- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was the kind of game, Jim Bowden said, that people will look back on come October as a defining moment in the Washington Nationals’ inaugural season.

“Games like last night are games that are only with teams that win pennants,” the Nationals general manager said yesterday, less than 24 hours following his club’s emotionally charged, 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels. “You know that team’s special when it happens. … People will point back to this game because heart, character and passion showed up.”

So did controversy, plenty of it. And that’s why Tuesday night’s game at Angel Stadium likely will be remembered not for the Nationals’ eighth-inning comeback but for the war of words it inspired from the two managers.

Washington’s Frank Robinson and Los Angeles’ Mike Scioscia, both well-respected throughout the sport, were practically at each other’s throats during — and after — the game. They continued to trade barbs yesterday before the two teams took the field for what figured to be another high-tension ballgame.

“I didn’t start the ruckus. Scioscia started the ruckus,” Robinson said. “I went out there and did my job for this ballclub. If I feel like someone is breaking the rules, I’ve got to bring it to the attention of the umpires. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t do that.”

Said Scioscia: “I’ve got a lot of respect for Frank. If he lost respect for me … then so be it.”

All of it — the back-and-forth banter, the near-brawl on the field and the ensuing national uproar on talk radio and television yesterday — stemmed from Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly’s ejection from Tuesday’s game for having pine tar on the heel of his glove. Robinson, who had previously become suspicious of Donnelly after watching scouting videos of the right-hander, asked umpires to examine Donnelly’s glove as soon as he entered the game in the seventh inning.

After conferring for several minutes, the crew — led by chief Dale Scott — ejected Donnelly and confiscated the glove. Scioscia, upset that Robinson instigated the investigation of something he calls “an accepted practice among pitchers,” walked toward the 69-year-old manager and said he was going to have every Nationals pitcher “undressed” when they entered the game.

Robinson responded by getting into Scioscia’s face, and within seconds both benches had emptied.

“I felt like he was off-base coming over and making that type of statement to me,” Robinson said. “He has the right to check every one of my pitchers that comes into the game without having to come over and, I guess, try to intimidate me with what he was going to do. …

“I wasn’t going to let him intimidate me,” Robinson added. “I am the intimidator.”

Scioscia insisted he wasn’t trying to disrespect Robinson when he approached him, only inform the opposing manager of his intentions for the rest of the game. (In the bottom of the inning, Scioscia had the umpires inspect Nationals reliever Gary Majewski’s glove, but nothing illegal was found.)

“There’s no one in this game who’s going to be intimidated, certainly not Frank Robinson,” Scioscia said. “My motive wasn’t to intimidate him.”

The bickering didn’t stop there. The Angels have tried to suggest that Jose Guillen — the disgruntled former Anaheim outfielder — tipped Robinson off to Donnelly’s practices. Both Guillen and Robinson flatly deny that.

Robinson, meanwhile, accused Scioscia and pitching coach Bud Black of knowing what Donnelly was up to all along and simply looking the other way.

“I’d bet the ranch on it,” Robinson said.

Scioscia denied previous knowledge of the pine tar. He also refuted Robinson’s claim that Donnelly, in addition to the pine tar, had sandpaper on his right palm and got rid of the evidence — either by dropping it on the ground or handing it to Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy.

“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” Scioscia said.

“That’s a [expletive] lie,” Donnelly said when told of the sandpaper accusation Tuesday night.

There is certain to be fallout from Tuesday night’s escapades. Donnelly, by rule, will be suspended and fined. Bowden and Robinson do not believe any members of the Nationals will face punishment, though that won’t be determined for sure until Major League Baseball vice president of discipline Bob Watson has a chance to review tapes and the umpire’s report.

The Nationals believe the more significant fallout from Tuesday’s game will be the manner in which they came together in support of Robinson and rallied to win the game (thanks in no small part to Guillen’s two-run homer off Scot Shields).

Guillen certainly proved his loyalty to Robinson. He had to be hauled back to the dugout, kicking and screaming, by bench coach Eddie Rodriguez and batting practice pitcher Jose Martinez after he heard what Scioscia said to Robinson.

“We’re talking about respect,” Guillen said. “You’re looking at a [69]-year-old-man against a [46]-year-old. Frank deserves more respect than that.”

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