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On Carlos Quentin, Zach Greinke, and Charging the Mound

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres

By now I’m sure all of you have heard that Carlos Quentin was hit by Zach Greinke in last night’s game and proceeded to charge the mound, which resulted in a brawl that left Greinke with a broken collarbone.

Quentin obviously felt the pitch was intentional (it was an at-bat in a one run game, FYI). If you watch the video, he is hit, turns to Greinke to confront him, it appears Greinke says something, and then Quentin goes after him like a linebacker. Greinke drops his glove and assumes position to defend himself and then chaos happens and lots of people get ejected and upset.

Greinke is left injured, and his manager thinks Quentin should have to sit out until Greinke heals. Dave Cameron at Fangraphs argues why that particular punishment isn’t a great idea but we should all be able to agree that this type of behavior needs to be more heavily discouraged.

Let’s assume for a moment that Greinke’s pitch was intentional. I don’t believe it was, but let’s consider it that way because if we decide it wasn’t intentional, my point gets even easier to make.

I don’t defend a pitcher intentionally throwing at a batter, especially with intent to injure, but let’s look at the at bat.

greinke

 

The pitch that hit Quentin was six inches off the plate (about two baseball widths) and less than four feet off the ground. That certainly isn’t head hunting or blatantly intentional. At the very least, the best we can say is Greinke was delivering a purpose pitch. Maybe he was brushing Quentin back, but the count was 3-2, so that wouldn’t do a lot of good.

Quentin believes he and Greinke have history, except they’ve faced off 19 times since their last HBP together and Quentin has been hit more in his career than almost anyone else around. 91 batters have been hit in 2013, 90 have gone straight to first. Quentin was the only one who charged.

It’s hard for me to see how this pitch can be considered intentional and it’s hard for me to see how this pitch could be the most intentional of all 91 HBP in 2013 so far. I can see a player getting emotional and violent if a 95mph fastball came at their head, but this wasn’t anywhere close.

Quentin’s reaction is the problem. Charging the mound is for thugs and children who can’t control their actions. It’s undignified and it’s dangerous. Getting hit by a pitch that is six inches off the plate is a risk a person takes when they become a baseball player. Reacting to that occurrence by charging the mound, especially for someone who has been hit so many times, indicates a degree stupidity that needs to be corrected.

A lot of people are drawn to brawls in baseball for the history and desire for violence, but it has no place in the sport. It’s stupid. Grown men should not behave that way. Grown men should be able to control themselves. If Quentin was upset, he could have voiced that concern with Greinke, the umpires, or the league so that Greinke’s actions would be carefully reviewed. He, on the other hand, went Hobbesian on Greinke and took the law into his own hands and sought a Lord of the Flies type resolution. Greinke did something he didn’t like, so his response was to beat him up.

Literally, Quentin reacted to the pitch by assaulting Zach Greinke. If that happened in a shopping mall or in an office, Quentin would be charged with assault or would be fired. People in other professions are not allowed to violently attack their competitors.

I’m an academic. If someone criticizes my research, I am not allowed to throw a chair at them and beat their face in. That’s not acceptable adult behavior. I would be fired and would go to jail. Quentin will just get a few days suspension.

Athletes must be held to the same kind of standard when they step outside the rules of the game. Certainly, football players sign up for tackles and contact, just like baseball players sign up for double play collisions and fastballs coming toward them at 90 mph. But on field violence is not part of the game and should be dealt with accordingly.

If Carlos Quentin was an accountant, he would be out of a job today. It should be no different because he is a baseball player.

Now I know the rules in place won’t allow for that with Quentin and he will get the penalty that is typical for this behavior. But the rules need to change going forward so that people stop behaving like this. Any player who charges the mound should be banned for life, or at the very least, for the rest of the season.

Violence has no place in baseball and baseball players should be held to the same professional standards as everyone else. It is not okay to violently attack a coworker. This is not “part of the game” or “just someone defending themselves.” This was assault. It’s not good entertainment and it’s juvenile.

Baseball needs to clamp down on charging the mound before someone gets hurt.

Oh wait, someone just did.

The Morning Edition (April 12, 2013)

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

From Last Night:

  • Zach Greinke breaks his collarbone after a Carlos Quentin charges the mound after being hit by a pitch
  • The Giants come back from being down 5-0 to beat the Cubs at Wrigley 7-6
  • Felix gives up 10 hits enroute to a loss against the Rangers

What I’m Watching Today:

  • Jon Niese and the Mets meet old division foe Vance Worley at Target Field (8p Eastern)
  • The Blue Jays face the Royals in a battle of AL makeovers (8p Eastern)
  • Clayton Kershaw takes the hill for appointment viewing against the Dbacks (940p Eastern)
  • Yu Darvish faces the struggling Mariners (10p Eastern)

The Big Question:

  • Is Clayton Kershaw making a bid to unseat Verlander as baseball’s best starter?

Thursday brought us an abbreviated MLB schedule with just eight games (one of which was rained out) and resulted in MLB Network filling unaccounted for air time with a rerun of Intentional Talk hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar. This leads me to my only idle musing for the day: how good does a network have to be for IT to be its worst program? That’s insane. It’s a solid show, but it’s their worst show. MLB Now, MLB Tonight, Quick Pitch, Clubhouse Confidential, The Rundown, etc are all the best in their class as far as sports programming goes. It’s no wonder they win so many Emmys.

I haven’t heard the timeline on the Greinke injury, but it’s a blow to the Dodgers who were counting on him to pitch at ace levels this season. It will probably only cost them a couple games in the standings in total due to the time he misses, but I would be concerned about how the injury might affect his delivery when he returns give its location. We should know more later today that will help clear up those questions.

Finally, 42 opens today nationwide. I’m looking forward to seeing Jackie Robinson immortalized further on the silver screen and am excited for young and casual fans to get a glimpse into one of the great baseball players of all time, who just happens to double as one of the most pivotal figures of the 20th century. But no pressure on the actors. I plan to review the film sometime in the next week or two.

The Nine Best National League Starting Pitchers for 2013

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

Over the last nine weeks, we’ve chronicled the best players at each field position and the best starters the AL has to offer. Here, we’ll wrap up this particular run with the National League’s best starters.

I’ve often commented on the level of difficulty each list gave me during its construction, and this one, like the AL list, gave me trouble because there were a good number of candidates for the back half of the list. I feel strongly about the top five, but I think 6-15 could go in a lot of directions.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these rankings as a topic of debate and a way to preview the 2013 season. We’ll pick up next Saturday with other types The Nine lists, but we’ll revisit these lists throughout the season to see how well they prepared us for the future.

9. Johnny Cueto (Reds)

Cueto has pretty consistently outperformed his peripherals in the past and finally had a top shelf season this year in Cincinnati. Cueto remains in his prime and pitches in front of a pretty complete team. I thought about some other guys for this spot, and it killed me to leave Halladay off this list, but this one feels right.

8. Zach Greinke (Dodgers)

Greinke is now a very wealthy man and has a friendly home ballpark. He’s got great stuff but is susceptible to blow up innings. If there wasn’t a bit of a question about his elbow for the start of the season, he’d be a bit higher. Greinke is as talented as almost anyone on the list, but he tends to underperform his peripherals and his health is a bit uncertain.

7. Matt Cain (Giants)

Cain is an absolute workhouse with great control whose WAR undervalues him because it doesn’t appreciate his apparent ability to limit BABIP. He’s never missed a start in seven seasons, clearly has no-hit stuff and is very reliable. The ace of the world champs belongs on any list of this kind, and his contract looks incredible compared to some of the big signings of late.

6. Gio Gonzalez (Nationals)

Gio is a bit wild, but the strikeout rate and the walk rate are trending in the right direction. I’m not his biggest fan and there will certainly be steroid talk this season, but the numbers are telling me he’s a top six starter for next season. I’d rather have Cain or Greinke on my club, but if we’re going to try to be objective about next year, we probably have to give the edge to Gio.

5. Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)

Wainwright had two Cy Young type seasons in 2009 and 2010 before missing all of 2011 after having Tommy John’s Surgery. It took him a few months to return to form, and looks locked in and ready to go. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game when he’s healthy and all signs point to a big season from the 31 year old ace of the Cardinals.

4. Cliff Lee (Phillies)

Lee is coming off five excellent seasons in which he threw 211 innings or more. He has amazing control and a fine strikeout rate. He only has one Cy Young on his shelf, but this lefty ace could easily have a couple more. He is, without a doubt, owner of the best 6-9 season in baseball history and shows no sign of slowing down.

3. Cole Hamels (Phillies)

Everything about Cole Hamels’ game is awesome. Strikeouts, few walks, durability. He doesn’t quite have the ceiling of the others, but he’s consistency keeps him at the top of this list. The changeup is one of the best in the game and he remains the youngest of the Phillies aces heading into 2013.

2. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)

Kershaw is awesome. I don’t think I have to say anything else. He’s 25, has a Cy Young and a couple of near misses. He’s the best left handed pitcher in the game and should be for years to come. The only question about Kershaw is if he or Verlander will break the $200 million barrier for starters.

1. Stephen Strasburg (Nationals)

Last season was all about the innings limit. When he’s allowed to pitch, he is off the charts incredible. His career strikeout rate is 11.21 with a 2.71 BB/9. If he can hold up and stay healthy, he’s the best pitcher in the league. His stuff is amazing to watch. Is he Justin Verlander? Maybe not. Is he as close as any right hander in the game, you bet. Stephen Strasburg is the real deal.

What do you think? Kershaw or Strasburg? Or, someone else?

Dodgers Make Yankees Blush, Sign Zach Greinke

Zach Greinke has a 6 year, $147 million deal with the Dodgers pending a physical. This deal shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone, especially anyone who read my post about Greinke last month. The Dodgers needed pitching and had money. They existed in the center of the Venn Diagram of “need pitching” and “have money” in which Zach Greinke would no doubt sign.

You can read my previous post to give you an idea of what I think about Greinke, but the contract is new, so let’s talk about that.

$24.5 million a season for six seasons, totaling $147 million. Not a bad gig if you can get it. I like this for the Dodgers, however, even if a lot of people will write that it is an overpay. Greinke is 29. This contract will take him into his decline years, but not that far into it. He’s easily capable of putting up a couple 4-5 win seasons during the span and those seasons will pay for themselves. There might be some lost value on the back end where he’s worth a few million less than the contract if inflation doesn’t catch up and make it a wash.

The point I’m trying to make is that if this is an overpay, it’s a small one. Over six years, it’s hard not to imagine Greinke putting up at least 3 WAR a season. That’s $90 million with no inflation and nothing better than 3 wins a season. With all the money flying around the Dodgers front office right now, whatever part of that $50 million excess cost doesn’t get picked up by inflation and better than 3 win performances, I’m sure they will be able to cover it. They have a lot of dollars, so giving a lot to Zach Greinke should be okay.

It should also help to move to a nice pitcher’s park like Dodger Stadium. And putting him next to Clayton Kershaw should be pretty awesome. Two Cy Young contenders on one club.

Money isn’t an object for the Dodgers and they needed pitching. Zach Greinke likes money and is good at pitching. This is a pretty good match. Grade: A-

It’s Good to be Zach Greinke

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Zach Greinke is the top starting pitcher on the market this offseason. He may not turn out to be the best value, but he is the best. It helps that Cole Hamles and Matt Cain signed extensions this season, but that doesn’t take away from how good Greinke is. He made my list of aces last month and I’m comfortable saying he would be the #1 or #2 starter on every team except the Phillies.

Most reports seem to indicate Greinke will fetch a deal of 5-6 years worth $95-$120 million. His most recent employer, the Angels are heavily in the running, but every MLB will likely kick the tires. He would make every club better, it will just be a choice of how much you can afford to spend on your rotation.

Some in the media have speculated Greinke won’t fit in a big market because of a history of anxiety and depression, and what is clearly an introverted personality. I think their view is wrong in the sense that he couldn’t excel there, but he might choose a smaller media market because he will enjoy it more.

I think all other things equal, he’d avoid Boston or New York, but won’t rule them out based solely on the media narrative that he can’t handle them.

So if we agree Greinke will command a deal of the size I predicted and that every team in baseball would benefit from having him, who are the likely Greinke suitors?

The Angels are the obvious choice because they jettisoned Santana and Haren to free up the money. They loved him down the stretch there and he would fit in well with Weaver and Wilson going forward. The Angels have the resources, the need, and the familiarity to make them a player.

The Rangers make sense, too. They have the payroll flexibility and could use a reliable frontman instead of their revolving #1 spot of the last few years (Darvish, Holland, Harrison, Lee, etc). The Yankees and Red Sox both need pitching, but Boston seems better able to afford it than New York considering the Yankees’ desire to get under the luxury tax cap by 2014. The Orioles and Blue Jays should be in, but maybe not at the asking price.

Many speculated that the Royals could reunite with Greinke, but adding Ervin Santana’s $13 million seems to have indicated they won’t be making a push. The White Sox could be interested given their push to trade for him in July, but it’s hard to say if their recent extension to Peavy will block out too much money in the short term.

In the NL, the Braves, Cubs, and Dodgers seem like possible fits. Obviously we learned last year that the Mystery Team is usually involved, but this seems like a pretty accurate list of teams that will play big on the right hander.

For me, the team that signs Greinke will be in Los Angeles. It will be the Angels or the Dodgers. Both have the money and the need and both are good environments to pitch in. There will be a lot of teams involved, so predicting the landing spot is tough, but I’d take these two clubs against the field.

It’s not every year that you can add an ace to your staff through Free Agency, and it’s not every year that the market is as soft as it is this year. Translation? It’s good to be Zach Greinke right now.

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