Fighting isn’t the first thing that comes to mind in baseball, but when tempers flare a fight occasionally breaks out.
These fights aren’t typically too serious. It’s usually more of a hug-and-tug fest, with everyone holding on to one another just to make sure no one does anything stupid, like actually throwing a punch.
Most Major League Baseball players understand that the risk of getting hurt outweighs the need to actually fight, which is why fights are so rare.
Alas, cooler heads did not prevail when former Royals and now Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke and Carlos Quentin had a serious brawl. How serious? Serious enough that Greinke suffered a broken collarbone.
You’ve heard the saying, “Nothing good happens when you’re out after midnight”? It’s also true that nothing good results from a fight between baseball players.
Most baseball confrontations involve a pitcher throwing at a hitter and hitting the fleshy part of the batter’s body, like his seat.
The batter takes a couple of menacing steps toward the mound, but the catcher and umpire quickly intervene. In this scenario, no punches are thrown, hence no one gets hurt.
What makes the Greinke/Quentin scenario unusual, and arguably unfair, is that Greinke missed about a month because of the injury suffered in the fight, while Quentin only got an eight-game suspension.
The question in this case isn’t whether the Dodgers will retaliate, but when and how.
Tim Kurkjian in ESPN The Magazine tells a story from years ago when Wayne Gross hit a home run off Ed Farmer and took his jolly good time running around the bases. Farmer was furious and wanted to retaliate, but he was a relief pitcher who often worked only one inning per game. As a result, he didn’t pitch to Gross again for three years.
When he finally faced Gross it was spring training and they were teammates. So what happened? Farmer hit Gross right in the middle of the back with a 90 mph fastball.
“What was that for?!” Gross screamed at Farmer.
“That was for three years ago!” Farmer yelled at Gross.
“OK,” Gross said. And then it was over.
Kurkjian said pitchers have the longest memories. When one of Rick Sutcliffe’s teammates got hit by a pitch intentionally, he would ask, “Who do you want me to get?” Then he’d drill the guy.
Stan Williams was a pitcher who would carry a list of names in his baseball cap.
“What’s that for?” he was asked.
“Those are the guys I have to get,” he said.
“Why do you keep them in your cap?” he was asked.
“So I don’t forget any of them,” he said.
But old habits die hard, especially when it comes to retaliation.
Al Bumbry crossed home plate many years ago and steamrolled the opposing pitcher, Dennis Eckersley, who was backing up the play. Bumbry made it look like an accident, but it was no accident.
Teammate Mike Flanagan asked him, “What was that all about?”
“That was for him hitting me with a pitch in 1975,” Bumbry said.
“That was seven years ago!” said Flanagan.
“I know,” Bumbry said, “but it hurt. I had to get him back.”
The fact that Greinke and Quentin chose to forego the tango for tackle football minus pads isn’t particularly shocking. The two have had issues dating back to when Greinke was with the Royals and Quentin was with the White Sox.
If Quentin has the opportunity to dig in the batter’s box to face Greinke again this season, or anytime in this lifetime, no matter how much control Greinke has with his pitches, I’d be ready to hit the dirt to avoid a high hard one.
And Greinke might want to learn how to dance and avoid an onrushing, enraged Quentin.
Does anyone think this feud is over?