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.

Agent: Nick Senzel’s reassigment ‘egregious case of service time manipulation’

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Reds prospect Nick Senzel is ready for the majors. Although he battled injuries, the 23-year-old performed well with Triple-A Louisville last season, batting .310/.378/.509 with 20 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 193 plate appearances. Senzel has also performed well this spring, batting .308 across 39 at-bats.

The Reds, however, announced on Friday that Senzel was among a handful of players reassigned to minor league camp. Senzel was drafted as a third baseman, began playing second base last year, and had been playing in center field during spring training. The common thought is that the Reds, who have built a competitive roster, will keep Senzel at Triple-A to begin the season and call him up right after the club secures an extra year of contractual control.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.” The full quote:

I don’t believe I’ve ever made public statements on this issue in my career, but I feel compelled to do so in this case where it feels like a simply egregious case of service time manipulation.

We are well aware of the mandate from ownership for the Reds to win this year — and this seems to fly in the face of it. The NL Central was decided by one game last year. Every game matters. This is a shortsighted move that may be frugal now but could cost them dearly later.

Nick Senzel is not a young prospect. He’s a major league-ready impact-type player. He has done everything they’ve asked this spring, including working hard to become a major league center fielder.

Nick takes pride in wearing the Reds uniform. He appreciates how much support he’s received from Reds fans. He’s going to go to Triple-A and prove every day he belongs in MLB.

We have covered the service time manipulation issue pretty extensively here, so Wolfe’s statement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Prior to an injury, the Blue Jays were going to undeservingly stuff Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — baseball’s No. 1 prospect — at Triple-A for the first two weeks or so of the season. The White Sox were going to do the same with Eloy Jiménez before using their leverage to nudge him into inking an extension. The Braves toyed with Ronald Acuña Jr.’s playing time last year. Kris Bryant and Maikel Franco filed respective grievances against the Cubs and Phillies for service time manipulation several years ago.

Team executives don’t outright admit to gaming a prospect’s service time to gain that extra year of control because that’s how one loses a grievance. They dance around the topic by making a nebulous claim, typically about the player’s defense needing to be worked on at Triple-A. That’s what the Cubs said about Bryant, and it’s what the Jays said about Guerrero. It’s a subjective enough evaluation that it can’t be falsified. It’s why the grievances that have been filed over this have fizzled out and it’s why more and more teams have brazenly joined the service time manipulation bandwagon.

Senzel’s case is, admittedly, a bit more murky. Though he performed well this spring, Scott Schebler has outperformed him, batting .379 with five extra-base hits and 11 walks in roughly 40 trips to the plate. The starting spot in right field is taken by Yasiel Puig and left field is taken by Jesse Winker. Schebler has ostensibly earned the starting job in center. I can’t imagine Wolfe having a compelling case if he were to file a grievance on Senzel’s behalf.

That being said, it is important that agents (and the MLBPA) speak out about this when they can. Senzel’s case may not be open-and-shut, but bringing service time manipulation into the public consciousness will have a lasting impact ahead of the December 2021 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. Holding team executives publicly accountable may make them less willing to manipulate their players’ service time going forward, as it may sour what could otherwise be a terrific relationship between team and player. Service time manipulation is an important piece of the labor puzzle and those on the players’ side have to seize whatever they can to potentially gain leverage. Awareness leads to solidarity.