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Matthew Lickona 5 p.m., Dec. 9
There is a history between Padres Carlos Quentin and the Dodgers Zack Greinke that dates back several years, according to Quentin, and that was where the events that lead to Thursday night’s brawl started. Greinke denies that he ever intentionally threw at Quentin.
Thursday’s brawl was spawned when Greinke nailed Quentin on the upper shoulder with a full count and the bases empty in a one-run game in the sixth inning. Quentin stopped and took a step forward and looked at Greinke, bat dropped vertically. Greinke seemed to mouth something and his body language seemed to indicate that he wasn’t exactly apologetic for plunking Quentin with the fastball high and inside. So Quentin dropped the bat and went at him.
The aftermath? A benches-clearing brawl (two of them, technically), three players ejected, and the number two pitcher for the Dodgers out with a broken collar bone. Whatever penalty that will be assessed against Quentin (likely both a fine and a three to five game suspension) will be levied by Major League Baseball in the coming days.
The history between the two started in 2008, when Carlos played for the White Sox and Zack with the Royals. On June 3rd, Quentin took Greinke deep in the first inning for a 2-run shot in a game that Greinke lost. The next time the two met was on July 18th, when Greinke hit Quentin with a pitch. In that game, it loaded the bases in the first inning already down 0-1. Draw your own conclusions about that, but note that Quentin then took Greinke deep leading off of the second inning, so who knows how that carried over. August 3rd, they met again in a game where the Royals pounded the White Sox and Quentin went 0 for 2 against Greinke.
In 2009, on April 8th, Greinke again hit Quentin. In his first at bat, Quentin struck out. Quentin was then hit by a pitch, and then he walked against Greinke in subsequent plate appearances.
There’s your history, statistically, which seems to be nebulous to Quentin’s argument about that being the reason. However, statistically, counting Thursday, Quentin has been hit by Greinke more than any other single batter, 3 times. But the bad blood that is apparent from Quentin and likely felt but masked by Greinke probably isn’t bore out statistically anyway.
Forget about that part of history, and forget about the count and the one-run game, forget about Dodgers manager Don Mattingly protecting his player after the game. His post-game statements are to be expected, as ridiculous as they sound. “I don’t quite understand it,” Mattingly said, after the game, when asked about the incident. “We’re in a one-run game on a three-two pitch, a guy that set a record for the Padres by getting hit, a guy that basically dives into the plate. In a 2-1 game, we’re trying to hit him, 3-2? That’s just stupid. He should not play a game until Greinke can pitch.”
It’s a good bet that Quentin didn’t intend to break anyone’s collar bone. It’s also a good bet that Quentin will get a small amount of time of and perhaps a fine. And it’s too bad that Greinke had to stare down Quentin and act as though he didn’t mind getting a piece of him.
It’s also too bad that Quentin didn’t simply take his base. Should he get even a small suspension, the already struggling Padres without Headley will for a short time be without Carlos. While players don’t always think about such things in the short emotional moment of a single pitch in a single at-bat, it’s still a damned shame. Both for Carlos Quentin and for Zach Greinke.
Rather than allow statistics to decide history, maybe allow history to decide the single event. Historically, pitchers demand the inside part of the plate. Don Drysdale would have thrown at Quentin’s head every time he crowded the plate. So would have Bob Gibson. Both are Hall of Fame pitchers.
But Quentin is wound a bit differently than your average hitter. The inside part of the plate is his, always has been. And he hasn’t been one to charge the mound, that’s not his style.
“It’s an unfortunate situation that could have been avoided,” Quentin said postgame. “I’ve never responded in that fashion, so you guys [media] can do your homework on that.”
This is technically true, although Carlos was once restrained before he even had the chance to charge the mound if that was what he intended to do. So who knows, but technically, it’s true.
For his part, Zach Greinke responded similarly, although his responses were somewhat more confusing and cryptic. “I have comments on this stuff, but I don’t have them for you guys [Media],” Greinke said after the game.
None of this really matters in the long run, because none of this will change unless people want it to change. And perhaps it shouldn’t change. It’s unfortunate that Quentin will earn a suspension and even more unfortunate that Greinke broke his collar bone. But the real cause of all of this is that a pitcher and a hitter both demanded ownership of the inside of the plate. That’s what this is all about.
So, everyone, from Carlos Quentin to Zack Greinke to Buddy Black to Don Mattingly to fans of either team have to ask themselves an important question. Do you really want to change this part of the game of baseball, or to pretend that some grave injustice has been done here? If so, you’ll have to deal with the ghosts of greats from Ty Cobb to Don Drysdale haunting that decision or opinion every time you see a pitcher throw inside or a hitter crowd the plate.
It’s baseball. And certainly, suspensions are eventually lifted and collar bones eventually heal. And another thing that’s certain is that this will happen again and again, like it always has. And baseball will still thrive. And Carlos Quentin and Zack Greinke will eventually get over this.