Carlos Quentin, Carlos Quentin, Fights, Retaliation, Zack Greinke

Know Thy Situation, Vol. 219: Quentin Charges Greinke for Reasons That Nobody Else can Quite Fathom, Yet

Quentin-Greinke IIIThe primary question after Carlos Quentin charged Zack Greinke yesterday was one of situational awareness: Was it incumbent upon Quentin to take action in response to a circumstance in which no right-thinking pitcher would intentionally drill an opponent?

Unless the primary question had to do with motivation: Was there something in the history between hitter and pitcher to inspire action in a situation which did not otherwise appear to call for it?

That is, unless the question we’re asking was one of provocation: Was it Greinke’s post-drilling stance—glove tossed, epithets hurled—that actually served as Quentin’s impetus?

In the end, because Greinke’s broken collarbone will extend the ramifications of this brawl for months, all these questions—and more—will continue to be asked for the forseeable future.

Pertinent details: Quentin, leading off the sixth inning of yesterday’s game in San Diego, was hit in the bicep with a Greinke pitch, dropped his bat, had a brief word with the pitcher, then charged. He threw Greinke to the ground; once the ensuing dogpile broke up, Greinke emerged with a broken collarbone. (Watch it here.)

More details: It was a full-count pitch, with the Dodgers holding a one-run lead, and, had Greinke not left the game, would have forced him to face San Diego’s four-five-six hitters from the stretch. Under no circumstances was this an appropriate situation for vendetta enforcement. (The closest thing to a response-worthy situation earlier in the game was the 0-2 pitch Padres starter Jason Marquis sent toward the head of Matt Kemp in the first inning, but it was easily avoided and tempers did not appear to flare.)

“We’re in a 2-1 game and on a 3-2 pitch to a guy that I see on the [score]board set a record for the Padres by getting hit, a guy who basically dives into the plate,” said irate Dodgers manager Don Mattingly after the game, in an MLB.com report. “In a 2-1 game, we’re trying to hit him, 3-2? It’s just stupid is what it is.”

Another pertinent detail pertains to what Greinke said between his pitch connecting and the batter charging. Quentin did not appear ready to head toward the mound until the pitcher responded to his bristling with what appears to be, based on the video, a solid “fuck you.” Regardless of Greinke’s innocence when it comes to the pitch itself, verbally provoking a guy who outweighs you by 45 lbs. is rarely somebody’s best option.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” said Quentin. “Myself and Greinke have a history. It dates back a few years. You guys can look it up. It’s documented. It could have been avoided. You can ask Zack about that. For me, I’ve been hit by many pitches in my career. I think you guys know that. I can tell you I’ve never responded in that fashion, so you guys can do your homework on that.”

Because Quentin left the details vague, we can only assume that he’s talking about opening day in 2009, when Greinke, then with Kansas City, hit Quentin, then with the White Sox, in the back. Combined with a pitch earlier in the game that nearly hit Quentin in the head, it inspired the batter to step toward the mound, though not much came of it—until yesterday.

Greinke has hit Quentin three times, more than any other player, but Quentin is generally hit more than any other player—he led the National League in HBPs each of the last two seasons, with six top-5 finishes in his career. (From ESPN: Quentin has also been hit four times by Nick Blackburn, and three times each by Erik Bedard and Jon Lester. He’s also been hit twice by 18 guys. ) He didn’t quite lean into Greinke’s pitch, the topic should be well within his comfort zone.

“I’ve never hit him on purpose,” Greinke said. “I never thought of hitting him on purpose. He always seems to think that I’m hitting him on purpose, but, I mean, that’s not the case. I actually thought it was just a ploy to get people to not throw inside to him. I just feel like he’s trying to intimidate people to throw away. But I don’t know anyone who has hit him on purpose. I know I haven’t. Like I said, I hadn’t even thought about hitting him on purpose before.”

This isn’t the first time a pitcher has been injured in such a fashion. Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee was seriously injured after Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles dropped him on his shoulder during a brawl in 1976. (Lee didn’t even spark the fight—Lou Piniella did, by attempting to kick the ball out of Carlton Fisk’s glove in a play at the plate. Fisk responded by tagging the runner again, this time hard on the head, and things escalated from there.) Nettles picked up the pitcher on the outside of the scrum, but unlike Greinke’s injury it was Lee’s pitching shoulder that was injured; it took him years to recover fully. (Nettles was drilled by the Red Sox two days later, but because he was leading off the 10th inning of a scoreless game, it’d hard to think it was intentional.)

Tommy John suffered a similar injury while trying to fend off a charging Dick McAuliffe in 1968. John’s tweaked shoulder forced an alteration in his delivery that eventually led to an elbow blowout—which resulted in the pioneering surgery that still informally bears his name.

Details from Thursday’s fight—Quentin’s body slam, the Dodgers’ drawn-out anger, Kemp going after Quentin in the players’ parking lot after the game—are incidental.

What matters most to the Dodgers is the amount of time they’ll be without one of the game’s best pitchers, signed in the off-season to a six-year, $147 million contract. Mattingly suggested that Quentin be suspended for the duration of Greinke’s DL stay, but that almost certainly won’t happen. (A six-game suspension is likely, especially considering that Greinke’s injury could just as well have been triggered by the scrum of Padres on top of him in the aftermath as by Quentin’s initial throw-down).

The other question is how long this will linger, and to what extent. Quentin said that “for me, the situation is done,” but MLB is bound to have something to say on the matter.

So will the Dodgers. “There probably is [bad blood] now,” said Greinke. “I don’t know if there was before.” This despite the fact that numerous Padres players reportedly apologized to their Dodgers counterparts as the field cleared.

Also in the crosshair is San Diego’s backup catcher, John Baker, whose verbal delight following Greinke’s injury helped cause the skirmish to re-flare before all the players had even left the field.

San Diego visits the Dodgers on Monday for the first of what will be 15 more games between the teams this season.

Update (4-13): Quentin has drawn an eight-game suspension for his inability to read a game situation, or some such.

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A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Quentin, Delmon Young, Delmon Young, Glen Perkins, J.J. Hardy, Juan Nieves, Retaliation, Sergio Santos

Twins-Sox Go Tit for Tat, then Start All Over Again

The thing about retaliation is that its genesis can occasionally be difficult to pinpoint. In an attempt to score against the White Sox on Tuesday, Minnesota’s Delmon Young ran into White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Instead of sliding or attempting to bowl Pierzynski over, however, Young—who was out by several steps—went out of the baseline to throw his hands hard into the catcher’s face. (Watch it here.)

There was little chance of success on the play—Young didn’t even try to dislodge the ball—but he might have earned a degree of satisfaction. Perhaps it was a grudge against Pierzynski (which would hardly be shocking, given the general frequency of grudges against Pierzynski), but  it more likely had to do with a preceding pitch from reliever Sergio Santos, which Twins shortstop J.J. Hardy had to duck to avoid.

Santos is one of the game’s harder throwers; the pitch in question was a 94 mph fastball. There were two outs and first base was open—a great situation in which to drill a hitter.

If that pitch was indeed intentional, it was itself serving as retaliation, stemming from last week’s series between the teams, during which Chicago’s Carlos Quentin was hit three times.

Two of those pitches were thrown by Glen Perkins on Wednesday. After the second (which following an earlier Quentin homer) warnings were issued to both benches, spurring White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to launch into a post-game diatribe during which he suggested that Perkins meant what he did.

“Everybody knows when you’re hit on purpose,” he said in the Chicago Sun Times. “To me, in my opinion, did this kid throw at the guy [Wednesday]? I don’t know, but in that situation it was so obvious and everybody thinks about it that way. He’s the only one who knows. But being in this game so long, first base open, a lefty behind him, he got his ass kicked, go hit the guy.

“I told my players, if you have any problems about somebody hitting you and you don’t like it, go get it and we’re behind you. I’ll be the first one behind you and I will protect you. I said in the [spring training team] meeting, ‘Don’t hit any players because you stink. Because one of the players might get hit, Get people out. But if you see somebody and you want to take care of yourself, that’s up to the players.’ ”

Guillen’s opinions, reported the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, were issued “despite the fact that Quentin stands close to the plate, leads the league in being hit by pitches and that the umpire was calling inside pitches off the plate for strikes that night.”

(For his part, Santos issued an emphatic denial. “If I was trying to hit someone, I would aim for the leg or the butt,” he said in an MLB.com report. “I was a hitter for many years and taking a baseball to the head is nothing to fool around with. I’ve had my fair share of 96- or 97-mph pitches in the back and legs. It is what it is and you move on. The last thing I want to do is hit someone in the head. I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemies. It got away and luckily it didn’t hit him.”)

Chicago’s bullpen coach, Juan Nieves, fueled things further with a burst of verbal bluster on WSCR (670 AM) in Chicago, saying that the White Sox weren’t afraid of the Twins, despite having lost 19 of the last 25 meetings between the clubs.

“There’s nothing that would please me more than having a brawl with them and kicking their rear,” he said on the air. “I’ve even thought of telling guys, ‘Hey [Matt] Thornton, smoke [Joe] Mauer, see if you can start a fight.”

This cumulatively represents a lot of calories burned on the subject of retaliation—how it’s delivered, and how it’s accepted—but if the goal of Perkins, Santos, Young or Nieves was to start a fight, all parties came up short.

Guillen even went so far as to offer backhanded praise to Young’s baserunning efforts. After calling the play “unnecessary,” he told the Chicago Tribune that “I like when baseball is aggressive. If anyone has a problem with that, there’s still a way they can resolve their problems.”

The way in question, according to many prognosticators, should have involved putting a baseball into Young’s ribs or thigh during the following day’s game. (Young had come up two innings after his non-slide, to lead off the 10th, but with Thornton trying to protect a 6-5 lead, it was hardly the time to send a message.)

Wednesday rang no different, however. In five at-bats, Young collected three hits (including a home run), scored two runs and was hit by precisely zero pitches.

This brings up interesting discrepancies when examining Guillen’s earlier comments in the Sun Times.

“I will protect my hitters myself,” he said in that report. “If I see somebody throw at somebody and I think it was on purpose, they will get hit. I guarantee it. Then, I’ll take my responsibility with fines and whatever they want to do.”

Perhaps Young’s non-slide doesn’t fall into the same category as throwing at somebody. Perhaps there was enough doubt about Perkins’ drilling of Quentin to give Guillen pause. That this is the same manager who has been known to order retaliatory strikes—see Tracey, Sean (find the reference within this story about Vicente Padilla—makes his hesitance in this instance peculiar.

In the end, the White Sox’ position was best summed up by pitching coach Don Cooper, who had earlier denied any part in ordering retaliation, in an MLB.com report.

“Let’s just keep our focus about winning games,” he said. “That’s the only thing that really matters.”

– Jason