Diamondbacks, Dodgers brawl after Zack Greinke gets drilled

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The fourth hit by pitch of Tuesday’s game between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers finally did the trick; Ian Kennedy nailed Zack Greinke in the shoulder in the bottom of the seventh, touching off a modest brawl.

Punches were thrown after the benches and bullpens cleared, but most of the action was limited to yelling and shoving. Actually, the confrontation between Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire and Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and third-base coach Matt Williams was the most interesting to follow, as McGwire was holding both guys and looked like he wanted to throw some punches.

Watch the entire brawl here

Diamondbacks outfielder Cody Ross was the first batter hit tonight, and the Diamondbacks responded by hitting Yasiel Puig in the sixth. Greinke came back and drilled Miguel Montero in the back in top of the seventh. Both of those latter two appeared intentional, and the benches cleared after Montero was hit. Given what was most likely coming, it was pretty surprising Dodgers manager Don Mattingly sent Greinke out to hit in the bottom of the seventh. Sure enough, the first pitch was right up by his head and he took it off the shoulder, not far from where his left collarbone was broken after Carlos Quentin charged the mound back in April.

Kennedy is a lock for a suspension after making that throw, and MLB should ensure that it’s a good one. It’s one thing to intentionally hit someone, but there’s no excuse for going anywhere near a guy’s head. While pitchers are never suspended for more than one start for on-field incidents, MLB should make a statement and sit Kennedy for at least 12 games.

Greinke is also due a suspension for his intentional plunking of Montero, even if he wasn’t thrown out. It looked like he’d leave after the HBP, but he came back out of the dugout and stayed in to run. He even tried a takeout slide at second on a double-play ball afterwards. He didn’t come back out for the eighth, though.

Puig, who was ejected, could also get suspended for 2-5 games based on his actions as one of the instigators in the scrum. Dodgers relievers J.P. Howell and Ronald Belisario also made themselves front and center in the mix and should be looking at bans.

It’s probably safe to say Gibson and McGwire are looking at one- or two-game suspensions as well. Mattingly, for what it’s worth, was not ejected from the game.

Meanwhile, on the cold, cold Hot Stove . . .

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It’s Hot Stove Season baby! You know what that means! Yep: time to watch some teams sign a few relievers to minor league deals and then wait everyone out until February while talking about the need to maintain financial flexibility! FEEL THE BURN.

In more specific news:

We’ve talked a lot about Betts this winter already, and that seems like madness. Bryant’s career with the Cubs began with business-side acrimony, it’s still simmering, and there is no sense that either side is amenable to a long-term deal before he hits free agency. The Indians have been signaling for some time that they have no interest in keeping Lindor long term.

It’s quite the thing when three teams who are supposed to be contending are, instead, looking to deal recent MVP award winners and candidates who are 27 and 26 years old, but these are the times in which we are living.

  • Joe Sheehan wrote an excellent column for Baseball America last week analyzing the attendance drop MLB experienced in 2019. Which is just the latest in a series of attendance drops. As Joe notes there is a very, very strong connection between teams (a) signaling to fans during the offseason that they are not interested in signing or retaining players or otherwise being competitive; and (b) teams suffering attendance losses.

As I wrote last offseason, there is an increasing disconnect between attendance and other proxies of broad fan interest and revenue. Which is to say that, as long as teams continue to get fat on long-term TV deals, side businesses like real estate development, and soaking a smaller and wealthier segment of the fan base with higher and higher prices, they really have no reason to care if several thousand common or casual fans become alienated by their teams’ lack of desire to compete.

Sullivan doesn’t offer ideas about how that can happen, but over the past couple of seasons we’ve seen a number of proposals, some broad, some specific, about how MLB can turn its free agency/trading period into frantic, 1-3 day scrambles-to-sign like we see in both the NBA and NFL. I’m sympathetic to that desire — it’s exciting! — but any attempt to do that in Major League Baseball, at least as things are currently set up, would be a disaster for the players.

In the NBA and NFL you have salary caps and floors and, in the NBA, you have max contracts. As a result, teams both have a set amount of money to spend and an incentive to spend that money. We can quibble with whether those incentives are the best ones or if they benefit the players as much as other systems might, but there’s at least something inherent in their systems which inspires teams to sign free agents.

In Major League Baseball, there is no such incentive. May teams want to keep payrolls as low as possible under the guise of rebuilding or tanking and there is no effective mechanism to keep them from doing so. Even nominal contenders — see the Cubs, Indians and Red sox in item 1 above — spend more time thinking about how to cut payroll rather than add talent. This is bolstered by the stuff in item 2 above in which attendance and even winning has less of an impact on the bottom line than it ever has.

So, why scramble to sign players by a set deadline? Under most of the scenarios I see floated — like the laughably horrible one MLB reportedly suggested to the MLBPA — teams would just wait out free agents until deadline day, give them crappy take-it-or-leave-it offers and then leave them all scrambling to sign one-year deals or to sit the season out.

For such a thing to happen — or for teams to want to keep their bright young stars or for the league to want to maintain fan interest and keep attendance from continuing to slide — there must be incentives put in place to make them want to sign and retain players. To make them want to win. To make them want to excite the fan base.

At present, such incentives are not there. And, as such, we are faced with yet another winter with a cold, cold stove.