Matt Kemp's sluggish start is suddenly the least of the Los Angeles Dodgers' concerns.
That's because Zack Greinke fractured his collarbone in a donnybrook that was triggered when Carlos Quentin charged the mound after being plunked in the shoulder by a fastball. You might've heard, as the incident's getting a bit of media coverage.
Whether the injury occurred in the initial collision between the two or at the bottom of the pile of humanity that formed on top of them is immaterial. Even a shameless Dodger basher must admit the San Diego Padres' slugger owns the blame for both and rightfully so.
But the larger media reaction—more or less summarized by this gem—has been incredible from one angle and predictable from another.
It's been incredible because there seems to be a groundswell behind the idea that Quentin deserved a longer suspension than the eight games he got and is appealing (a similar suspension to those received by MLB's recent hard chargers).
That would make sense if Carlos did something totally unreasonable like charging the mound when there was obviously no intent (say, if he were hit with a curve ball) or knocked Greinke to the ground then stomped him out.
In those scenarios, the Stanford alum would've actually crossed a line by baseball standards.
In this case, though, I don't see it.
That's not to say the Dodgers' No. 2 starter was definitely throwing at Quentin. It's to say that nothing rules out the possibility.
Many people keep pointing to the game context as proof that Greinke couldn't have been targeting a guy he'd already hit twice in his career. LA was up by one run and the count was 3-2 on the Padres' No. 3 hitter who was leading off the sixth inning...
For some reason, nobody would ever throw at a batter in that situation.
Forget the history between the two players.
As Jayson Stark points out, Greinke's hit Quentin about once every 10 times the two have faced each other since 2008. In that same span, he's hit a batter not named Carlos Quentin once every 225 plate appearances.
Forget that it's April and there are still over 150 games to play. Yes, an April win counts as much as a September win, but let's not be naive.
Forget that Zack Greinke is a player who's gone on record implying that winning isn't the most important thing to him. Forget that the Friars' lineup falls off a cliff after Quentin so you wouldn't be throwing a strike to the opposition's most dangerous hitter when he's sitting in full count in a one-run game. Which means if Greinke doesn't think the hitter would go fishing and has a beef with him, dousing him might be an entirely attractive option.
Forget that Greinke is one of the premier arms in the game. One who probably wouldn't be too concerned about pitching through a leadoff baserunner regardless of what was waiting in the wings. Infinitely less so when those hitters are Yonder Alonso, Jedd Gyorko and Nick Hundley.
Forget all of that because nobody would throw at the leadoff hitter in the sixth inning of a one-run game. Ever.
That seems like a foolish argument to me.
Again, that's not to say the right-hander was clearly throwing at Quentin or even that Carlos behaved reasonably.
To be honest, that pitch looked like Greinke pulled his fastball too much and it tailed back on him. Happens all the time.
Furthermore, the Padre is notorious for hanging over the plate and lunging into pitches, then not trying to avoid the HBP when the offering bores inside. When you get pegged as often as he does (check the second subheading here), you probably shouldn't be headed to the mound except under the most explicit of circumstances.
And given the game context, it is unlikely that there was intent behind the fastball.
Not out of the question for the reasons stated, but unless the righty sincerely and viscerally dislikes Quentin, it would be a strange spot to throw at someone.
However, melees over misunderstandings aren't exactly rare.
Plus you have to consider that (A) batters aren't thrilled about getting pelted around the shoulders even when it's purely accidental and (B) Greinke wasn't exactly contrite afterwards. So let's not pretend this is an obscene loss of composure.
As for the injury itself, that's just bad luck. It's not like Carlos body-slammed his prey or jump kicked him or anything else that would be considered excessive in a baseball brawl. He crashed into Greinke and they went to the ground.
Of course, Greinke's contract and the aura surrounding the Bums this season are very much nonstandard.
The hurler inked the largest contract ever given to a right-hander over the offseason in one of a flurry of flashy moves made by Los Doyers. Then there's the matter of the mega-deal for broadcasting rights the franchise signed with Time Warner.
Consequently, it's yawn-inducing that Magic Johnson's colleague at ESPN (Stark) would write something like: "The Dodgers' beautiful...2013 season can't ever be the same." It is likewise predictable that so many are parroting John Paul Morosi's sentiment (via FOX Sports): "It was obvious to everyone else that Greinke's pitch wasn't on purpose."
Or that so many seem to be advocating harsher punishment because of the result—a serious injury to an excellent player and a headline generator.
When you combine a new ownership group with a lovable front man (who's also employed by the industry's 800-pound gorilla), a $7 billion infusion of capital, a roster of all-star names and a major media market, well, it's no surprise that you get most-favored-franchise status.
Granted, "unsurprising" and "foolish" are not mutually exclusive adjectives.
Carlos Quentin got precisely what he deserved. He got a stiff-but-reasonable penalty that was in keeping with precedent because what he did wasn't extraordinary, even if the cost of the incident was.
That doesn't make for a sensational story, but the truth can be uncooperative.