Carlos Quentin vs. Zack Greinke has been percolating for years

Carlos Quentin charges Zack Greinke.
Both Carlos Quentin and Zack Greinke are to blame for Thursday’s unfortunate incident. (USA TODAY Sports)

Last night, in the bottom of the sixth inning, a 3-2 pitch from Zack Greinke hit San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin on the left upper arm. Quentin immediately took a couple steps towards the mound (as if to seek intentional affirmation of the beaning) and Greinke muttered something and threw his glove down on the ground, prompting Quentin to charge the mound. Had Greinke not said anything — or merely said “it got away” or “my bad” — maybe Quentin wouldn’t have rushed the mound, and maybe Greinke wouldn’t have a broken left collar bone. The injury occurred when the 6′-2″, 230-pound former college football star Quentin barreled his shoulder into Greinke as he lowered his his non pitching shoulder, which led to a dogpile of Padres and Dodgers players.

On Friday night, Quentin’s actions also led to an eight-game suspension by Major League Baseball as well as an undisclosed fine. Quentin will appeal the suspension, while Greinke will miss roughly two months following surgery.

Why would Carlos Quentin take exception on a 3-2 pitch in a one-run game leading off the inning? For starters, let’s look at the history between the two.

In 2008 with the White Sox, Carlos Quentin was hit by Greinke in the first inning to load the bases. In Quentin’s next at bat, he led off the second with a home run. The following season, in the first meeting since their last exchange, Greinke threw a ball over Quentin’s head. The very next at bat, Greinke hit Quentin square in the back between the letters. Carlos took a step toward the Greinke, very similar to last night, and both the umpire and catcher intervened, and Quentin took his base.

Greinke after last nights game said: “He always seems to think I’m hitting him on purpose. That’s not the case.”

Quentin after last nights game said: “Myself and Greinke have a history. Dates back a few years … It’s been documented.”

It should be noted in the first game of the series, before last night’s melee, Carlos Quentin was hit by Dodgers relief pitcher Ronald Belisario. He immediately grabbed his wrist in pain and called the Padres training staff, which is something you never want to see from an already injury prone player in the middle of your lineup — a lineup that is already missing key pieces, most notably Padres third baseman Chase Headley.

Headley, who is rehabbing after breaking his thumb in spring training, has credited Quentin personally for having a big impact on “protecting him” last year in the cleanup spot during his MVP-caliber year. It didn’t look good when Quentin called upon the training staff so quickly. He was checked by the training staff and removed from the game for X-rays, which came back negative.

Last night, before the benches cleared, Padres starter Jason Marquis threw a ball up near Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp‘s head on an 0-2 count. Was Greinke protecting his cleanup hitter? Did that particular pitch play a part in how the rest of the game was played, and later had something to do with the way Greinke pitched Quentin in a one-run game with the Dodgers leading? You wouldn’t think so, but it’s hard to say.

Greinke, who signed a lucrative deal in the offseason with the Dodgers, is known for his top-of-the-rotation stuff and control, yet the ball keeps getting away from him? A question Carlos Quentin is obviously not buying. The fact is most pitchers deny hitting batters on purpose, although, Quentin is prolific for getting hit-by-pitches (116 in his career) and is often described by many as leaning or diving over the plate. However, last night, he was comfortably away from such a characterization. Coincidence?

Don Mattingly seemed to be enraged after the game stating to reporters it shouldn’t have happened because Quentin was hit on a 3-2 pitch in a one-run game. He went on to say, “That’s just stupid is what it is. 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.”

Maybe Mattingly should watch the replay? While it’s impossible to know for certain if Greinke’s pitch was intentional, Quentin’s response was instigated by the Dodgers pitcher when he threw his glove down and said something to Quentin. When you watch the replay, Quentin does not charge the mound until he saw Greinke’s body language — which was far from “my bad, Carlos” — and a very obvious remark that prompted the charge.

I’m shocked that, before the suspension was announced, national writers suggested Quentin should be suspended for a much longer duration than the eight games he eventually got. Greinke’s injury is unfortunate, but that should not dictate the suspension in anyway, nor should who the player injured is or is not.

Do we want to change the suspensions for longer durations to avoid such investments and injuries to star players? Maybe, but then what? Do you want to take away the psychological aspect of the game, the emotion, too? Maybe we should get robots to play baseball so no one gets hurt feelings, offended or hurt when tempers flare and emotions run high.

Baseball is “a man’s game,” as Quentin said, and what happened is not new. No one is condoning a player charging the mound or throwing at a batter’s head or saying it’s good when it results in a player’s injury. Having said that, let’s not lose sight of how the psyche and emotion of a player in the heat of battle in a game plays a factor. How logical is it to expect a player like Quentin, who has had a history with Greinke, to focus more on the exact count than his own history with this player? Carlos Quentin was hit 115 times entering Thursday’s game and had never charged the mound. Just think about that for a second before calling him a villain or rushing with knee-jerk reactions.

I was surprised to hear that a guy who has been hit by that many pitches has never charged the mound. In addition, I  surprised by the media finger-pointing before knowing what was said and all the details of the moment.

It’s unfortunate Greinke was hurt in this exchange, and it’s unfortunate Quentin charged the mound. There is no real winner here, and you’re never rooting for players to get seriously injured in such exchanges. It does seem like this could have been avoided, but it’s clear there isn’t a single person to blame here. Both were wrong in my estimation.

The Padres play the Dodgers on Monday in Los Angeles. This doesn’t seem to be the end of this, even though Quentin made it clear that, as far as he was concerned, it was over between the two.

Stay classy San Diego.

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