This Day In Dodgers History-March 12th, 2003: Spring Training Brawl With The Mets

Video & Photo Credit: IB Exclusives

The beauty of sports is that no franchise or player is exempt from getting hit with karma. What makes it more holy, is the route of vehement denial fans take after the sin is committed, even if they are 100% in the wrong. Dodger fans found themselves tangled in this tough look scenario on March 12, 2003, in a spring training game against the Mets.

Coming into that game tensions were high between Dodgers reliever Guillermo Mota and Mets catcher Mike Piazza. Previous year during spring training Mota plunked Piazza in the hip and the slugger took his free pass to first with complete tunnel vision not looking anywhere near the diamond. It was the fourth time he was hit that spring training and two years removed from his 2000 World Series run-ins with Roger Clemens. Later in the game when he saw Mota making his way down the right-field line on his way out of the stadium, Piazza grabbed him by the collar of his jersey and snarled at him “throw the ball in the middle of the plate.”

Both benches swarmed to the field and there was a lot of schmoozing between the two teams, but nothing else really occurred. When asked about the situation Mets Manager Bobby Valentine replied, “That’s not like a fight, Mike could have taken his head off and thrown it in for a souvenir.”

Mota, on the other hand, was generally confused about where all the rage was coming from and was saying sorry when Mike was white-knuckling his collar. Although he felt some empathy at the time, he was not timid about putting his cards on the table when it came to revenge.

“If he charged the mound, I’d have a chance to do something,” and later said, “I don’t want to say, ‘Next time,’ but I’m going to have that in my mind for a long time.”

The inclination is not worthy of causation, but it’s pretty easy to see Mota was gonna find a way to get him back at some point.

Less than a year later, with a truckload of roman candles that could have been set off with steam from a Hot Pocket, Mota got his chance. The two faced off in the bottom of the 6th when the Dodgers were up 10-1. I’ve watched thousands of serial killer shows on the Oxygen network with my mom and no one has looked as creepy and irate as Mike Piazza did when he got into the box.

With wisps of murder in the air, Mota fired a fastball that missed by a millimeter. If you were to look at it through the lens of a sniper, the ball clipped a few hairs off Piazza’s forearm like Chazz Michael Michaels skate on Jimmy MacElroy’s neck during the Iron Lotus in Blades of Glory. Utterly disturbing to see how Piazza almost looked aroused by it. Then on the next pitch, it happened. The roman candles were lit.

Guillermo reared back and hit Piazza with a fastball on his left shoulder. Piazza sprinted at him like he was a matador holding a red flag. As soon as Piazza hit the infield grass, Mota grabbed his glove and took a couple of back steps bracing for whatever was going to happen. When the two were close enough to be in violation of social distancing mandates, Mota threw his glove at Piazza and went into a backpedal like Jalen Ramsey. Thankfully three Dodgers were able to keep Piazza from him because he was ready to get hit with 25 to life.

The star of the show was Mota’s elite backpedaling. He went from the pitcher’s mound to first base and then to the middle of the dugout untouched while a whole army of Orange Jerseys wanted to hang him by his throat on a wall with a dull nail. When the game finally ended Piazza bursted through the Dodgers clubhouse and was screaming “Where’s Mota?” repeatedly. And while Mike was running towards the Dodgers dugout plotting methods of torture that made waterboarding seem like a timeout in a corner, Mota was in his car cruising away. Just couldn’t wait to dip out like he just spent a torturous thanksgiving with his in laws. To go from prominently saying “If he charged the mound, I’d have a chance to do something,” to throwing his glove, running away and speeding off is truly remarkable.

To make fans across baseball hate him even more, Mota’s punishment ended up being lighter than Piazza’s. Piazza was fined $5,000 while Mota was fined $3,000. Both were suspended 5 games, but Mota got his worked down to 4.

There is no sort of spin zone for this. It flat out sucks to cheer for the fake tough guy who puffs his chest out, but can’t stand his ground and live what he speaks. Rather choosing to take the route of a complete coward. If you’re gonna throw at a guy you have to be willing to accept some haymakers. Bar none worst part is knowing you’re on probation from dishing out a roast when another team or player find themself committing the same sin. But as new flabbergasting moments appear and the anger shifts to some place else, this debacle has gone to form of distant memory. On the bright side though, at least we Mota wasn’t banging trash cans!