There are a whole lot of different words for what happened in San Diego last night.
The first is 'inexcusable.' That's for Carlos Quentin, the veteran Padres outfielder who, on a 3-2 count in a one run game, got hit by a sailing Zack Greinke fastball and decided the proper response was to charge the mound like a middle linebacker. It's also for Matt Kemp, the face of the Los Angeles Dodger franchise for whom it wasn't enough to have to be physically separated from the Padres bench during the on-field confrontation afterwards -- including at one point the San Diego manager, Bud Black -- but who took it upon himself to find Quentin in the player's parking lot afterwards and had to be separated from the outfielder again, this time by Padres pitcher Clayton Richard and a San Diego police officer.
The second is 'unbelievable.' That's for Carlos Quentin again, who after he charging the mound, tackling Greinke and injuring the pitcher in the process, and getting run from the game, continued his ghastly misjudgment by talking to the press about the "history" that he and Greinke have and advising them to do their homework and look it up. So the media did. Turns out Greinke had hit him with a pitch twice before -- once in 2008 and again in 2009 -- both times in close games and in hitter's counts. He's hardly alone in this; 93 pitchers have hit Carlos Quentin with a pitch in his career, 18 of them have done it more than once, and Greinke's third HBP after tonight doesn't even put him in the lead -- that honor belongs to Nick Blackburn, a pitcher in the Minnesota Twins farm system. Carlos Quentin gets hit by a lot of pitches. He gets hit by a lot of pitches because he crowds the plate. Whatever Quentin wanted people to get out of checking the history between himself and Greinke, the actual takeaway lesson is that he holds petty grudges and blows the unfortunate happenstances of the game caused by his own style of play far out of proportion.
The third is 'costly.' That's for Zack Greinke, whose collarbone was broken in the scuffle following Quentin's visit to the mound and who will miss a large chunk of the Dodgers' season as he heals and rehabs his injury -- and that's assuming there aren't any setbacks. Greinke, who just signed a six-year, $147 million contract with the Dodgers in the offseason, was a major part of the team's plans to compete over the next few years and for this season, at least, he will be mostly lost to contract insurance payouts. The Dodgers are "lucky" in the sense that they have Chris Capuano in reserve to step into the rotation, but Capuano is not Greinke and the Dodgers rotation will miss him sorely. In terms of both payroll dollars and possible playoff revenues, Los Angeles will take a non-negligible hit to their bottom line because Carlos Quentin didn't have the baseball sense or the maturity to just take his base.
Of all the words that describe last night, however, the ones MLB is least fond of are: 'just the beginning.' This is going to dominate baseball's news cycle through the weekend and well on into next week, and not just because of the well-deserved suspension Quentin has coming. He needs to sit for a long time, and if he and the Padres have any sense in their heads he won't appeal it -- because the Padres and Dodgers have another series starting on Monday, and Quentin has no business even making the trip to Los Angeles for what's already going to be a high-tension affair rife with purpose pitching, sniping, physical play and bad, bad blood. For that matter, it might be prudent for Kemp to take that series off as well, depending on what comes out about the incident in the parking garage.
And on a larger note, it's probably time for MLB to take a serious look at cracking down on these sorts of brawls in general. In this day and age, with the amounts of money involved and the high-profile nature of the sport, it's frankly embarrassing to have teams losing players for extended periods of time because the league is willing to tolerate actions on the field that in any other context would result in arrests, court appearances, lawsuits and jail time. There's not even an argument to be had here like there is in hockey: fighting is not a tolerated part of the sport of baseball. Batters who charge the mound should be subject to longer suspensions and higher fines than they are, and players and coaches who leave their dugouts or bullpens to participate in bench-clearing nonsense should be fined as well.
That's likely not going to happen, but one would hope that after seeing what happened to Greinke -- and the sort of punishment that's about to come down on Quentin, because yes, it should actually matter more if you hurt someone badly when you attack them, that's kind of how this whole thing works -- that as a matter of self-preservation, we'll see teams be a bit more understanding about the realities of the game when batters get plunked in the near future.
Unfortunately for MLB, however, the earliest that's likely to start is Wednesday night, after the Padres leave Los Angeles. Until then, hold on to your horses.