Thursday night was an ugly night for the Dodgers.
The Blue Crew won, carried by a solo home run from ever-slumping third baseman Juan Uribe, but it lost top starter Zack Greinke, who was signed to a mammoth $147 million, six-year contract this past offseason, in a brawl in the bottom of the sixth.
If you follow baseball in the slightest, you’ve seen replays of the scuffle in which Greinke broke his left collarbone after the Padres’ Carlos Quentin furiously charged the mound after he took a 90-mph fastball off the shoulder.
Quentin cited the history between the two and alleged that Greinke said something to him to fuel his sprint to tackle him (via Chicago Tribune) Greinke denied any words towards the Padres’ leftfielder and refuted intent in plunking him with a 3-2 count (via Orange County Register).
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, who was nearly beaned earlier in the game with a high and tight fastball on an 0-2 count, was beside himself during the melee and had some choice words for Quentin after the game in the tunnel leading to the parking lot (via LA Times).
There was plenty more chatter from both teams during and after the brawl, but it’s unimportant at this point.
What's important at this juncture for the Dodgers, who are now down an ace in Greinke, is how they respond to Thursday night’s fracas.
A mere four days after the incident, The Boys in Blue will face the Padres for another three-game series, which will be hosted in Dodger Stadium this time around.
With the brawl still fresh in the players’ minds, tensions will be running high for the series, especially in its first game on Monday night.
While the potential for an encore skirmish isn’t as high as it would have been had the two teams squared off the following day, one can only imagine that a handful of players are still bitter about the incident.
However, the Dodgers need to do everything in their power to ensure that Thursday night’s happenings remain an isolated occurrence that took place last week in Petco Park.
Incidents like these present a team with the opportunity to take the high road and focus on what matters (winning games), or letting emotions get the best of them and becoming distracted from their ultimate goal.
The grandiose plans that the Dodgers have made for this season and the ones to come by stacking the roster with All-Star players can’t afford to be unhinged by a trivial clash with a noncompetitive, 2-9 team that will likely be dwelling at the bottom of the NL West for a good portion of the season.
Although retaliation for Greinke, who had underwent surgery on Saturday to insert a metal plate in his collarbone to begin his estimated eight-week rehabilitation, seems noble, it would be worthless.
Seeking vengeance against the Padres won’t help Greinke’s broken bone heal any faster. It would reflect poorly on the Dodgers, and more importantly, it will sidetrack them from their ultimate focus of bringing home a World Series to Los Angeles for the first time since 1988.
If the Dodgers want to convince the skeptics that they are one of the premier teams in the MLB, they have to conduct themselves as such.
Premier teams aren’t fazed by trivial things. The best don’t prove their worth by retaliating against a lesser team.
Premier teams are constructed by making plays, scoring runs. Playing baseball.
So, as the Dodgers take the field on Monday night with Chad Billingsley on the hill, they have an opportunity to define who they are as a team. They’ll have the chance to dwell on a now-irrelevant skirmish or take the high road.
Above all, they have a chance to win a ballgame.