Over the weekend Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett did something no Dodger had done in 18 years: He threw a no-hitter. And in the celebration after the game, catcher AJ Ellis one-upped him and did something no Dodger had ever done: He twisted his ankle after jumping onto a catcher's mask and landed on the 15-day disabled list. The sports-watching world reacted with belly laughs, because there's nothing funnier than an athlete hurting himself when he's not playing.
But this isn't your garden variety idiot athlete story. There's something fishy going on here. Here’s our conspiracy theory. Though Ellis is the starting catcher for the Dodgers, he was enjoying a routine day off on Sunday. That meant backup Drew Butera was behind the plate for all nine of Beckett's no-hit innings. So when Ellis sprinted to the mound to make a manpile with his teammate's, it wasn't his own mask he landed on, but Butera's. The incident has been described as an accident, a freak occurrence, terrible luck. But what if it wasn't? What if Butera put that mask there, hoping Ellis would hurt himself, guaranteeing himself two weeks as a starter?
The 30-year-old back up has already shown disregard for depth charts this season. On opening day he was the organization's third catcher, playing in AAA. When Ellis landed on the DL after knee surgery in April, Butera was called up to back up Ellis' backup, Tim Federowicz. By the time Ellis returned, Butera had passed Federowicz on the depth chart because of superior performance. At least that's what we were led to believe. Knowing what we now know about Butera, it's impossible to not suspect sabotage. We’re watching you, Drew Butera.
The cruelest twist (other than that of his ankle) is that Ellis is due a lot of credit for Beckett’s no hitter. While he was laid up for six weeks recovering from knee surgery, Ellis studied tape on Beckett, who struggled to start the season. Based on what Ellis saw, Beckett started throwing more curveballs, a pitch that regularly baffles hitters. A few weeks later he throws a no hitter. So if there’s a bright side to any of this, it’s that Ellis can now watch more film. Maybe he can fix Brian Wilson.
Photos by Matt Slocum / AP / Corbis