Will Quentin get a greater suspension because Greinke was injured? Doubtful.

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After last night’s Dodgers-Padres brawl, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Carlos Quentin “shouldn’t play a game until Greinke can pitch.” It’s a totally understandable sentiment. Quentin’s idiocy has caused the Dodgers to lose a key cog in their rotation for a couple months in all likelihood, and it would hardly seem fair if Quentin were to get a slap on the wrist.

Thing is: Quentin is likely to get a slap on the wrist.

Baseball’s on-field discipline system is one based on precedent. When someone does something wrong, the league tends to look at comparable previous behavior and discipline and tends to apply similar penalties to the matter at hand.  It sort of has to, because the union defends players who are suspended and, if there is a dispute, the matter is appealed to an arbitrator. Baseball has to defend its discipline and there aren’t many easier defenses than “this is how we always do it.” And no harder sells than “this S.O.B. deserves WAY more.”

Typically, a player is suspended five or six games for charging the mound. There isn’t some database of brawl suspensions that I’m privy to (if I’m wrong, please let me know), but a relatively recent example which springs to mind is Kevin Youkilis charging Rick Porcello in 2009.  It wasn’t a situation unlike last night’s: Youkilis led the league in being hit by pitches, was hit again and decided that enough was enough. He threw his helmet at Porcello and the benches cleared. Youkilis got a five-game suspension. Notably, he didn’t appeal. Oftentimes Major League Baseball will give six-game suspensions and then reduce them to five if the player appeals. You get the sense they feel five games is about right.

In 2010 Nyjer Morgan received an eight-game suspension for a brawl between the Nationals and Marlins. That on top of a seven-game suspension that was then pending for throwing a ball at a fan in the stands. At the time it was considered a surprisingly heavy suspension for merely inciting a brawl.

Also in 2010 — and maybe this is the most instructive — the Cardinals and Reds got into a bench-clearing brawl. Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto, pushed up against the backstop by the scrum — began indiscriminately kicking people. One of the people he kicked was Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue, giving him a concussion which ended his career. HIS ENTIRE CAREER.  Cueto was suspended for seven games for his “violent and aggressive actions,” per the Major League Baseball press release. As a starting pitcher, that was, in effect, a one-game suspension.

All of this is a relatively recent phenomenon, however, as brawls were treated with light discipline prior to the 1990s. A great example: a May 20, 1976 brawl between the Yankees and Red Sox. After a lot of bad blood and then a rough collision at the plate that knocked Carlton Fisk on his kiester, Yankees’ third basemen Graig Nettles body slammed Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee — who had been jawing at the Yankees in the press for years — and broke his collarbone.  Then he punched him in the eye for good measure.  Lee missed nearly two months of action.  Nettles was not suspended at all.

So, yes, looking at what happened last night — a $147 million pitcher two games into his new deal gets sidelined for a long, long time — it’s tempting to say that Quentin should get a much more significant suspension than we’d normally see.  But baseball has rarely operated that way. They tend to punish the act — the charging of the mound — not punish based on the consequences of the act. Otherwise Cueto would have been suspended much longer, yes?

My guess: Quentin gets six games. Maybe eight if Bud Selig woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.  But it’s inevitable, it seems, that Quentin will be playing games long, long before Greinke is even tentatively throwing off a mound on a practice field.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts continues to cry poor

Tom Ricketts
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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MLB owners and the MLB Players Association continue to hash out details, some in public, about a 2020 baseball season. The owners have been suggesting a shorter season, claiming that they lose money on every game played without fans in attendance. The union wants a longer season, since players are — as per the March agreement — being paid a prorated salary. Players thus make more money over the 114 games the MLBPA suggested than the 50 or so the owners want.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has been among the more vocal owners in recent weeks, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing shutdown of MLB has greatly hurt MLB owners’ business. Speaking to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Ricketts claimed, “The scale of losses across the league is biblical.”

Ricketts said, “Here’s something I hope baseball fans understand. Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, and they take out their expenses, and they give all the money left to their GM to spend.” Ricketts continued, “The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”

Pertaining to Ricketts’ claim that “the league itself does not make a lot of cash,” Forbes reported in December that, for the 17th consecutive season, MLB set a new revenue record, this time at $10.7 billion. In accounting, revenues are calculated before factoring in expenses, but unless the league has $10 billion in expenses, I cannot think of a way in which Ricketts’ statement can be true.

MLB owners notably don’t open their accounting books to the public. Because the owners were crying poor during negotiations, the MLBPA asked them to provide proof of financial distress. The owners haven’t provided those documents. Thus, unless Ricketts opens his books, his claim can be proven neither true nor false, and should be taken with the largest of salt grains. If owners really are hurting as badly as they say they are, they should be more than willing to prove it. That they don’t readily provide that proof suggests they are being misleading.

It’s worth noting that the Ricketts family has a history of not being forthcoming about their money. Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts got into hot water last year after it was found he had used inaccurate information when paying property taxes. In 2007, he bought two properties and demolished both, building a new, state-of-the-art house. For years, Ricketts used information pertaining to the older, demolished property rather than the current property, which drastically lowered his property taxes. Based on the adjustment, Ricketts’ property taxes increased from $828,000 to $1.96 million for 2019, according to The Chicago Tribune. Ricketts also had to pay back taxes for the previous three years.

At any rate, the owners want to pass off the financial risk of doing business onto their labor force. As we have noted here countless times, there is inherent risk in doing business. Owning a Major League Baseball team has, for decades, been nearly risk-free, which has benefited both the owners and, to a lesser extent, its workforce. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into everybody’s plans, but the financial losses these last three months are part of the risk. Furthermore, when teams have done much better business than expected, the owners haven’t benevolently spread that wealth out to their players, so why should the players forfeit even more of their pay than they already are when times are tough?