right thing in that situation. Does that mean
I don't like him? No."
On the next
batted ball Upton plowed into second baseman Kaz Matsui to prevent his turning
a double play. Umpire Larry Vanover thought Upton went in too aggressively and
ruled inter ference, giving Colorado the DP. The Rockies won the game 5--1 and
swept the series.
"He had some
adrenaline going," Tulowitzki says. "I have no problem with that. To me
that's the way you play the game."
During BP before
Game 2, Upton approached Tulowitzki behind the cage and asked, "Do you have
a problem with me?"
Tulowitzki recalls saying. "It's just that if I got hit in that situation,
I'm going to be happy getting on first. I understand it might not feel great,
but it's a team game and that's the way you play."
Game on. Era