Saturday, April 13, 2013

Great Moments In Surprise Actual Brawling

I swear, we're totally brawling here
In the aftermath of Carlos Quentin's takeout of Zack Greinke, one thing is certain: Greinke isn't going to be pitching for a while. Beyond that, it's a haze of internet yammering and finger-pointing over who's at fault, what should be done, and all that usual good stuff.
It's an unusual case, largely in that what we have here is a baseball brawl in which someone actually got hurt. Usually you're in more danger on Black Friday at Filene's than you are in a scrum at the pitcher's mound; the number of actual punches thrown can be counted on the finger of one foot. Sure, everyone's out there and pushing and shoving, but most of the time nobody's actually fighting because nobody wants to get hurt or hurt anyone else. (And for all of the mockery from the football guys out there, baseball players are still generally very large people who can do an awful lot of damage with a swing if they put their minds and their lower bodies into it). When someone does get hurt - or even actually fight, like in that Reds-Cardinals brawl from a few years back - it's news because it's so unexpected. A baseball brawl is there to show that you're upset, not to try to lay the other guy out, and that's just fine.

But this fight was something special, in that it did serious damage to someone expensive. The Dodgers did not shell out $147M for Greinke to mend a collarbone while they gave starts to the Chris Capuanos of the world. And the sad part is, watch the replay and it all seems unnecessary. There's no reason on earth Greinke would have hit Quentin intentionally in that count - not with the game that close. Yeah, there was a history there, but history tends to come in second behind winning ballgames.
And even when the pitch plunked him, Quentin didn't Robin Ventura out there immediately. There was a moment of hesitation there, which anyone who's ever been maneuvered into a schoolyard fight they didn't want to get into will recognize. It's the moment where you act belligerent while desperately hoping someone else jumps in to hold you back so you don't actually have to throw a punch. It seems clear that Quentin didn't want to go out there; it also seems clear he felt like he had to, and his way of avoiding it was hanging around at home plate long enough for Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis to jump in the way.
Which, as you might notice, Ellis declined to do. And thus, deprived of his excuse for not charging the mound, Quentin dutifully charged the mound and snapped Greinke's collarbone like a frozen Charleston Chew. Like I said, unnecessary. Also unnecessary: Matt Kemp's parking lot antics after the game, which move this whole thing from "brawl" to "impromptu revival of West Side Story".
Now, maybe Ellis didn't think Quentin would charge. Maybe he was afraid to get in the way. Maybe he thought that Greinke had hit Kemp deliberately and needed to be taught a Crash-Davis-tipping-Nuke-Laloosh's-pitches lesson. It doesn't matter. There was a window there to act, he didn't take it, and the rest - like much of Greinke's season - is history.
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