Major League Baseball suspended eight players and personnel, including managers Don Mattingly and Kirk Gibson and pitcher Ian Kennedy, and fined four other players for their parts in Tuesday night’s brawl between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.
The punishments, which can be appealed: Arizona's Kennedy, 10-game suspension; Diamondbacks infielder Eric Hinske, five-game suspension; Dodgers J.P. Howell and Skip Schumaker, two-game suspensions; Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire, two-game suspension; and Dodgers pitcher Ronald Belisario, Los Angeles' Mattingly, and Arizona's Gibson, one game. All players and personnel were also fined undisclosed amounts, along with Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke, Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig, Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, and Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra.
The five Los Angeles suspensions obviously don't help the underachieving Dodgers, who are in last place, 8 ½ games behind the first-place Diamondbacks. But the harsh suspension of Kennedy is a bit of a surprise and could certainly hurt Arizona, whose starting rotation was already unsettled because of an injury to Brandon McCarthy.
The Dodgers open a nine-game trip through Pittsburgh, New York and San Diego on Friday. The Diamondbacks play three games in San Diego this weekend before returning home for series against Miami and Cincinnati.
The league office required more than two days to sort through a 10-minute scrap that saw about 60 Dodgers and Diamondbacks converge near the first-base dugout, along with the events that led to it. In all, five batters – three Dodgers and two Diamondbacks – were hit by pitches. Kennedy hit two Dodgers – Puig and Greinke – in or near the head.
The aftermath had each side blaming the other for instigating and prolonging the fight, then for failing to accept responsibility for it. The teams did play 12 incident-free innings Wednesday night.
In its process of investigation and assigning punishment, the league office decided to part from the norm and ramp up Kennedy's punishment for throwing at hitters. It generally has adhered to a discipline schedule established by precedent, in part because the players’ union likely would appeal harsher penalties based on past punishments, and likely win those appeals. This time was decidedly different.
But while league officials were appalled by the brawl, they do not sense an increase in the frequency or ferocity of on-field fights, which might explain why only Kennedy's suspension was outside the norm.
The league and its commissioner cannot outlaw pitching inside and missing inside. It also cannot legislate batters’ reactions to pitchers missing inside. The issue is in separating what’s an accidental miss and what’s an intentional miss, and how much of this should be reasonably settled on the field, and just how much posing and posturing and wild haymakers players – and the public – should be exposed to.
Many players and personnel believe the game is capable of policing itself. The sentiment typically holds up until something reckless is brought upon their own ear holes, at which point they are the first to bang on Joe Torre’s door, demanding justice. This week alone, San Francisco pitcher George Kontos was suspended three games for throwing at Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, and the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays tussled when Red Sox right-hander John Lackey hit Matt Joyce with a pitch in the back.
[Related: D'backs react on Twitter to suspensions]
Here’s where it all went wrong Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium: Everywhere.
From Kennedy’s wildness up and in to Puig. To Greinke’s earnestness to avenge Puig with a fastball to Montero’s back (on the third try). To plate umpire Clint Fagan’s failure to warn both benches at that very moment. To Kennedy’s decision to finish it with a fastball near Greinke’s neck.
And to all that followed.
To the benches, the bullpens, the coaching staffs, the fans who threw objects on the field, to Dodgers and Diamondbacks both aggressive and out of control.
Immediately, Kennedy and Gibson were ejected. After the brawl, umpires determined Puig, McGwire and Belisario, and Diamondbacks coach Turner Ward would be ejected as well.
That left the office of the Commissioner – Joe Garagiola Jr. and Joe Torre do much of the legwork – to sort through the rest, a very difficult job, even with video.
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