Nixon says fewer intradivision games could reduce melees

Updated: March 28, 2006, 9:14 PM ET
Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Trot Nixon called on commissioner Bud Selig to consider having fewer games between division rivals in order to lessen tensions between rivals.

One day after Red Sox pitcher Julian Tavarez punched Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright, Nixon said having teams play division 19 times each season can build up stress.

"This is a prime example of why Bud Selig needs to take a look at teams playing each other 19 ... times a year," Nixon said Tuesday.

"The run-ins that we've had in the past four years have been with the Yankees, with Tampa and maybe a couple with Baltimore," Nixon added.

He suggested going back to a balanced schedule, which was used in the AL from 1977-2000.

Brawls "probably could be prevented by that one thing, but it might not either," Nixon said. "If enough people say something about it (Selig) will or his advisers will" consider a change.

"The Yankees even say it, too. We play each other too much," Nixon said. "Fans (are) all out of control. Look what happened last year. One of our fans hit (Gary) Sheffield in the face" while he chased a ball along Fenway Park's low right-field wall.

On Monday, Tavarez punched Gathright in the face after the outfielder slid into home plate in the eighth inning of Boston's 12-11 win. Players from both benches and bullpens ran onto the field and tussled near the plate.

Gathright had tried to score from third while teammate Julio Lugo was caught in a rundown between first and second. Second baseman Zach Borowiak fired the ball home to Tavarez, who tagged out the sliding Gathright.

Then, before Gathright stood up, Tavarez struck a light blow with his right fist on the left side of Gathright's face. In the 2004 NL championship series against Houston, the right-hander broke his left hand by punching a phone in the St. Louis dugout after allowing a tiebreaking homer in a 6-5 loss in Game 4.

"There's two totally different situations there," said Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, who was in the Florida rotation with Tavarez in 2002. "One of them is he wants to do well and the other one is the guy called him a name.

"It takes a lot" to anger Tavarez, Beckett said. "Obviously, you say the right thing to him or do the right thing to him, he's going to snap. He's a gentle soul as far as any of that stuff goes."

Boston third baseman Mike Lowell, who also played on that 2002 Marlins team, added: "He's not going to back down to anyone. He's a competitor, a good teammate."

Tavarez and Gathright were ejected. Tavarez is with his seventh team in eight years and has been suspended three times, starting in May 1996 when his pitch went behind Milwaukee's Mike Matheny, sparking a brawl.

He also was suspended after a spring training melee in 2001 when San Francisco's Russ Davis charged the mound after striking out because he thought the pitcher, then with the Chicago Cubs, had shown him up.

There was no word from major league baseball Tuesday of any penalties.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon thought Tavarez overreacted.

"Regardless of what (Gathright) may have said, it did not require a punch in the side of the head," Maddon said Monday.

Tavarez faced five hitters before being ejected. He retired the first on a grounder before the others reached base. Nick Green was hit by a pitch, Greg Norton reached on an error, a throwing error by Tavarez allowed Green to score and Norton to reach third, Lugo singled to left and the melee began at the end of that play.

"I guess he was upset because he was getting hit a little bit," Gathright said after the game.

That bothered Tavarez on Tuesday when he approached two reporters to ask who had written that he punched Gathright because he wasn't pitching well.

"I wasn't pitching well? It was one hit, two errors and they write down those things?" he said.

Manny Ramirez, who declined comment earlier, tried to lead Tavarez away but the pitcher lingered. Tavarez said he no longer will talk with reporters.

"I'm done with the media," he said. "No mas."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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