I do not mean to excuse Carlos Quentin's behavior Thursday night in San Diego, and I sincerely hope they throw the book at him. But it's not quite enough to say he should have known that Zack Greinke wasn't actually throwing at him. Of course Greinke (probably) wasn't throwing at him. You don't throw at the leadoff hitter in the sixth inning of a one-run baseball game.
But you don't have to be thrown at to get pissed off. Sometimes simply getting hit is plenty enough. Zack Greinke has phenomenal control. If he throws a pitch that hits you, there's a decent chance he meant to come close, at least. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that. But of course the margin for error is fairly slim; if you're trying to come close and you miss just a little, there's roughly a 50/50 chance that you won't miss at all. Not without some fancy footwork by the hitter, anyway.
Which is simply to say that getting upset about a pitch that hits you is a perfectly natural reaction. And perhaps especially if you've been hit a lot. Carlos Quentin's been hit a lot:
Quentin said his history with Greinke has been "well-documented. That situation could have been avoided. You'd have to ask Zack about that."
"I've been hit by many pitches," said Quentin, plunked more often than any other major league hitter since the start of 2008. "Some have been intentional, some have not been. For the amount I have been hit and my hitting style, I'm going to repeat: I have never reacted that way."
Quentin and Greinke have a history.
The right-hander now has hit Quentin three times with a pitch, with the last before Thursday coming in 2009. Quentin is the only batter Greinke has hit three times, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Quentin led the majors in hit by pitches in both 2011 (23) and 2012 (17). He's been hit 116 times in his career (seventh-most among active players), and he left Tuesday night's game against the Dodgers after being hit on the right wrist with a pitch.
No, you can't really blame Don Mattingly for saying this:
"He caused the whole thing," an irate Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after Los Angeles eked out a 3-2 victory. "Nothing happens …"
"Nothing happens if he goes to first base like in baseball you know you do, because you know he's not throwing at you 3-2 in a 2-1 game. That's zero understanding of the game of baseball. He shouldn't play a game until Greinke can pitch."
But when these guys talk about "zero understanding of baseball" -- and I say these guys because you're going to hear this from other baseball guys -- they're showing a zero understanding of human nature. If Carlos Quentin had thought about it before he got hit, or if he'd paused for a moment after he got hit, he might have understood. But he just reacted, much as we've all reacted at some point in our lives. Occasionally to the detriment of those around us.
Again, I don't mean to excuse Quentin. I'm on Mattingly's side; in a truly just world, Quentin would be out for exactly as long as Greinke's out. Baseball is not a truly just world, though, and Mattingly knows it. Precedent suggests that Quentin be suspended for perhaps 10 games. And precedent is 95 percent of the law in these matters; break with precedent and the Players Association will appeal and the Players Association will win.
So Greinke's going to miss around six weeks with his broken collar bone, and Carlos Quentin's going to miss around 10 days with his imminent suspension. Matt Kemp's probably going to miss some time, too, after going after Quentin after the game and calling him a bitch.
Let's not feel too sorry for the Dodgers just yet. For one thing, they've got more money than God. And in a related note, they entered the season with approximately eight major-league starting pitchers. Now they're down to only six, if you assume that Ted Lilly will eventually come off the D.L. and pitch well enough. For now, it looks like Chris Capuano, who went 12-12 in 33 starters last season, will step in for Greinke. Which is obviously a downgrade, but not terribly so. Which is why I'm still picking the Dodgers to win the West.
Oh, and just in case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's Vin Scully calling all the exciting action!