On Thursday night, in the bottom 6th inning of a 2-1 game between the Padres and Dodgers in Sad Diego. The $147 man Zach Grienke was staring down Carlos Quinton with a full count and nobody on. Grienke throws a pitch on the inner half that catches Quinton on the arm. Quinton takes offense and steps out in front of the mound, to 'Jaw' with Grienke a little bit. After a couple of seconds, Quinton changes his mind and decides just to charge the mound and proceeds to attempt to tackle Grienke. Grienke lowers his left shoulder to take on some of the blow. A lot of pushing, shoving and arguing pursues as per the usual baseball 'brawl' (Aside: Writers really need to look up the definition of a brawl because we haven't seen a real one in sports for years). But you guys all know about this, what I want to dive into today is a little bit behind this and other 'brawls'.
First off, I am no Zach Grienke fan, but Grienke did exactly what you are supposed to do in the situation... minus one thing. DON'T LEAD WITH YOUR SHOULDER! Yes, he lead with his left, non-throwing shoulder which was smart, but at the same time, had he been tackled, his throwing shoulder would have been buried into the ground. He didn't get thrown to the ground, but he did end up with a broken collarbone and he is now on the shelf for somewhere around 2 months. That is 2 months the Dodgers are now without there staff ace. This is one of those situations where you as a team leader and star needs to keep a cool head and protect yourself... You don't under any circumstance backdown from a guy like Quinton, but at the end of the day, you have to protect yourself... you have to. Let a reliever or back up catcher worry about getting hurt, give him the Pedro Martinez Don Zimmer Ole', but don't get hurt... he's got a full head of steam. Quinton won the fight, not because everybody knows his name now, but because you are now on the pine for a couple months. You HAVE to be smarter than the Grienke... you are getting paid too much money not to be.
Second of all, hitters are almost always at fault for a fight taking place. Now, I was never a pitcher in my playing days, and I will be the first person to say most hurlers are headcases, but Pitchers don't start the fights. They may be the guy that makes it happens, but fights are usually set motion by a batter taking offense to something in the heat of the moment, or were set into motion early in that game, series, or season. Now, I am going to make another short aside, I think fights are part of baseball, just like they are part of Hockey. Fights in baseball happen because of one of 3 reasons in baseball, guys are playing hard and things escalate or are misinterpreted (not often), a guy has really shallow skin (again, not often) or 3 a guy 'show up' the other team. Particularly in the latter case, that needs to be addressed. You have to give the game it's respect, don't show up the other pitcher or the other team. Don't call them.... well what Brandon Phillips called the Cardinals 2 years back. Be a man and play the game right, or pay the consequences. Now, last night, Quinton was fully in the wrong in my books (and Donny Baseball agrees). It is a one run game in the 6th inning of an April ballgame, and you get plunked when you are hanging all over the plate and you think he did it on purpose? You play for the Padres dude... one of the worst teams in baseball and most people not on the west coast don't know your name or why you have that $4.5 million salary. You have been hit by more pitches in the last 3 years, 97, than any other player in baseball... get over yourself and get your butt down to first base. Don't run your mouth. Don't try to act like a big tough guy. Jog 90 and try to help your team win the game.
Third, I know why they do this, but what are the bullpens really going to contribute to a fight. Most baseball fights are over in a matter of 30 seconds or less. But dutifully the bullpens of both teams coming jogging in ready to go if something really goes down. Most relievers aren't small guys, so I kind of feel bad that they run 300+ feet just to end up walking back without doing anything.
Finally, and this kind of ties back to what I was saying with Grienke, but big name guys need to keep their head on during a fight. Yes, if you are a 'star' player, others are looking to you for leadership in the fight. But for the same reason you don't see Sydney Crosby picking fights with a guy, you need to protect yourself. One, your team is paying you a lot of money to play... not ride pine. But more importantly there are 24 other guys on the team looking for you to be the 'star'. To make that play that your back up has no chance of making, driving in runs by the dozen, and generally leading the team. If you manage to get yourself hurt or a long term suspension, there are enough good teams in the big leagues that would love to knock your team out of the playoff race. Is fighting a no-name pitcher or field player on the other team worth your season? career? If you watch any video of the fight last night, Matt Kemp was really trying to get involved in something more than he already was. He got tossed, and likely will get a fine, but what was there to gain for him? Yes, I know, they threw over your head earlier in the game. You know how you pay them back? Win the game, be the bigger man. If you are really that worried about it, have a reliever throw over one of their guys heads later in the game or season. Deal with it then, don't get yourself tossed and potentially cost yourself the game. The 3 of the last 4 years at least one playoff race came down to the final series of the season. Every game matters, even the ones in April.
Thanks for reading,
T.O. signing out