Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Friday, May 26, 2006
No love lost between Mesa, Vizquel

By John Shea
Special to ESPN.com

Jose Mesa says it's over. Omar Vizquel doesn't believe him.

So simple, yet so complex. The former teammates who once rallied for the same cause are now vicious rivals.

Nine years after their Cleveland Indians won the American League pennant and took the Florida Marlins to seven games in the 1997 World Series, Mesa and Vizquel are in a different league and on different teams, yet they're still in conflict over the fallout from that hard-to-take Game 7 defeat.

Omar Vizquel
Omar Vizquel doesn't believe Jose Mesa will live up to his words and stop throwing at him.
In his 2003 autobiography, Vizquel was critical of Mesa for blowing the World Series finale, and Mesa reacted by vowing to throw at Vizquel every time they were to meet on the field. He carried out his threat on three occasions, the third coming in last month's Giants-Rockies series in Colorado, earning Mesa a four-game suspension.

After the Rockies lectured Mesa, he said he'd stop throwing at Vizquel, but Vizquel isn't buying it. The teams play again this weekend in San Francisco. While the focus will remain on Barry Bonds' quest to surpass Babe Ruth on the all-time homers list, an intriguing subplot will emerge whenever Mesa faces Vizquel.

"I'm not going to believe anything he says," Vizquel said this week. "It's hard to believe what comes out of his mouth."

Vizquel said he fully expects that Mesa will try to plunk him, just as he expected it in the April 21-23 series in Colorado. In the eighth inning of the second game, Mesa's first pitch to Vizquel drilled him on the upper back. Vizquel calmly took first base.

"I think it's kind of dumb, the whole thing," Vizquel said. "He's thinking about it for eight years and refuses to turn the page. He's the one who has the problem."

Mesa's plunking of Vizquel led to some ugliness the following day. In retaliation, Giants starter Matt Morris drilled the Rockies' first batter, Matt Holliday, prompting Triple-A replacement umpire Travis Reininger to issue a warning to both teams. Morris also hit another batter in the first inning, Eli Marrero -- players from both sides suggested that one wasn't on purpose -- and drew an ejection, along with Giants manager Felipe Alou.

Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti also was ejected for throwing his pitch counter onto the field. Colorado reliever Ray King was ejected, along with Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, after hitting Vizquel in the eighth.

Afterward, Alou was most critical of the umpires for being unaware of Mesa's threats toward Vizquel, reasoning Mesa would have been ejected one day earlier -- lessening the need for retaliation -- had the umpires, whose crew chief was Derryl Cousins, known the history.

Alou got his point across. When Major League Baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson delivered his penalties, only Mesa was suspended. His appeal is pending.

With the Giants and Rockies scheduled to play 15 more games, Hurdle strongly encouraged Mesa to cool it, and Mesa was quoted as saying, "What was meant to happen, it happened, and we've got to go forward. That thing is over already."

Regarding future showdowns with Vizquel, Mesa said, "I'll just get him out, plain and simple."

The statements didn't convince Vizquel.

"I don't think anything will change," he said. "It's stupidity."

Even before Vizquel's book came out, bad blood was boiling. Vizquel was extra animated in a 1998 intrasquad game after homering off Mesa, and Mesa came back the following year as a Mariner and brushed back Vizquel. Words were exchanged at the time.

The book elevated the tension. In "Omar! My Life On and Off the Field," Vizquel writes about Mesa blowing Game 7: "The eyes of the world were focused on every move we made. Unfortunately, Jose's own eyes were vacant. Completely empty. Nobody home. You could almost see right through him. Not long after I looked into his vacant eyes, he blew the save and the Marlins tied the game."

After the book was published, Mesa was quoted as saying, "Even my little boy told me to get him. If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. I want to kill him."

In 18 career at-bats off Mesa, Vizquel has six hits.

John Shea is the national baseball writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.