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nick cafardo | on baseball

Competitive spirit no excuse for Wade Miley’s behavior

Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis had a chat with Wade Miley in the third inning. The lefthander lasted only one more inning.
Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis had a chat with Wade Miley in the third inning. The lefthander lasted only one more inning. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

BALTIMORE — In some ways, Wade Miley had no business objecting to being taken out of a game in which he allowed five runs and nine hits over four innings. In other ways, his burst of emotion directed at manager John Farrell at least showed that the lefthander cares.

Still, it was one of those unbecoming incidents that happen to struggling teams. The worse the season gets, the uglier the incidents get. And even though the Red Sox showed fight and determination Thursday night, they fell, 6-5, to the Orioles, their third consecutive loss.

The bottom line is Miley showed up his manager in plain view.

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It wasn’t new. He did it to his former Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson in a game against the Giants last Sept. 14.

Many pitchers are upset when they are lifted early, but it doesn’t give them the right to put on that kind of display against your boss.

Miley expressed no regret and Farrell said he understood the “competitor” in Miley led to him showing his emotions. It would be a surprise if no fine was handed down, but that’s not something the team would disclose.

Miley came back out and watched the remainder of the game from the top perch of the dugout. Was that Farrell demanding he do it or did Miley do it on his own?

Until Miley’s stinker, he had been on a decent stretch. He had turned a 1-4 record with a 6.91 ERA over his first six starts into a run of 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA in his last five starts.

Miley won his last start, allowing two earned runs in 7⅓ innings of a 4-2 win over the A’s. But this one resembled his early-season starts.

It was his second poor start against the Orioles. On April 26, Miley allowed seven runs in 2⅓ innings of an 18-7 loss. This was better, but not by much. Miley had been counted upon to stop bad streaks, and he had.

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The Orioles consistently broke Miley’s rhythm, and that’s what you need to do. The scouting reports are pretty universal that you can’t allow Miley to settle in and dictate the pace. You have to step out of the batter’s box as much as you can and take him out of that rapid pace that makes him so effective.

A nice way to do that is hit a home run or two. Adam Jones (first inning), Nolan Reimold (third), and Manny Machado (fourth) did just that.

After four innings Miley was informed by Farrell that he was done, and that’s when Miley flipped out.

He engaged in a very open and, on his side, angry exchange with Farrell in the dugout that was caught on camera. Farrell countered with a more mild-mannered response to Miley, who wouldn’t hear it. Miley gestured with his hands, trying to explain something to Farrell. The tantrum went down into the tunnel and out of sight.

When asked, Miley said, “Between me and John. It is what it is.”

No regrets. No apologies. He never once indicated he may have handled it wrong.

“It’s fine. It’s over. If you want to talk about the game, we can talk about the game. That’s it,” Miley said.

He talked about that start every fifth day.

“That’s huge,” said Miley. “Everybody, when you pitch once every five days you want to be out there as long as possible. Just want to be in the game.”

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Asked if Farrell understood his reaction, Miley said, “Absolutely. We’re all grown men. He’s competing from his end, I’m competing from my end. It’s over.”

Farrell looked as if he’d been through quite an ordeal.

He had time to think about his responses to the media and he once again showed defense for his player.

“He’s a competitor,” Farrell said. “You work four days for your start and he doesn’t want to come out of there, but while I thought he had good stuff and where we were on the scoreboard, I felt we needed a change of contrast and change of style and made a move after four innings.

“He didn’t want to come out of the game and that’s his competitive spirit. But while he had good stuff they got decent swings against him. We felt we needed to make a move.’’

We don’t know is this is how Farrell really felt or if he was just giving supportive answers for public consumption. Because if you’re a manager, you’re in charge, and you don’t stand for that nonsense. It makes you look weak.

“We’ve had a chance to talk,” Farrell said. “He’s a competitive guy and I respect it. There’s no lack of competitiveness with Wade. You work four days to get your start and on nights when it doesn’t go as anticipated it’s frustrating. I can respect his emotion.

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“A heat-of-the-moment thing and I can respect his competitiveness.”

Asked whether Miley finally understood Farrell’s decision, the manager said, “I believe so. He may not like it. That’s understandable.”

But why is it understandable? The manager is in charge. He can do what he wants. Miley wasn’t pitching well. You have to take him out of the game. Farrell doesn’t have to defend that. He made the right move bringing in Steven Wright.

That was clear to everyone except Miley, who should have apologized for his actions, while Farrell should have said that what Miley did was not acceptable.


Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.