Will a Tight NL West Race Heighten Tensions Between Warring Teams Even More?

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIIJune 20, 2013

Jun 19, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Diego Padres first baseman Jesus Guzman (15) is restrained by teammates after being hit by a pitch by San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) during the second inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Jesus Guzman and Madison Bumgarner are the latest National League West stars to make headlines. While guys like Yasiel Puig have been doing it on the field, Guzman and Bumgarner did so with their fists.

Wednesday afternoon had yet another bench-clearing brawl in the NL West in store for us, and things got ugly.

After the San Francisco Giants kept Guzman in the minors for years, he finally got his chance in the big leagues with the San Diego Padres, and he didn't take too kindly to the Giants failing to utilize him.

On Tuesday night, Guzman belted a go-ahead, two-run home run in the eighth inning off Matt Cain to put the Padres up, 4-3. As he trotted (or skipped) down the first base line he yelled to his bench and showed up his former club.

Bumgarner took notice.

When Bumgarner faced Guzman for the first time on Wednesday afternoon he got his revenge, throwing way inside on Guzman on the first pitch of the at-bat.

Bumgarner was clearly sending a message not to taunt the Giants, and Guzman was furious, walking out to meet the pitcher before catcher Buster Posey and home plate umpire Tony Randazzo held him back.

However, Bumgarner appears to have preferred that the two let him go, as he walked over to Guzman, shouting at him the whole way.

As the two got closer, the rest of the players got involved and the benches cleared, resulting in both teams pushing and shoving each other, although no serious fights broke out.

It's not like the shot at Guzman on Wednesday was unexpected.

If I were Jesus Guzman's ribs, I'd double my life insurance before he stands in against Bumgarner tomorrow. #sfgiants.

— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) June 19, 2013

The fact of the matter is that if you show up your former team, you're in trouble. No self-respecting team of professional athletes is going to take any form of taunting lying down, and even the fans started jumping on Guzman.

#Giants fans take great delight in Sergio Romo whiffing Jesus Guzman on three pitches to start the ninth.

— Steve Corkran (@CorkOnTheNFL) June 19, 2013

From all of us here at AT&T Park, you stay classy Jesus Guzman!

— Will Candlestick ™ (@CandlestickWill) June 19, 2013

Bumgarner certainly feels the same way the fans do, as he kept things short and simple in his postgame interview.

Madison Bumgarner said, "there's no need to talk about that," when asked about throwing a pitch behind Jesus Guzman's back in the 2nd inning.

— Steve Corkran (@CorkOnTheNFL) June 20, 2013

This was just another fight between NL West rivals, and it was the third major scrum of the year.

The Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers got things started when Zack Greinke plunked Carlos Quentin and Quentin charged at Greinke, ultimately breaking his collarbone and putting him on the DL for a month.

Exactly two months after fighting the Padres, the Dodgers were at it again with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Greinke hit Miguel Montero to defend his teammates after Puig was hit the nose by an Ian Kennedy pitch, leading to both benches clearing.

Nothing serious happened until the next inning, however, when Kennedy went upstairs again and hit Greinke, which sparked a brawl between both clubs as the benches cleared for a second time.

Puig was in the middle of the fracas and had to be held back, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

The Diamondbacks were still talking about Puig’s actions Wednesday, saying that the Dodgers were shouting at him, “No! Not you!” as he kept charging back into the melee.

Nine games into his career, Puig is already that valuable. The Dodgers were fearful of losing him to an ejection (which happened) and a suspension (which almost certainly will follow).

Puig, though, was in a rage.

Kennedy had hit him the previous inning, grazing his nose with a 92-mph fastball. According to several Diamondbacks, Puig kept shouting, “Yo soy Cubano!"—“I am a Cuban!”—as he drifted in and out of the fight, at one point landing a haymaker on the back of Eric Hinske’s head.

Puig wasn't the only one in the middle of the fight, though. Both managers got into it, and Kennedy ended up receiving a 10-game suspension.

These are not isolated incidents in the NL West, as seemingly every series has a brawl or some bad blood in it.

The scary thing is that the fights might only get worse from here.

The NL West is easily the tightest division in baseball, as four teams are separated by just three games. Every team has at least a .500 record, other than the Dodgers, who have been having a miserable season.

This is clearly a recipe for disaster, as all five teams have a reason to fight the others.

Forget about bad blood. Forget about history. All you have to know is the here and now.

The Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies and Padres are all fighting for a playoff spot, and they don't want to back down from one another. There are individual player feuds on every roster when it comes to facing these divisional opponents, and they are forced to compete with each other more than with anyone else.

When you throw in the fact that the Dodgers are undoubtedly very frustrated with how the season has gone, all five teams are playing emotional baseball right now, and tensions couldn't be much higher.

As we enter the dog days of summer the temperature will rise, and along with it the friction between these teams.

The hatred between NL West teams is approaching an all-time high, and this is one of the least friendly divisions when the playoff race isn't even close. With four teams jockeying for position, there is no doubt that we will continue to see brawls break out in the second half of the season.

You can expect to see these teams keep fighting, both in the standings and during extracurricular activities.


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