OAKLAND — Some statements are made simply by the way one plays the game.
Others require more direct action.
A’s rookie third baseman Matt Chapman made the decision to confront Angels catcher Juan Graterol over what he thought were unfair accusations of A’s hitters trying to steal signs.
It wound up earning him his first career ejection in the fourth inning of an eventual A’s 3-1 victory Wednesday. Although Chapman said he regretted not being available over the final five innings at the Coliseum, no way was he regretting the intentions that led him to jaw at Graterol as he stepped into the box in the fourth.
“As you can see on video, the catcher kept staring at every single hitter as they were digging into the box,” Chapman said afterward. “That’s not a very comfortable feeling, having the catcher staring at you while you’re digging in the box. It’s a little disrespectful, to be honest.
“… Even though we are a young group of guys, I feel like we deserve to be treated just like anybody else in the big leagues and be respected by our opponents. I did it out of respect for my teammates and respect for myself.”
Chapman, Mark Canha and Khris Davis all deny the A’s peaking back to steal signs from the catcher. As could be predicted in such controversies, there was a much different story being told in the Angels clubhouse.
“We have video on what they do,” Angels starter Tyler Skaggs said. “We know what they're all about. If they need to look at signs to hit, then it is what it is. I can't control anything out there. … I can see it from the mound. It’s very frustrating.”
For the record, stealing signs isn’t illegal but is considered a breach of baseball etiquette. The Red Sox reportedly may face penalties for stealing signs from the Yankees, but that would be for incorporating the use of electronic technology to do so.
Canha claims he saw Graterol giving rookie Chad Pinder a hard time about possibly stealing signs. Then Canha and Graterol had words about the same thing in the second inning, as Graterol jogged out to talk with Skaggs. (Worth noting: Canha says he’s always felt the Angels don’t care for him, and that the Rangers have accused him of stealing signs before).
“I think (Graterol) thought I was trying to peak, which I’ve never done,” Canha said. “When he did it to Pinder, I was like, ‘That’s just a Scioscia/Angels/Graterol tactic to make younger players feel uncomfortable.’”
Who was right and wrong Wednesday isn’t so much the issue. From the A’s standpoint, the takeaway is that a young player such as Chapman took a stand. Granted, it got him tossed from a game that wasn’t even halfway finished yet, at a time the A’s were trying to snap an eight-game losing streak. He’ll have to use judgement moving forward on when it’s right to take such a bold stand, and whether doing so is worth the risk of getting ejected.
But if the A’s do indeed move forward with this current pack of young players as their core, leaders will have to emerge from that pack. Chapman seemed to be trying to take the reigns with his actions Wednesday.
The move was appreciated by Davis, his veteran teammate.
“Chap’s not gone let that happen,” Davis said of Graterol’s accusations. “I’m happy he stuck up for us … He might be a rookie, but one day he’s gonna be a veteran and just lead the way.”
Canha said he appreciated Chapman’s gesture, but added that he told the rookie: “We’d rather have (you) in the game than sticking up for me.”
Oh yeah, the A’s did halt their longest losing streak in five years. And they got a stellar six-plus innings from lefty Sean Manaea in doing so. But this juncture of their young team’s development is about so much more than box scores and final stats.
It’s about how chemistry develops and leaders emerge. The fourth inning perhaps revealed a glimpse of that Wednesday.