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Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl: a test of baseball etiquette

June 12, 2013|By Mike Hiserman
  • The Dodgers' Zack Greinke winces after being hit with a pitch during a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
The Dodgers' Zack Greinke winces after being hit with a pitch during… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke was right.

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Ian Kennedy was wrong.

At the risk of sounding like baseball's Mr. Manners, that's the bottom line in the hit-batters exchange that sparked Tuesday night's basebrawl between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.

Major League Baseball will be sorting things out and probably issuing suspensions, and the Dodgers may be hit the hardest because at least a couple of their players threw punches after Kennedy drilled Greinke in the shoulder with a rising fastball.

But in the Greinke-Kennedy debate, there is a clear winner in terms of baseball etiquette: Greinke stuck by baseball's code. Kennedy did not.

Not familiar with the code? Well, baseball has a volume of unwritten rules and sometimes in these situations they are hard to sort out.

This is not one of those times.

Right at the top of the list of what most ticks off a baseball player is a 90 mph-plus pitch at his head. Kennedy threw two such pitches. There was going to be retribution.

Let's start at the start:

In the fifth inning, Greinke threw a pitch that ran in on the right-handed-hitting Cody Ross, who started to swing before pulling back just before the ball hit him on the hand.

Baseball code: No harm, no foul. Had Ross not checked his swing, the ball never would have hit him.

In the sixth inning, with the Diamondbacks leading 2-0, Kennedy threw a pitch that brushed the ear flap of Yasiel Puig's helmet before it skimmed his cheek and then his nose.

Puig, of course, has been one of baseball's hottest hitters, and it's a good bet that Kennedy was trying to come inside to take him out of a comfort zone. Looking at a replay, Kennedy acts like a guy who has just thrown a pitch that got away, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that hitting Puig in the head was an accident.

Baseball code: Whether it was accidental or not, there is going to be retribution for a pitch at the head. Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly hinted at it after the game when he said that if a pitcher can't pitch inside without hitting somebody in the head, then he shouldn't be throwing inside. In other words: A pitcher needs to be able to execute his plan. Otherwise ... there's going to be payback.

In the seventh inning, with the score tied, 2-2, Greinke drilled the lead-off batter, Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, in the back. Montero yelled at Greinke and both benches cleared, but there were no punches.

Baseball code: Perfect execution. Greinke retaliated for Puig's beaning by sending a message that was received in a place he wasn't going to injure anyone -- the back. His other choice would have been the hip. And that was followed by another grand baseball tradition: the puffing out of chests and some threatening talk. Big deal.

Then, in the bottom of the inning, with the score still tied, Greinke came up to hit and Kennedy nailed him in the shoulder with a pitch that was headed toward his jaw. What followed was an all-out brawl in which punches were thrown and an Arizona coach was nearly dumped into a camera well.

Baseball code: a ridiculous move by Kennedy -- two actually. First, to throw at Greinke at all. Second, to once again throw a pitch up near a player's head. It's worth repeating: There's nothing you can do in baseball that will rile a player up more than that. Greinke didn't charge the mound, but his teammates came storming out the dugout ready to fight.

A friend of mine, a high-level pitching coach, said what Kennedy did was the baseball equivalent of starting a nuclear war: Everybody was posturing, talking and acting tough when some dolt punched a button and actually launched a bomb.

So now what? Is it over? Not likely.

What might happen Wednesday night when the teams meet again? Probably nothing.

But somewhere down the line ...

While on that topic, though, a nod to a couple of players who fought back in the best way possible Tuesday night.

After Ross was hit, Jason Kubel followed with a home run for the Diamondbacks.

After Puig was hit, Andre Ethier followed with a home run for the Dodgers.

Now that hurts.


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