I know all of us have seen what happened in Petco Park on Thursday night. What should have been a good game between hated divisional rivals unfortunately got ruined and the game is now infamous for another reason. Here we delve into the brawl and figure out who was responsible for what.
To begin with, Jason Marquis, in the top of the first, threw an 0-2 fastball almost directly at Matt Kemp's head. Kemp was able to duck out of the way, but this seemingly innocuous incident would later have repercussions.
It sure looks damning at first glance. Greinke, however, knew he had made a mistake right away:
"He had a reason for [being upset]," Greinke told MLB.com afterwards. "Any time you throw it that high, it’s justified. You’ve got to be better than that and not pitch like that. You’re going to make mistakes, but the last thing you want to do is hit someone where it could seriously hurt them. As soon as I let go of it, I was scared for him."
Now, on to Carlos Quentin. Here's where things get crazy. The argument can be made that Quentin went at Greinke due to their personal history, as Greinke has plunked Quentin three times (including Thursday night). However, let's look at an oddity in Quentin's stats in MLB:
For active players who currently have more than 50 HBP, Quentin has the highest HBP/At-bat ratio of them all. What's more, he leads the league in HBP since 2006 with 115 plunkings.
Here's a .gif of the fight. Watch Quentin carefully, especially when the ball is on its way to him.
Normally, when a pitch is thrown at a player, they are supposed to get out of the way. Quentin doesn't do that in this image. In fact, he stays almost exactly where he is.
Let's look at Quentin's WAR. For his career, his WAR is 8.6. Now, take away those times when an at-bat ended with him being HBP. His WAR drops by 3.0 as a result. In short, he uses HBP as a way to get on base while his team is batting.
Now on to the fight. Greinke fractured his collarbone and is now out 6-8 weeks after surgery. This isn't what's important about the fight. Remember the Matt Kemp near-plunk? Watch the video on this website, and take note of Kemp during the fight. He comes sprinting in far faster than either the LF or the RF, and then, instead of playing peacemaker, appears to try to land some blows of his own. Throughout the whole fight, he was livid, shouting off at the top of his lungs at, apparently, anybody.
So now, after the fight ended, another bench-clearing match began. This time, Jerry Hairston, Jr., apparently saw someone in the Padres dugout laughing about Greinke's injury and ran over to the dugout. This is both on Hairston as well as the as-yet unknown Padres player. First off, after a melee like the one involving Quentin and Greinke, you don't laugh. Period. Secondly, blame falls on Hairston for leaving his dugout and racing across the field, causing benches to clear a second time.
Matt Kemp should also take heat for his actions here. He wasn't back near center field when this second skirmish occurred, and he got even more angry on the video (Vin Scully's words: "Kemp says 'That's fertilizer,' over and over."). By this point, an ejection and suspension were imminent for Kemp, so he is risking even more playing time by blowing his top this time. He would not set foot on the field after this, but his night was still not done.
After the game, Matt Kemp and Carlos Quentin went at it again, this time in between the team's respective clubhouses at Petco Park. By now, the Dodgers had defeated the Padres 3-2, so even more playing time and possible arrest were now being risked by these two. Quentin and Kemp had been the two most volatile players on the field during the brawl, and they now required security and some officers from the San Diego Police Department to separate them.
The umpires won't help things, either. Sam Holbrook was working home plate for this game, and he reported that Greinke was the instigator. Greinke, it is worth noting, did appear to say something to Quentin after Quentin was walking towards the mound (a comment on True Blue LA apparently said it was "What's your problem?" but I can't verify this). This seems to be what caused Quentin to change speed to a full sprint. This stance by the crew chief of the game means that Greinke, in addition to his surgery, could likely be suspended too. Obviously, this will not change anything as he likely won't return until June at some point.
But the real culprit in this whole mess is Quentin. The argument can be made that he let his history with Greinke get in the way, but having been plunked 115 times since 2006, there are plenty of pitchers who have history plunking him. According to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly:
"That's just stupid is what it is," Mattingly said. "He should not play a game until Greinke can pitch. If he plays before Greinke pitches, something's wrong. He caused the whole thing. Nothing happens if he goes to first base."
I would agree. Not only did Quentin take unprovoked actions towards Greinke, his actions will likely cause one of baseball's best pitchers to miss over a month of action. The argument can not be made that the history affected this, and having been hit as often as he has, Quentin needs to know better. Also Hairston (and especially) Kemp should know better than to act the way they did on Thursday night.
And to make matters worse, it's not like either team has time to get this past them. They open a three-game series in Dodger Stadium starting Monday night. From perusing True Blue LA, it is clear that Dodgers fans are now all trying to get tickets to this series. The bad blood between these two teams will not have had the chance to simmer by then, either, and it remains to be seen how this will affect that series. This is especially poignant as several key contributors for both teams will, in all likelihood, not be playing then.