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From the horse’s mouth: Brawling with Pedro

Thirteen years before he became a Phillie, Pedro Martinez fought with Mike Williams

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Yankees, Game 2
Pedro wasn’t smiling quite as much when Mike Williams threw at him
Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Let’s take a look at another brawl from Phillies history. This one features a Hall of Famer who would eventually play for the Phillies, and it also provides me with an opportunity to write about Mike Williams.

Why Mike Williams? Why not!

Brawling with Pedro

In 1996, Pedro Martinez was a skinny starting pitcher for the Montreal Expos who hadn’t yet developed into a Cy Young caliber ace. In a late September start against the Phillies, his lack of command triggered a brawl:

In the third inning, Martinez hit Phillies first baseman Gregg Jefferies on the elbow, knocking him out of the game. Jefferies had a maligned Phillies career, and his 1996 season was certainly underwhelming. But compared to most of his talent-deprived teammates on the 1996 team, he was a star, which meant the Phillies were obligated to retaliate.

The man to do the retaliating was Phillies starting pitcher Mike Williams. When Pedro came to the plate, Williams threw a suspiciously inside pitch that prompted warnings for both dugouts. When the next pitch was behind Martinez, it was brawling time.

Some observations:

  • For a star pitcher, that was a weak throw of the helmet from Martinez.
  • Once again, Curt Schilling was right in the middle of things. Maybe he was just a really supportive teammate? Or maybe he just liked punching people?
  • Martinez had some control issues in his early days, so there’s a good chance that his beaning of Jefferies was unintentional. But this is why you shouldn’t hit players on last place teams. They have nothing to lose, and they might be looking for an outlet for their frustrations.
  • Williams does the obligatory shrug after the first inside pitch, even though it was blindingly obvious that he was throwing at him.
  • This was the year the Phillies had Benito Santiago as their catcher. Normally, the catcher is close behind when a player charges the mound, but it seems that he decided to chase down the wild pitch instead. Questionable decision, or maybe he just didn’t care for Williams all that much.

The illustrious career of Mike Williams

Mike Williams was a product of the early ‘90s Phillies farm system, which generally doesn’t portend future success. And he was not successful with the Phillies, bouncing between the rotation and bullpen for a few years, but not excelling in either role. That’s not to say he didn’t make his mark with the team:

Upon leaving the Phils as a free agent after 1996, he became a full-time reliever, with stops in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Houston, and Pittsburgh again. He served as the closer for those Pirates teams, and actually made the All-Star team in consecutive years. In one of those years, he was pretty good, racking up 46 saves and a 2.49 ERA.

The next year, he wasn’t very good, but still made the All-Star team because the Pirates were bad, and the team needed a rep. He actually has the record for highest ERA of any pitcher to make an All-Star team. Looking at the roster of the 2003 Pirates, I’m confused why they didn’t go with Brian Giles, Reggie Sanders, or Jason Kendall, all of whom were far more worthy of selection. If anyone has knowledge of the 2003 Pirates (and sorry if you do), I’d love to hear an explanation.

Phillies General Manager Ed Wade was desperate to improve the 2003 team’s bullpen, so when an All-Star closer became available at the trade deadline, he jumped at the opportunity. The change of locale didn’t improve Williams’ season. Thanks in part to his 19 walks in 25.2 innings, Williams recorded a 5.96 ERA for the Phillies to go along with two blown saves. He did successfully save three games, so maybe it wasn’t all bad?

(Checks notes on 2003 season)

No, it was bad. Nothing will ever top 2020 in terms of having a bad bullpen destroy a season, but the 2003 bullpen was pretty awful in its own right.

Trivia

Last week’s answer: Scott Rolen made only one All-Star team with the Phillies. It was in 2002, shortly before he was traded. Chapdaddy had it right.

This week’s question: Like the Pirates, the Phillies had just one representative in the 2003 All-Star game. Who was it?

Featured baseball card

Thanks to @TheReliefRoom for finding this classic card of Mike Williams:

I’m not sure if Bowman went with glamour shots for every player that season, or if Williams was singled out for the honor. Either way, Williams looks very pleasant there.

Closing thought

I have exciting news: To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Phillies’ memorable 2012 season, next week is going to be 2012 Week here at The Good Phight! We’re going to celebrate all things 2012: Pop culture, politics, and of course, the 2012 Phillies who valiantly tried to defend their National League East title.

Note: I’m not sure if any of the other writers are going to join me in this endeavor, so 2012 Week might just manifest itself in a single story by me. But either way, it should be fun!

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