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Understanding The Carlos Quentin Vs. Zack Greinke Brawl

Matthew Tufts |
April 15, 2013 | 1:40 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Dodgers offseason acquisition Zack Greinke is out for eight weeks with a broken collarbone. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Dodgers offseason acquisition Zack Greinke is out for eight weeks with a broken collarbone. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Charging the mound happens in baseball. Adrenaline kicks in and superstar athletes' egos collide.

So what made last Thursday's charge unique? Why did Carlos Quentin's march to the mound become an ESPN headline and one of the most hotly-debated stories of the sports world in the past week? Let's take a look at each aspect of the blame game going around the NL West.

The Numbers:

The more cynical commentators might point to money, and it's not without merit. Zack Greinke signed an offseason contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers worth $147 million, the largest contract given to a pitcher at the time. He is slated to make $21 million this year, which was supposed to cover a six-month regular season or a little over 30 starts. In the wake of his fractured collarbone, his comeback could take about two months.

For the Dodgers, that's roughly $7 million they will not get back. The way the Dodgers threw money around this offseason, this may seem pretty insignificant, so let's put it in perspective: Carlos Quentin will make $9.5 million a year - as the Padres' highest-paid player. The money the Dodgers will lose, assuming Greinke's comeback is on schedule, could cover over 70 percent of Quentin's contract value to the Padres. Major League Baseball levied an eight-game suspension against Quentin, one of the heftier penalties levied by MLB for such actions. He dropped his appeal Sunday, so the Padres lose Quentin for about 5 percent of their possible games*. This equates to about $475,000.

However, individual players' salaries cannot transcend teams as different as San Diego and Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Dodgers own the highest payroll in MLB for 2013, cashing in at $220,395,196. The Padres meanwhile, own the fifth-lowest payroll at $66,022,900, ergo the money they lose to a suspension or injury is felt significantly more than it is the Dodgers. As a percentage of their salary, the Padres lose about 0.7 percent on Quentin's suspension while the Dodgers lose about 3.2 percent to Greinke's injury.

(*Assumes a 162 game-regular season, though the most games Quentin has ever played in a season is 131 with the Chicago White Sox in 2010.)

Past History:

By now, anyone who has followed this story knows about the history between these two players. Quentin has been hit three times by Greinke throughout his career. The first, in 2008, was brushed off as a usual slip-up by the pitcher. However in 2009, Quentin claims that Greinke threw over his head before proceeding to hit him in the shoulder. Quentin also claims that Ronald Belisario's Tuesday night pitch that hit him was related.

Quentin is known for aggressive stance, leaving little room along the inside of the plate. He has led the league the past two years in hit by pitch despite playing in only 86 games. He's described by Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly as "a guy that basically dives into the plate." While Greinke may have hit him three times, so have two other major league pitchers. Another, Nick Blackburn, has hit him four times. Yet, we have not heard of a history between them.

So did Greinke try to hit Quentin back in 2009? Who knows. There appears to be bad blood between the two, but given the situation - full count in a 2-1 ballgame - would Greinke really try to hit anyone? Dodgers' center-fielder Matt Kemp would tell you "people with good baseball IQ's know that when you have a one-run lead in the sixth inning and it's a 3-2 count, Greinke's not gonna try to hit you on purpose." Mattingly called the idea that Greinke would intentionally him Quentin, "zero understanding of the game of baseball." Greinke has been praised for his mental approach to the game, often know as one of the most "cerebral" players in the game. He doesn't strike me as a guy whose emotions would get away from him at that moment.


It is difficult to find a camera angle that shows what Greinke mouthed or said to Quentin following the pitch, but Quentin claims "that was the final straw." What can be analyzed through the film is the pair's body language. Greinke did not motion in any way that the pitch got away from him, as many pitchers do after they hit a batter unintentionally. However, the notion that Greinke further escalated the situation by throwing his glove down and lowering his shoulder is absurd. Greinke threw his glove to the ground after Quentin started running at him, smartly taking a step forward and lowering his non-throwing shoulder to absorb the blow.

There are plenty of opinions going around claiming that a different reaction from Greinke could have saved himself from injury or perhaps prevented the altercation altogether. No one beyond Greinke, Quentin, catcher A.J. Ellis and perhaps home plate umpire Sam Holbrook knows what language Greinke used that could have set off such a series of events. But from what we can see on the film, Greinke's physical actions appear justified.

Baseball has changed a lot over the years, but batters have been getting hit by pitches since the game's earliest days. It's part of the game. If there's one place you want to be hit, it's the muscly outside part of your bicep - exactly where Quentin was hit. Dodgers' outfielder Jerry Hairston Jr. acknowledged that "pitchers have been hitting players since the beginning of this game." However, he went on to say, "If you're gonna hit somebody, you're gonna hit 'em right away." If Greinke had wanted to send a message to Quentin, he would have thrown at his head, first pitch, and likely not when it was a one-run game. 

I don't think Greinke hit Quentin on purpose. It's unlikely. It's illogical. Fact is, it happened. And you know what? It's baseball, and that was just one game out of 162. Seasons aren't ruined by one moment; they're ruined by an inability to adapt to change over the long run. The Dodgers now face a potentially long run without one of their best pitchers.

Reach Staff Writer Matthew Tufts hereFollow him on Twitter.



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