A lot of ire has been raised around major league baseball this week in the aftermath of the brawl between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers. What was less a brawl, and more of a tango between a brute and delicate flower, turned into a national discussion when the delicate flower in Zack Greinke broke his collarbone in the melee. The brute, Carlos Quentin, charged the mound after getting hit with a 3-2 pitch in a one run game.
I don’t think you will find many people out there that believed Greinke was throwing at Carlos Quentin in that situation. Still, it didn’t stop what seemed like a pretty innocuous hit batter from escalating into a bench clearing situation.
You see, there is a history of Carlos Quentin being hit by Zack Greinke. This was the third time Quentin had been drilled by the quiet Greinke, but getting hit by pitches isn’t an unfamiliar situation for Quentin. It’s happened over a hundred times in his career. He looks about as agile getting out of the way of a fastball as a dancing bear would be doing the hustle. This, coupled with the game situation has led many to take the Dodgers side on the issue, leading the Dodgers to ample whining about the situation that has fallen on some not so deaf ears of the national media.
Since when does a baseball scuffle prompt discussions the following day on sports news programs like ESPN’s Outside The Lines? I will tell you when. When that player that was injured in the scuffle just got paid $147 million dollars by one of the biggest media market teams in the league. Is there any doubt that nary a word would have been said if Chris Capuano was on the mound. Well, except by Capuano and his agent of course.
It didn’t take long for the media to vilify Quentin in the situation, and take the “brawl” to a level that wasn’t necessary. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was calling for Quentin to be out as long as Greinke, members of the media suggesting that the penalty for Quentin should be unprecedentedly stiff, but also acknowledging that the likelihood of that was slim. As it turns out, Quentin got eight games, which seems appropriate to me.
Some media members have suggested in the wake of Greinke’s injury that the league should have sent a larger message. That players policing the game themselves shouldn’t be allowed in America’s pastime anymore, and charging the mound doesn’t belong in the game. I say, if you take that ability away from the hitters, the game of baseball is going to lose something important, a protection against pitchers having free will to plunk batters left and right.
Let Zack Greinke’s situation be a lesson to pitchers around the league who deal in retribution through beaning batters. If a pitcher wants to hit a batter as revenge, they always have to be prepared that the hitter could come out to that mound to handle their business. It’s machismo of the highest order, and it can either make or break a clubhouse at times.
Now, I realize that the Greinke/Quentin situation had nothing to do with retribution. It was pretty clearly a ball that just got away from Greinke. But, let’s not act like Zack Greinke is an innocent in the brawl that followed. After hitting Quentin, and Quentin slowly walked toward the mound, Greinke clearly said something unflattering to Quentin, which sent him in his sprint towards the mound where they did their weird high speed shoulder smash. If Greinke doesn’t flap his gums, Quentin likely doesn’t charge, and a broken collarbone never happens. In all the times Quentin has been hit, some of them undoubtedly on purpose, he has never charged a mound. Quentin got called out, and almost had to go.
On the face of it, it is quite silly watching a bunch of guys in stirrups wrestling around the infield. Especially when more guys would prefer to be peacemakers than take part in the fracas. Getting punched in the face isn’t fun in any situation. But there are times when charging a mound are required. This may have been one of those times for Quentin.
Baseball brawls are part of the game. Heck, our own Detroit Tigers have been in a few good ones. Most recently was the Rick Porcello/Kevin Youklis incident. But the classic was the Tigers and White Sox, where some real punches were thrown and landed, several players on both clubs sporting shiners in the locker room after games. To this day I remember Robert Fick getting beers dumped on him by White Sox fans as he walked off the field.
Teams never want to lose a key player in a brawl. I do understand the Dodgers frustration and being upset. After all they just dropped 147 million on Greinke and are going to lose a good deal of value in the first year of that deal. What can’t be forgotten is that these things rarely happen in the game of baseball. If there was a string of incidents like this in baseball, I could see people’s dander getting raised over the situation. There isn’t, however, and there is no need to overreact.
It’s definitely a good thing brawls are a rare occurrence. Players can be hurt.
However, this is just boys being boys, and just a part of the game that we all love. I believe in the idea that teams should police themselves. If a hitter shows up a pitcher, he should expect to get plunked, just as a pitcher should expect to get charged if he flaps his gums after hitting someone with a 90 plus mile an hour fastball.
If anything, the Dodgers are likely to get some momentum out of this, and for San Diego, their fans had something to actually watch and talk about for a couple of days. If past history is any indication, this isn’t over, but it is likely that it will handle itself.