Thrill of Victory

What to do with Carlos Quentin?

There’s stupid, and then there’s a new level of stupidity, and after watching San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin last night, his antics fall into the latter.

Now, I understand that in sports, emotions cloud good judgment, so maybe that’s why a Stanford-educated guy like Quentin went off after being hit by a pitch from Los Angeles Dodger Zach Greinke. Just in case you don’t know what happened, just turn on any sports news channel and you’ll see it within a few minutes: Quentin was hit on the arm by one of Greinke’s pitches and decided to charge the mound and beat Greinke to a pulp.

I guess Quentin got what he was looking for, because he broke Greinke’s collarbone and is now going to miss two months. For the Dodgers, that’s a huge cost, because Greinke is one of baseball’s best pitchers.

Quentin has tried to defend himself by saying that it’s the third time that Greinke has hit him before (implying that it was intentional), and then again by saying that Greinke said something to him afterwards. But there are a few problems with Quentin’s explanations.

First, it was a 3-2 pitch in the sixth inning of a game that the Dodgers led by one run. Pitchers usually aren’t looking for “revenge” in that situation.

Second, the sample size to which Quentin refers goes back several years and the two have faced each other 116 times, according to CBS Sports.

Third, Quentin said that Greinke “said something,” to him, but it was just one word and by replay we can’t tell what that was. But I didn’t see anything particularly aggressive in Greinke’s demeanor that made me think he was itching for a fight.

Finally, Quentin crowds the plate like few others; according to this, on pitches six inches off the plate, he’s been hit 20 times more often than the average Major Leaguer. According to the same source, last night’s pitch was only seven inches off the plate.

In other words, I don’t think Quentin has much of a leg to stand on.

Now, the question is, what does Major League Baseball do about it?

The standard suspension for such an offense is usually 5-6 games, but I don’t think that’s enough. When I blog about these things, I usually have a pretty good idea of what I’d do if I were a commissioner. Today, I really don’t, mostly because it’s an unusual situation, and those who quickly hand out punishment set precedents that can breed some unintended consequences later.

So instead of offering a solution, indulge me as I think through some stuff out loud.

Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly said last night that Quentin should be suspended for as long as Quentin is out. Some feel that would be silly and extreme; I’m not sure I’d completely rule it out, because Quentin’s actions were indefensible. He was in the wrong, and it makes no sense that the Dodgers should suffer more than the Padres.

As for me, again, it’s too close to the incident for me to get a grip on what to do.

But while I’m at it, let’s throw some other out-of-the-box ideas out there, too.

I’ve always wondered in these instances why criminal charges aren’t filed. I realize that sports are a bit different, especially when it comes to hit batsmen and feeling the need to protect one’s self, but in this case there’s not much defense of Quentin.

If you and I ran into each other on the street and I did to you what Quentin did to Greinke, I would probably either wind up with a brief jail sentence, or owe you money, or perhaps both.

Why should sports be any different?

And what if something really crazy had happened where a punch landed in just the right place to permanently disable Greinke, or worse, kill him? MLB would certainly come with some swift sanctions to keep this from happening again, but don’t we want to head off something before it happens?

It has always seemed to me that the scales of justice don’t necessarily add up in these cases. Maybe it’s time for MLB to start looking outside the box with the punishments to do everything it reasonably can to stop these things.

Again, I’m just throwing out ideas today. What do you think?