Irony: Cubs-Nats Near Brawl Underscores The Value Of Being A Nice Guy

Washington, DC, USA; Chicago Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk argues with the umpires after being ejected from the game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

Jamie Quirk and Bo Porter nearly came to blows in Thursday night's Cubs-Nationals game, but the true wonder is that they were there at all.

Thursday evening's Cubs-Nationals game was disrupted by a bench-clearing incident instigated by Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk and Nationals third base coach Bo Porter. From Bill Ladson's game story:

Bench coach Jaime Quirk was clearly upset that Werth swung at the pitch when the Nationals were up by five runs.

Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter walked near the Cubs' dugout and was yelling back at Quirk. Porter didn't give specifics on what was said between the two parties, but indicated he wouldn't back down from a boxing match. The benches and bullpens emptied, with Quirk getting ejected. Had Porter went into the Cubs' dugout, he, too would have been tossed.

"Quirk was ejected for screaming out obscenities to the third base coach," home-plate umpire Jerry Layne said. "That was the ejection for the coach. The fracas was started because all that stuff that happened that was instigated by Quirk screaming out at Porter. And the obscenities that he screamed out, I just felt was inappropriate and that's what caused everything. The reason he was ejected was he was the cause."

I'm less interested in the tiff than the participants. One of the wonderful truths of life that baseball points up on a regular basis is that talent may get you to the Show, but maintaining a positive and professional demeanor will keep you there, sometimes for years beyond your playing days. There is no Hall of Fame for guys like Art Fletcher (13 seasons as a major-league player, five years as a manager, 19 years as a coach) or Milkman Jim Turner (nine years as a pitcher, 24 years as a coach, four years as a minor-league manager), but there should be. Jimmie Reese, Don Zimmer, Manny Mota, whatever their overall qualities, add so much color and continuity to the game.

Think of players who have bad character reputations. They just don't last in the same way, even if their raw numbers far outweigh those of the men who stay. Actually, put them aside, just as the game has, and think of all the good players who graced the majors between 1975 and 1992, the years of Jamie Quirk. Very few players of that era are still part of the major-league scene, and what's more, had we been taking bets as to who would still be a topic of conversation in 2012, no one would have named Quirk as a potential lifer.

A left-handed hitter who was the first-round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals in 1972, Quirk never could hit much, but he forged an 18-year-career in the bigs by playing wherever managers asked him to, mostly behind the plate but just about everywhere else as well, and being willing to go down to the minors whenever a roster crunch developed. He was a perennial 25th man, and sometimes a 26th and 27th man as well.

Bo Porter's major-league career was a lot shorter, lasting parts of three seasons from 1999 through 2001, but the fact that he got upstairs at all, let alone remains 11 years later, is an even greater miracle given that he was a 40th-round draft pick of the Cubs in 1993. First-rounders get all kinds of chances on the assumption that the talent that got them picked so high might someday will show, but 40th-round picks are guilty until proven capable. Between the majors (89 games) and the minors (1064 games), he showed himself to be someone who could contribute to an organization beyond his bat and his glove.

Of course, if Quirk and Porter keep starting fires, they might undo all the goodwill they've engendered over their long careers, but I'm sure everyone understands that men will sometimes be boys, especially in baseball. Both men are still relatively young. Quirk is 57, Porter 40, so there is no reason they can't still be coaching and bickering in 2020, if not beyond. I'm rooting for 2025 -- it's too rare that we get to watch someone celebrate his 50th anniversary in the majors.

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