These next few weeks of baseball are shaping up to be a kind of calm before the storm that is the MLB postseason. Most of the divisions have been decided. The Cardinals and their 10-game win streak have sucked all the suspense out of the NL wild card. On the AL side, only the three teams hunting for the last two playoff spots are playing truly meaningful games at this moment. I don’t know if Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier sensed that we might be short on drama when he slid into home on Monday night against the Blue Jays, or if he was just looking for any advantage he could find, or if he was thinking about anything at all. But his quick and arguably devious act launched from out of nowhere a briefly wonderful mini-scandal between two potential ALDS foes.
In the bottom of the sixth inning of an eventual 6-4 Rays win, Kiermaier tried to capitalize on an odd play in which a simple grounder to third became a possible trip around the bases because of a throwing error. Kiermaier pressed his luck too much and ended up out by yards at the plate, but after his awkward slide, he noticed something sitting in the dirt. According to Sportsnet’s Arash Madani, this card that Kiermaier picked up was from Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk’s wristband, and it contained sensitive scouting information pertaining to how the Jays planned to go after the Tampa batters.
Madani’s reporting further stated that, after Kiermaier gave the card to a Rays staffer, the team was reluctant to part with it:
Once the Blue Jays realized the card was missing, they sent a bat boy over to the Rays dugout to ask for its return. But the message back made a joke of the matter, saying something like, “we can’t hit Robbie Ray anyway.”
Kiermaier, for his part, claimed that he initially believed the card on the ground was his own card for outfield positioning, which he keeps in his pocket. Once he realized his mistake, he claims he decided on a kind of neutrality wherein he would not study the card but also would not help his opponent by giving it back.
“I never even looked at it, I’ll say that,” he told Madani. “But at the same time, I’m not going to drop it or hand it back.”
The Jays, understandably, were pretty flustered and frustrated by the whole situation. “If there’s one card we wouldn’t want any opponent to have, it’s that one,” Madani said he heard from a team source.
This has all the ingredients of legit, high-grade beef! You have two good teams in the same division, subterfuge, classified information, international borders, a violation of decorum, actions that various sides could see as either cheating or gamesmanship, and so much more. This could keep the Beef-Industrial Complex going for days, and maybe weeks! There’d be debates about the unwritten rules, some especially loud celebrations as these two played their final games against each other, and even, god willing, a playoff series filled with pettiness and nastiness—all over a dang index card! (We’d call it the Supply Store Showdown, for those wondering.)
But then these two managers had to ruin it all by acting like adults. By late Tuesday night, the beef had gone cold, and the dream of a new stupid rivalry was squashed, without even so much as a clearing of the benches.
Forgiveness? Tranquility? That’s no way to play baseball, my friends.