Dodgers-Padres brawl leaves plenty of blame and repercussions
Looking for someone to blame in the Dodgers-Padres brawl Thursday that left $147-million pitcher Zack Greinke with a busted left collarbone? As much as we love to distill everything down to one person or one reason, it's not that simple. There is enough responsibility to spread around. Here's a look at the key players, their roles and possible discipline forthcoming:
Carlos Quentin, Padres outfielder: There is a history between Greinke and Quentin, dating to their days with the Royals and White Sox, respectively, in which Greinke hit Quentin on two separate occasions. So when Quentin, who does hang near the plate and gives no ground, got hit by Greinke for a third time, it was a classic case of confirmation bias.
Quentin wasn't thinking about in being a one-run game and a full count -- hardly the place to hit someone on purpose. He was tired of Greinke throwing at him and called him on it. It was an emotional reaction, not a calculus of the score/count game situation. Remember, Quentin is the same guy who in 2008 was on his way to winning the AL MVP when he broke his left wrist by smashing his hand against his bat in frustration after a strikeout.
Zack Greinke, Dodgers pitcher: He is out for six weeks or more because he didn't back down. When Quentin got hit, he walked toward Greinke and shouted something. Quentin didn't charge initially. Greinke could have thrown up his hands in the international symbol of, "Hey, I wasn't trying to hit you." Instead, Greinke seemed to bark nothing more than one or two words at Quentin. Only then did Quentin charge the mound.
A.J. Ellis, Dodgers catcher: You can tell Greinke wasn't intentionally trying to hit Quentin because the Dodgers catcher was caught unprepared for what happened. Once Quentin was hit, he started walking toward Greinke. Ellis tooks off his mask -- and just stayed behind the plate. The cardinal rule for a catcher in these cases is to take as many steps forward as does the batter -- as if playing man-to-man defense. Quentin took one, two, three, four steps forward and Ellis remained in the catcher's box. When Quentin took off for the mound, Ellis was too far behind him to prevent him from doing harm to his pitcher.
Don Mattingly, Dodgers manager: Mattingly said after the game that he wants Quentin to sit out as long as Greinke is unable to pitch. In other words, he wants to completely remove historical precedent when it comes to disciplining a batter who charges the mound. It's not happening. MLB has to treat Quentin consistent with previous suspensions. He will be suspended anywhere from four to eight games, with an opportunity to appeal the discipline and cut its length. Recent suspensions for charging the mound range from three games (David Ortiz, 2011; reduced from four games), to five games (Kevin Youkilis, 2009; Richie Sexson, 2008, reduced from six games), to eight games (Nyjer Morgan, 2010, though it was folded into another penalty).
Jerry Hairston Jr., Dodgers utilityman: After the brawl had simmered down, Hairston raced across the field to confront somebody in the Padres dugout who, according to Hairston, made fun of the injury to Greinke. Really? Those are fighting words? A fine or suspension is due for nearly re-igniting another brawl.
Matt Kemp, Dodgers outfielder: Kemp, who was animated on the field during the incident and had been brushed back by a pitch in the first inning on Thursday, confronted Quentin in a tunnel after the game. The two outfielders needed to be separated by other players in the area. Kemp will be fined. In 2010, then-Brewer Prince Fielder was fined by MLB for trying to enter the Dodgers clubhouse to reach Guillermo Mota, who had hit him with a pitch in the ninth inning.
Mike Matheny has a problem. The St. Louis manager has to find more at-bats for Matt Adams, the Bunyanesque hitter from Slippery Rock University who goes by the nickname "Big City" and who is far better than the role of lefthanded bat off the bench that Matheny intended for him. Adams has started only three games this year. In 14 at-bats, he has nine hits, including two home runs, and seven runs batted in. He's too good to ride pine.
All Adams has done on every level is mash the ball. He fell to the Cardinals in the 2009 draft in the 23rd round because . . . well, because the last guy to make the big leagues out of Slippery Rock was Bob Shawkey in 1913 and because Adams was pigeonholed by scouts as one of those bad body types without great defensive value.
St. Louis found a gem. His power, plate discipline and contact rate project him as an impact bat in the big leagues. Matheny's "problem" is that St. Louis first baseman Allen Craig is signed through 2017 and no, you're not likely to see Big City in the outfield any time soon. Matheny could put Craig in the outfield, at least on occasion, but the Cardinals prefer keeping Craig at first base to keep him healthy, and the outfield is packed with Matt Holliday, John Jay and Carlos Beltran, whose contract does expire after this season. But St. Louis also has uber-propect Oscar Tavares knocking on the door.
If this sounds familiar -- where do you find room for a major-league ready power-hitting first baseman already in his mid-20s? -- you probably remember the story of Ryan Howard. The Phillies finally traded Jim Thome after the 2005 season to open up room for Howard after Howard tore up the minors.
Howard finally got a chance to play regularly at age 25. All he did was win the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2005, despite playing just 88 games, and the Most Valuable Player Award in 2006, his first full season.
Adams is 24. And to stretch the comparison further, his minor league numbers look eerily similar to those of Howard before Howard finally earned his gig in the big leagues -- with one major exception. Check out the minor league numbers of Adams compared to those of Howard before he took over for Thome:
|Matt Adams vs. Ryan Howard|
|Minor League Stats|
The exception is the strikeout rate. Adams is the better pure hitter because of a much lower strikeout rate.
Howard is listed as 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. Adams is listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, though he clearly cut weight this winter while working with a nutritionist. Is Adams the next Ryan Howard? It's a stretch to think he could have the immediate impact Howard gave the Phillies; that was historic. But to find out exactly what they have in Adams, the Cardinals are going to have to find ways to get him to the plate more often.
It's been a good year for surprising power hitters with big bodies and cool nicknames. You have "Big City" Adams for St. Louis, Evan "El Oso Blanco" Gattis, 26, manning the cleanup spot for Atlanta, and Chris "Crush" Davis, 27, blasting his way to a record start for Baltimore. Get ready for the next late boomer: Lucas "The Dude" Duda, 27, of the Mets. It would make for a decent linebacker corps in a 3-4 defense -- respectively, Adams, Gattis, Davis and Duda are 260, 230, 230 and 255 pounds.
Duda looks a lot like Davis with his raw power from the left side, quiet approach at the plate, easy power and big minor league numbers (.284/.380/.469) that suggests he's worth waiting for through the growing pains, just like Davis (.318/.375/.597). They were born one month apart. The difference is that the Mets have held on to Duda since they drafted him out of USC in the seventh round in 2007 while the Rangers traded Davis, a fifth-round pick in 2006, to the Orioles in midseason 2011 for a setup reliever (Koji Uehara).
Duda is off to a .308 start with three home runs in nine games. The Mets should run him out there enough for the first 500-at-bat season of his big league career. The Orioles did just that with Davis last year and were rewarded with 33 home runs and 85 RBIs, the kind of numbers not out of the question for The Dude.