The Punch-Out at PETCO and the Search for Why


What is this need for explanation? It’s as if the current culture, which exists in the fibers of America, requires an explanation for everything. We must have one, and it must be full of twists and turns, and if we don’t get one then we cast it off as un-American. The amount of attention being paid to this Carlos Quentin Vs. Zack Greinke Vs. Bud Black Vs. Matt Kemp Vs. Carlos Quentin Vs. Don Mattingly & Jerry Hairston, Jr. is nothing short of ridiculous. However, what’s more ridiculous is our necessity for reason.

Last year I posted an article wondering why Baseball suddenly became more ladylike than the WNBA. There was and is no more grit. If something rough happens, like a player barreling over a catcher trying to score, or a hitter rushing the mound after getting hit, analysts freak out and claim that type of behavior is ‘bush league’ and “has no place in the Major Leagues”. Which is odd considering the climate that shaped a sport is now more reminiscent of a housewife than a workingman. Have these analysts never read about the sport they play and work in, or watched games growing up, or at least seen parts of Ken Burns’ Baseball. Their comments about hard-nosed Baseball are dramatic, destructive, and are ruining a game that most people already consider boring and tame. Baseball needs these brawls, if for nothing more than create the cherished buzz.

However, understanding the situation is far less fascinating as trying to understand why it matters to anyone other than Zack Greinke’s agent. In an effort to understand this we must dive-in to the issues that are causing the

so-called “Punch-out at PETCO” to maintain as a national news story that won’t go away.

1) Why is the media completely transfixed on figuring out why Carlos Quentin charged the mound? Especially given the fact that he crowds the plate and has been hit more times than most players currently active in the Major Leagues. Was it the history he’s had with Greinke that drew his ire? Was it what Greinke said to him after the pitch that lit the fuse? Was it this? Was it that? WHO CARES?! It happened. He charged and somewhere in the ruckus Greinke’s collarbone snapped like a twig. Figuring out Quentin’s motivation is completely irrelevant to the bigger picture. He got hit, he got pissed, and Greinke made it worse, Quentin made it even more worse. This is Baseball, players don’t like getting hit, so they get emotional, they play those emotions out. This happens AT LEAST once a year. Whether it was intentional or not, Greinke hit Quentin, Quentin reacted. That’s all the explanation anyone or I needs.

BANG! (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

2) With all the confusion on why, the media has gifted a complete lack of attention to Matt Kemp who made the situation eight-times more crazy than it needed to be. If anyone needs an explanation for someone’s actions in that brawl, they should be focusing on Matt Kemp. Dude trucked in from the outfield ready to lose his mind. He had words with Bud Black, he had words with umpires, he had words with just about anyone who was within his personal space. Why was he so mad? Cause someone threw at him earlier in the game? He could’ve charged the mound then, instead of adding to a situation later that was already a mess. Matt Kemp decided this was his time to go nuts, and for that he should be suspended just as long as Quentin. I mean if Josh Beckett, who has had a history of not giving a shit about anything, is the one holding you back from further fighting then you might be a tad over the line. Not to mention Kemp tried to start another fight with Quentin after the game on the way to the team buses. Yet, no one seems too interested in what was going on with Matt Kemp. I can only assume it’s because his type of irrational response is something we’ve become accustomed to on TV with the advent of things like Dance Moms or The Real Housewives. Out of left field screaming matches that end in no real physical violence, cut from the cameras just in time. That is the way Americans prefer their outbursts and the ratings will back that up. So, in the case of Quentin, who was somewhat justified in his moment of rage, viewers become confused; we aren’t used to seeing an eye for an eye, whether you agree with it’s motivation or not. Please don’t think I am for one second getting on a high horse; just like millions of people every night my wife and I cuddle up and laugh at the displaced anger and shouting on Wife Swap or MTV. This is what fuels us: the hope that are lives are better than what we scoff at as entertainment. Live sports are different though. These are professionals – millionaires responsible for an entire cities pride. How dare they act like we secretly want them to!

3) The fact that pundits and Don Mattingly himself are calling for Quentin to be suspended for as long as Greinke is on the DL. This is absolutely ridiculous. It’s not Quentin’s fault Greinke is apparently as fragile as Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable. What if Matt Kemp’s interference actually caused Greinke’s injury, or A.J. Ellis running out causing the initial pile up snapped the bone, or what if Greinke did intentionally mean to hit Quentin (something we’ll never know for sure), then shouldn’t he be the only one who pays for the repercussions of his own actions? I in no way think this was all Greinke’s fault, but it was at least half his fault. If he didn’t want to start something, he shouldn’t have said anything to Quentin after hitting him. I’m also not saying Quentin shouldn’t be suspended – you broke the rules, you pay the cost. But, to somehow claim Quentin broke Greinke’s collarbone is outlandish and irresponsible. We’re also glossing over the fact that Greinke is a head case. He has well-documented depression, anxiety, and mood issues. They never had any intention of signing him in Milwaukee and the only reason he lasted as long as he did in Kansas City is because what else were they gonna do? That guy caused more clubhouse problems than Jeff Kent. Again, I’m not blaming him for anything, but I’m not going to let him play the victim here either. He welcomed Quentin’s charge and took it just like we all thought he would. Now Quentin on the other hand is an aging, injury-prone power hitter who is trying his hardest to stay off the DL this year. He already got hit in the series, and in no way wants to start 2013 with a bum wrist, shoulder or sore back. So, charging the mound in this case was a stupid move. He’s riled up, there’s history, and he acted like an idiot. But, this happens. Two players, one moody the other emotional meet and BANG!

Now the renewed “rivalry”, and the continued search into the black hole of answers heads into Los Angeles on Monday. If you don’t think Dodger fans will be awaiting Padres fans in the parking lot then you are just as crazy as Kemp. If I were a Padres fan (which I am) I would stay as far away from Dodger stadium as I could for this series. We’ve seen how LA fans treat other fans when things were a lot calmer than this. You may think I’m overreacting here, but I am not. Just ask PETCO Park employees how many fights broke out in the stands after the brawl. How many people were kicked out and/or arrested that night. More often than not Dodger fans are hot-tempered brawlers and they wear that distinction like a badge of honor, when it should really be one of shame. A couple seasons ago I went to Dodger Stadium for a friends birthday. The Dodgers won that game and while walking out of the stadium a belligerent, shirtless, overweight Dodger fan stood at the gate screaming obscenities at anybody who wasn’t wearing Dodger gear. There I was wearing a Tony Gwynn Hall of Fame shirt nervous that I was going to get beat up over one of the purest hitters who ever lived. Why is that something to be proud of? I’ll never understand it. San Diegans get made fun of a lot for being laidback fair-weather fans, but I’ll take that over what people think of Dodgers fans any day of the week.

This series in Los Angeles will carry with it way too much media hype; although I’m excited people are talking about the Padres at all right now. It will also carry with it emotions that no one seems to understand, which almost always results in something bad happening. However, that is part of the game. Baseball can be dangerous. It used to be much more dangerous. It used to be played by coal miners, servicemen, firefighters; gritty and rough men who were willing to spike the second baseman even if it meant being called out. I bet if Pete Rose were to play today people would call him crazy and too feisty for the Majors. And, that is sad. Baseball has almost no fight in it at all anymore. They’ve resigned themselves to being just a tad tougher than Golf. Letting the NFL and NBA and NHL house the overly passionate, sometimes violent players.

Pitchers throw at hitters. Runners slide hard in to second. Runners nail catchers, and sometimes, yes sometimes things get a little out of hand and fights break out. Baseball pundits then search for the meaning of this aggression and go into long diatribes of the right way to play the game. Baseball was born in the dirt and grime of an ever-changing America, finally settling into its rightful place of skill and determination in this world of high-stakes professional sports. So, when the seeds of that dirt and grime rise to the surface of a now ‘modern’ world, people demand an explanation while ignoring the answer that’s been transparent since 1845. I am not condoning the violence or wishing it continued success, I’m merely pointing out the answers to these ridiculous questions and unrealistic fascinations have been there the whole time – breathing and seething with every 0-2 count. This is Baseball, always has been and I hope it always will be.

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