Over the first news cycle of the Dodgers-Padres Thursday night fight, sentiment from baseball pundits overwhelmingly fell on the side of Zack Greinke. It didn't make much sense to think a pitcher would intentionally drill Carlos Quentin with a 3-2 pitch in a game his team trailed 2-1. On top of it, he got the worst of it. His decision to challenge Quentin's charge with a lowered shoulder of his own resulted in a broken collarbone.
Throw in Quentin's proclivity to hang over the plate, which has resulted in a lot of cheap free bases over the years, and a lot of baseball voices couldn't understand why Quentin would snap over this one. Some thought Quentin deserved at least a month, if not Don Mattingly's suggested sentence of Greinke's recovery period.
But let's go back and turn that statement into a question: "Why would Quentin snap over this one?" It took until the second news cycle to start to examine why a guy who had been plunked 279 times since college would only take umbrage at the 280th HBP on Thursday night. Quentin's an intense fellow on the field, but if you had an "erratic behavior" competition leading up to this incident, Greinke would win going away.
(Plus, Quentin wasn't even over the plate this time.)
Quentin says it goes back to 2009, and Sox fans may remember it. On April 8, Greinke threw a fastball over Quentin's head during his first plate appearance, then drilled him during the second. Quentin took a few steps toward the mound before umpire Bill Hohn and catcher Miguel Olivo intervened. In Greinke's second start against the Sox that year, he came high and tight again with the first pitch to knock Quentin off the plate.
That's when we started to notice that Ozzie Guillen stopped taking action when pitchers recklessly threw inside to White Sox hitters. It was a problem that plagued the Sox over those next three seasons, with a grossly lopsided HBP imbalance that included a number of hand injuries for the Sox, and a pitch to the face, too. Guillen could only respond with shrugs.
Given this history, it's funny that Oney Guillen was back to embarrassing his dad when he tweeted after the brawl:
"greinke has hit carlos many many times. look it up. told me long long time ago. if he does it again im going for him. that was like 09."
So the manager's son knew that one of Guillen's players thought opponents were pitching inside with a purpose, and still the Sox never retaliated.
That's why Paul Konerko's strong defense of Quentin is worth noting, because...
No. 1: Konerko always chooses his words and thoughts carefully, if you watch him talk about it:
No. 2: I think he's speaking for more than just his former teammate when he says this:
"What’s that tell you?" Konerko said about Quentin never charging the mound. "That tells you (Quentin) knows the game and knows he’s on top of plate a lot because he doesn’t move a lot. If I heard that, again it’d be just more evidence of this something more than just getting hit on a 3-2 pitch that got away. … If (Greinke) lets one go up in there and it breaks Carlos’ hand, they would just say ‘Hey, that got away from him. That’s part of the game.’ You know, throwing up in there time and time again and having somebody run out there and break your collarbone, that’s part of the game as well. Hitters get hit up in there a lot and that’s just coined as part of the game. At some point you have to put your foot down and that’s what you saw happen there."
Fortunately, this is one of many situations that improved under the Robin Ventura administration.
Mark Parent's strong rhetoric at SoxFest 2012 had a lot of people chastising the Sox for gleeful brutality and bloodlust, but it never materialized in a dangerous fashion. When Jeff Samardzija drilled Konerko in the face under questionable circumstances, Philip Humber threw behind Bryan LaHair. When Alex Cole clearly plunked A.J. Pierzynski on purpose, Jose Quintana threw behind Ben Zobrist. They didn't inflict any harm on the hitter, nor did they give the other team a free baserunner, but Ventura's team sent the message to everybody when they noticed opposing pitchers growing too comfortable with their carelessness.
So far, the Sox have been able to stand up for themselves, while doing it in a fashion that contains the purpose pitches within a single game, rather than spilling over into future dates. Guillen's Sox rarely did that, and it's something to see the resentment rising years later, and in different uniforms.