03/13/2003 4:30 PM ET
Mota: It was not intentional
Reliever stunned by reaction; Jordan, Beltre keep peace
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Guillermo Mota proclaimed his innocence Thursday when
asked if he intentionally hit Mike Piazza with a pitch Wednesday night,
triggering a bench-clearing brawl and leading to Piazza searching the Dodger
clubhouse for Mota during the game.
|By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"I know what I did and it was not intentional," said Mota. "Whatever they (the
Mets) think . . ."
Mets team officials and players have said they think the incident was
intentional and a carryover from a melee last spring when Piazza, after being
hit by a Mota pitch, waited for Mota to leave the game and grabbed him by the
neck in shallow right field at Holman Stadium
"It's not about last year," Mota said. "That was 2002. This is 2003."
Meanwhile, the Dodgers delivered a complaint to Major League Baseball about
Piazza's presence in their clubhouse during the game.
"I'm very disturbed that the security was such that an opposing player could be
inside our clubhouse," said general manager Dan Evans. "There's a very clear
understanding that you don't venture into the other team's clubhouse. I
conveyed my concern to the people who need to hear it within Major League
Baseball in multiple conversations last night and follow-up conversations
And manager Jim Tracy took exception to comments from Mets manager Art Howe
that the incident was "premeditated" or a "setup," indicating the same could
be said for last year's incident.
"Mike waited for him and reached out and tried to choke him," said Tracy. "Is
that a setup or premeditated? I really don't want to hear about it. It's a
two-way street. It's not right for a guy to choke him. That's not right. Is it
OK to come into the other team's clubhouse? Is that OK? They're mad? That's
all right. I don't think it's right for him to come into our clubhouse. He's
exonerated for that?"
Mota had hit a three-run homer in the top of the sixth inning Wednesday night
and Piazza led off the bottom of the sixth. Mota's first 98-mph fastball was
inside and Piazza glared at the pitcher. The second pitch, also 98 mph, hit
Piazza in the back. He dropped his bat, tossed his helmet and charged the
Mota threw his glove at Piazza, then backpedaled toward the Dodger dugout and
was rushed off the field and into the clubhouse as benches and bullpens
Tracy said there was no indication in the dugout that emotions were about to
get out of hand, not even after Mota's first pitch buzzed inside and Piazza
stared at the pitcher.
"There was absolutely not one word spoken," Tracy said.
Plate umpire Jerry Meals, who said he was unaware of the history between the
two players, said he noticed Piazza took a half-step toward the mound and
stared at Mota after the first inside pitch.
"That got my attention," Meals said.
Mota said he was surprised when Piazza charged the mound.
"If I had intentions, I'd be ready," he said. "He surprised me, like he
surprised me last year."
Brian Jordan, however, indicated last year's clash was the primary reason for
Wednesday night's incident. Jordan was the wheel man in the getaway car,
hustling Mota out of Thomas J. White Stadium Wednesday night because he feared
for Mota's safety after the ensuring brawl.
While driving back to Vero Beach, Jordan discussed baseball etiquette with
Mota. According to Jordan, Mota had been embarrassed by Piazza last spring.
"I guarantee you, if that wasn't on national TV last year, this never would
have happened," said Jordan. "He went home to the Dominican and everybody
remembered that incident and he had to live with that all year. It was pride
and emotion at the time, but it put the team and organization in jeopardy. I
talked to him in the car. I told him how wrong it was. He understands. I guess
he felt he had to prove something. He's a young kid."
Jordan loaded Mota, 29, into his Range Rover during the seventh inning after
hearing threats from angry fans.
"Piazza is a fan favorite, and you don't want to leave a guy like (Mota) and
risk injury," said Jordan. "You could hear the fans reacting. It was getting
pretty ugly. Everybody felt it was best to get him out of there, the manager
too. Best to get out of there before somebody does something stupid. Get him
away from there and get it behind us. It was for his safety."
Mota had more to fear from Piazza than the fans. Five minutes after Mota left
the park, a furious Piazza showed up in the Dodger clubhouse in search of the
pitcher, marching past a stunned general manager Dan Evans.
Jordan, knowing Piazza was leading off the next inning and having witnessed
last year's fireworks, said he could "almost see it coming. I hung around for
it, thank goodness. He's on edge like that with personal feelings. I was
thinking that. Then after the first pitch was inside, you think he got the
message over. Then, boom, here we go."
Mota indicated he had no desire to talk things over with Piazza.
"I don't know what he thinks," he said. "I'm throwing a pitch inside. I'm a
power pitcher, I throw inside to a power hitter."
Asked if he would apologize to Piazza, he said: "I don't know. No comment on
Dodger third baseman Adrian Beltre deserved a save of sorts for putting a bear
hug on Piazza as the catcher repeatedly attempted to get at Mota on the field.
"He was pretty angry," said Beltre. "He couldn't talk. He's pretty strong. I
was just holding him. He was pretty close to Mota. I don't want anybody to get
Bob Watson, the chief disciplinarian for Major League Baseball, said he did not
know if Piazza's entering the Dodger clubhouse would have any bearing on
possible punitive action the catcher might face.
"I have thoughts on it but we're not talking about anything until we finish our
investigation," Watson said. "Don't look for any comment from us until Monday.
I'm in Houston now and probably won't even get the tape until tomorrow
[Friday]. I still need to talk to general managers, managers and umpires to see
what they have to say."
The Dodgers and Mets play Saturday and Sunday in a goodwill series in Mexico
City. Mota, originally on the travel list, was scratched by Evans to avoid an
"It's imperative that whatever problems occurred on the stage of a small town
in Florida last night not move to the stage in Mexico City," said Evans. "We
need an environment without hostility."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This article was not subject to
approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.