The shenanigans started with an ill-advised mound charge. They ended with a superstar's threat: "We'll see, bitch." And in between, a brawl unspooled, a $147 million pitcher broke his collarbone, a manager erupted and a feud unlikely to abate anytime soon mushroomed into the biggest to-do of the young baseball season.
There is no shame aping a phrase from the great Vin Scully when it so appropriately describes what happened Thursday night at Petco Park: Los Angeles Dodgers star Zack Greinke broke his left collarbone trying to take on San Diego Padres outfielder/linebacker Carlos Quentin, who charged the mound to extricate years of pent-up frustration over being hit by Greinke twice before.
Benches emptied, the teams did a do-si-do and it seemed to calm down until Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp found out the Greinke-Quentin collision left the right-hander clutching his clavicle on the way to an X-ray machine. Kemp proceeded to drop a fleet of F-bombs, translated by Scully thusly: "That's fertilizer."
Whether it was fertilizer, fiddlesticks or Fahrvergnügen, one thing is certain: The injury does indeed F with the Dodgers' season.
What makes it most frustrating for Los Angeles is that if not for Quentin's grudge, it wouldn't have happened – and they wouldn't be staring at six to eight weeks without Greinke. The situation didn't call for Quentin to seek vengeance. Sixth inning. Full count. One-run game. There is zero incentive to bury a pitch in Quentin's shoulder.
"He caused the whole thing," an irate Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after Los Angeles eked out a 3-2 victory.
"Nothing happens if he goes to first base like in baseball you know you do, because you know he's not throwing at you 3-2 in a 2-1 game. That's zero understanding of the game of baseball. He shouldn't play a game until Greinke can pitch."
Historically, charging the mound has drawn a four- to eight-game suspension. Between now and June 1, a reasonable estimate for Greinke's return, the Dodgers play 44 games.
And so rather than wait for Monday, when the Dodgers host the Padres – on Jackie Robinson Day, it should be noted – Kemp decided to seek some vigilante justice of his own. He confronted Quentin in the hallway of Petco Park, according to reports, and police and teammates needed to separate the two. Kemp's parting words for Quentin: "We'll see, bitch."
See what was unclear.
Greinke? Not for a while. Even though the Dodgers' rotation depth does mitigate the injury some, losing Greinke is a similar blow to the Hanley Ramirez injury in late spring. Whoever takes Greinke's place – could be Chris Capuano, currently deposed to the bullpen, or Ted Lilly, on a rehab assignment – he won't be nearly the quality of Greinke, the most expensive free-agent signing this offseason.
Revenge? Indeed. No matter how many warnings Major League Baseball issues or however severe a suspension the league threatens, a Dodgers pitcher will hit Quentin this season. MLB almost certainly will expedite his suspension to ensure he doesn't play next week, but one of Quentin's teammates could pay the price for his temper.
"I think Carlos Quentin went to Stanford," Kemp told reporters. "I heard there's some smart people at Stanford. That wasn't too smart."
Next thing you know, Kemp is going to call the Tree a stupid mascot.
Quentin, for his part, deemed the incident "unfortunate" and said "it could have been avoided," failing to finish the sentence with: If only I didn't use a manufactured grudge to incite an unwarranted brawl.
It is true that Greinke rubs some players the wrong way. He can come off as smug. He is brutally and unfailingly honest when talking publicly. Quentin alluded to Greinke's reaction to the hit-by-pitch prompting the brawl. Greinke proclaimed innocence, saying he thought Quentin's declarations in the past about getting hit too much was "just a play to get people to not throw inside to him."
"I never thought about hitting him on purpose," Greinke said. "He always seems to think that I'm hitting him on purpose. That's not the case."
No pitcher admits to trying to hit a batter. Still, this is one case in which his rationale makes sense. The Dodgers have well over a $200 million payroll. It stands to reason their $25 million-a-year pitcher would not put a victory at risk to satisfy some sort of personal deal. Especially, you know, when he could've hit him in the first inning with the score 0-0.
Early in the Dodgers' broadcast, in fact, Scully brought up just how often Quentin gets hit. He led the NL last year with 17 hit-by-pitches and the AL the year before with 23. In eight major league seasons, he has been plunked 116 times. He is a magnet for cowhide, and yet 115 times before he has taken a stroll to first base.
[MLB Power Rankings: Braves at top of food chain]
Not Thursday. If he wanted payback, he got it. Zack Greinke may miss two months, and the Dodgers are steaming that a Cro-Magnon response leaves them without him.
They'll get theirs eventually. Fifteen games between the Dodgers and Padres remain. And 18 more next year and the year after, when Quentin remains under contract to the Padres. The Dodgers will get shot after shot, and they'll take 'em, suspension be damned, just like Quentin raised a finger to the commissioner's office when he bull-rushed the mound.
Just like that, instant feud. It needed no extracurriculars to make it big, no trash talk and no invitation to dance.
Not even a sprinkle of fertilizer.
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