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Fracas sign of new mentality for Pirates

Fracas sign of new mentality for Pirates

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PITTSBURGH -- It's not like the Pirates to be involved in anything that involves benches clearing and tempers flying. At least, that's what recent history would suggest.

Not once during Jim Tracy's two years as the club's manager did the Pirates have anything resembling a benches-clearing incident. What that was a reflection of -- the makeup of the ball club, the laid-back demeanor of Tracy, or other intangibles -- remains up for debate.

What isn't questionable, however, is that Monday's third-inning fracas, one that involved both the Pirates and the D-backs dumping onto the field after a verbal spat between Arizona starter Randy Johnson and Pirates infielder Doug Mientkiewicz, is a sign of a new mentality pervading the Pittsburgh clubhouse this season.

"The urgency to earn respect around the league is something new here," said Mientkiewicz, who is in his first season in Pittsburgh. "I don't think anybody here cared about respect before. Not to take anything from the guys who were here before me, but you start to see the attitude of guys like [Ryan] Doumit, [Nate] McLouth, the guys who are going to be here a while, and they want respect around the league.

"They're not going to let anyone come in here and trying to intimidate them or push them around."

It was just that -- feeling like Johnson was trying to intimidate the Pittsburgh offense -- that set Mientkiewicz off to begin with.

It's been almost three years since a Pittsburgh team has had an on-the-field skirmish. That '05 club engaged in a pregame, benches-clearing altercation with the Cardinals in a late-August game that season. Between then and now, the only verbal arguments came in the Pirates' dugout.

One day after this latest incident, manager John Russell and his players spoke with no regrets about engaging in the verbal confrontation. It's a byproduct of a newly-discovered passion and fight for respect, as Mientkiewicz put it, within this club.

"I think it can be a sign of caring and not just saying we're going to get walked on again," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "It's sending a message that we're not going to take advantage of."

The question now becomes whether the Pirates can ride the coattails of that emotionally-driven incident and the win that followed.

"It could have a positive effect," Russell said. "It shows that they do have spirit and they do have camaraderie, where they have each other's backs. If one guy gets into something like that, they're all going to be there to support him. The team's together."

Added Mientkiewicz: "You can have an attitude. You can have what you want. But if you don't win games, it's all for naught. [Monday's] over. Now we're focused on [Tuesday's game]. [Monday's incident] is naught if we don't continue and win this series."

Regardless, though, Monday's incident isn't likely to be forgotten if for nothing else than for being a mirror for the mentality of this team.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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