Brawls in Baseball

In light of the recent Dodger/Padre brawl that left one player with a broken collarbone and one suspended for eight games, I felt it necessary to look at the ramifications of other brawls to determine the fairness of the most recent confrontation.

Surprisingly, there is little information on the history of bench clearing brawls in baseball. There isn’t a list of players who have charged the mound. There isn’t a ranking of the batters that have been suspended for fighting with pitchers. Instead, the focus is on ranking the best bench clearing brawls and the only suspensions people remain interested in are for performance enhancing drugs.

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Duck. Dodge. Dip. Dive. and Dodge.

A cursory glace at recent mound fights show that Quentin has received the harshest punishment for charging the mound; 8 games. Before that, Nyjer Morgan and Coco Crisp held the record at seven games, which occurred in 2010 and 2008, respectively. It must also be noted, that this most recent brawl looked comparatively calm compared to those two, and had it not been for the broken collar bone, it would have been remembered that way. But while the Crisp/Morgan charges flirt with injury opportunities, the Greinke/Quentin fight finally revealed the damage that can result from a meaningless confrontation.

When comparing Quentin’s trip to the mound to both the Morgan and Crisp fights, the suspension seems fair; its right in line with the other two, yet slightly higher due to the unfortunate broken bone. However, this has not satisfied Dodger loyalty, and Mattingly even demanded that Quentin be suspended until at least Greinke gets back.

Currently, Greinke is in line to miss roughly ten starts, or a third of the season, as a result of the incident. This can prove to be disastrous for a team that some project to win the division by fewer than five games. Quality starting pitching is hard to come by, and $147 million arms are even harder to come by, making it difficult for the Dodgers to easily find replacements and putting their entire season into limbo. Should the Dodgers fail to make it to the playoffs and the gap be within a couple of games, fans will no doubt blame the season on Quentin.

As a Dodger fan, it’s hard to disagree with Mattingly. But I would find it wildly random if players were to be suspended for seven games for charging the mound, and 60 if the pitcher is injured. Granted its easy to blame the batter for causing the fight, but it becomes harder to locate when, if and who causes the injuries occurred. Not all of these questions are easily answered and could make it hard to point the blame at one person. And the degree of injury is easily quantifiable in time missed, but these two shouldn’t always be correlated.

As a result, this type of suspension opens itself up to debate. Not only to the amount of time a player should miss, but also because of the discrepancies that can present themselves in terms of skill level. In the Dodger’s case, it’s clear that the two players are of roughly the same skill level and importance to their team. But what happens when Nolan Ryan is charged by a young Robin Ventura, who hypothetically gets hurt? It wouldn’t be fair, and it would actually incentivize teams to send their rookies out to the mound to throw up some fisticuffs against an ace.

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Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura.

Instead, MLB should just seek to drastically punish batters who charge the mound to the point that it becomes nonexistent.

But MLB done little to discourage players from charging the mound. Since 2006, MLB has added four games to the suspensions issued to mound chargers, and nobody really knows how much the undisclosed fine has increased. Although ESPN published Quentin’s amounted at $3,000. Oh and did I mention that Brian Wilson was fined $1,000 in 2010 for wearing bright orange shoes in the World Series.

It must also be noted that there is little to gain out of allowing players to charge the mound. Sure, fans love watching the benches and bullpens clear, but there are far easier ways for MLB to sell tickets and gain youtube views. Fans get just as excited over managers getting tossed, and thats not even saying they are expecting that anyways. Most fans do not arrive at a baseball game expecting heavy hitting physical contact. This is especially true for contact that has no impact, other than a negative one, on the outcome of the game.

Baseball is not a contact sport, which is what makes it such a mental challenge. While it’s easily mocked because of this (famously done by George Carlin), MLB should stop pretending that the game is something it isn’t.

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