My first impression of the Los Angeles Dodgers-San Diego Padres brawl Thursday night at PETCO Park was that a hockey game broke out in the middle of the baseball game. But really, the scene more resembled one of those everybody-into-the-ring pro wrestling extravaganzas.
Another thing that was fairly apparent was that right-handed throwing Greinke did adhere to the No. 1 rule for pitchers getting into fights and led with the left side of his body as Padres outfielder Carlos Quention sprinted at him full-blast as if he was covering a kickoff on special teams.
While some might argue that the smartest thing Greinke could have done would have been to run away in the face of this charging bull, he would have been ridiculed from here to Timbuktu with the video on a loop forevermore, if he had done so. Instead he met Quentin head on, or shoulder on, and broke his left collarbone, which is supposed to knock him out of the Dodgers’ rotation for up to a few months.
No doubt LA general manager Ned Colletti, who signed Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract to pitch, not punch, was cringing in more pain than the thrower the morning after. Quirky developments like these are the things that decide pennant races. Still, Greinke did protect his pitching shoulder in favor of his punching shoulder.
The precipitating incident in this (and here comes that popular baseball phrase) bench-clearing brawl, occurred in the sixth inning. Greinke was pitching to Quentin and hit him on the left, outside shoulder. Hit by pitch, take your base, would have been the routine move. Only Quentin decided he would rather take the mound.
He barely mulled the matter for a second or two and then engaged in an NFL combine start, going from 0 to 60 in a flash. Greinke met him head-on, throwing an impressive block, and they hit the deck. That was the signal for everybody to dash onto the field, coaches, players, managers, bullpen personnel, cousins of players, acquaintances of coaches.
Nobody was madder than LA outfielder Matt Kemp, who injected himself into the middle of the sprawling mess in the infield. Earlier in the game a pitch had sailed over his Kemp’s head and that was the theory on what Kemp was holding a grudge over–but he was ranting more than anyone.
Kemp later chased down Quentin to jaw some more, LA manager Don Mattingly called Quentin “stupid” for charging the mound, Greinke said he didn’t hit Quentin on purpose, and the Dodgers won the game, 3-2, but lost Greinke for a while.
Pitchers are such fragile creatures that getting into mini-wars like this is extremely risky. Old-timers that faced a regular diet of flamethrowers such as Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale, who aimed at their heads to keep them loose in the batter’s box, always ridicule these confrontations and what they consider to be over-reactions by hitters. Quentin really did over-react.
Team executives hate it when one of their high-priced pitchers gets embroiled in a smackdown like this and this is one of those Exhibit A examples as to why. Greinke upheld his honor, but is paying a price. What the Dodgers don’t need is a Greinke injury dragging the whole team down and jeopardizing playoff chances with a lengthy slump.