Baseball etiquette is neither.

Tuesday night’s macho demonstration of grunting, spitting, scratching, retaliating, posturing, preening, swearing and ultimately showering made the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays look like every bit of the classy organizations they are.

OK, before you jump down my throat and accuse me of selective memory (call it blog etiquette – hmmm, we must have learned it by watching them), let me send you back about three years. I’m essentially plagiarizing myself this morning, because I issued the same, scathing indictment of the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Devil Rays after what was their eighth-annual bench-clearing brawl, at the time.

For the uninitiated, I’ll try to lead you through the nyah-nyah, your mama’s fat, I-know-you’re-a-doo-doo-head-but-what-am-I logic, but be warned: If you’ve celebrated any birthdays beyond nine, you’ve advanced so far past this nonsense that it’ll be impossible to follow.

On May 30, Yankees shortstop Alex Rodriguez (he of the girly-man slap in the 2004 playoffs, and the need to have Jason Varitek’s catcher’s mitt surgically removed from his face earlier that summer) allegedly distracted the Jays’ infielders from catching a ninth-inning pop-up.

The ball hit the ground, setting off the first round of flexing and finger-pointing. Toronto insists that Pay-Rod shouted “Mine!” or “I got it!” or “Yahtzee!” or words to that effect. “What’s with the blond bimbo?” would have been the timely and definitive comeback. Instead, the Jays made a mental note and carried a torch for more than two months.

This is where maybe, possibly, I could be persuaded that Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch had a divine right to throw the first pitch to Rodriguez behind his knee Monday night. The Yankees knew it was coming. Everyone who’s ever played baseball and had a teammate get spiked, spat upon or intentionally plunked knew it was coming. Fair game, I suppose.

So what did Toronto’s Josh Towers do Tuesday night? Drilled Mr. April in the knee, of course.

Now, baseball players are notorious scoreboard watchers. Lord knows that’s why you are forbidden to even take a lead off first base when your team is ahead by more than five runs, lest you find yourself plucking a 98 mph fastball out of your ear hole in your next at-bat. And Towers’ action put Toronto one-up.

Well, we mustn’t have any of that. So rather than waiting until a night when the Bombers had Darrell Rasner on the hill, Towers’ counterpart was Roger Clemens, who would hit Grandma between the numbers if she were crowding the plate. Clemens predictably waited until the Yankees had a comfortable lead and he’d reached his prescribed pitch count before nailing Alex Rios with his first pitch of the seventh inning.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Baseball is the only game where this silly game of gotcha can actually get somebody hurt, what with no pads and 40 grown men in a rugby scrum and a tightly wound ball being thrown at speeds that would get you arrested as a driver on the turnpike.

But then, baseball never did know how to police itself. Not surprising that the inmates would try.

A-Rod should have kept his trap shut when he rounded second base in the spring. Towers should have let Litsch’s response speak for itself and concentrated on his job as the ace disappointing underachiever on a staff of disappointing underachievers.

Time for everyone to grow up, because the beanball, back-at-ya act is growing old.


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