When MLB.com went back and added classic videos early this year, they apparently had some priorities about what went up first. There were milestones and events like 500th homers, first homers, and no-hitters, of course. The Giants wanted every home run that splashed into the bay outside AT&T Park, even if it was hit by Felipe Crespo or Michael Tucker, so those all went up. Someone figured that Expos highlights would be a draw, or at least they didn't want the youth of today to think the Expos were a Sidd Finch-like hoax.
The other thing they put up with great frequency: bench-clearing brawls. Here's Pedro Martinez winging his helmet at Mike Williams. Here's Mike Mussina and Bill Haselman hugging and rolling around on the ground. Here's a doozy of a brawl between Ray Knight and Eric Davis. Here's the first brawl I remember as a kid, and I still talk about it 25 years later.
Brawls, brawls, brawls. Almost everyone loves baseball brawls, usually. Hockey fans laugh at us because baseball brawls are usually a bunch of guys milling around a grass field and pushing like it's a Megadeth concert, but most baseball fans love a good bench-clearing scrum.
Yet today is What Should Be Done Day because someone got hurt. It's all fun and games until someone pokes their collarbone out. This isn't altogether different from what happens when a player gets hurt after a collision at home plate, and I'll admit to fashioning a saddle out of a soapbox to ride my high horse on that one. There are differences between the two situations, though. The first is that catchers and/or runners often get hurt on home-plate collisions. I don't know why that's not the case with brawls, but it's far more dangerous to be a catcher than a mere brawler.
The second difference is that brawls are far more popular than home-plate collisions. Home-plate collisions get a lot of attention and did-you-see-thats when they happen, but it takes an injury for them to be remembered a week later. Brawls stick with you. I remember when Barry Bonds charged Ricky Botallico; apparently someone on YouTube does, too.
The third difference -- and it's as important as the part where players rarely get hurt -- is that brawls aren't taken seriously at all. At all. Just a bunch of guys goofin' around boys will be boys look at those guys actin' up and playin' the fool and boys will be boys. If no one gets hurt, no one cares.
If I took a month and spent $50,000 producing a video that supports this point, I couldn't have done better than this one on MLB.com. Please watch that and make sure your speakers or headphones are turned up. Because listen to that music! It's just about the best thing I've ever seen and heard together.
/jovial trumpet music
/rap-a-tap-happy-feet snare drumming
Someone thought that music fit because no one got hurt in the brawl. Now play the same music for Pete Rose devastating Ray Fosse. No one would ever think to do that. I have no idea how injuries don't happen more when the benches clear. If I could push a lever to eliminate brawls completely, I would, if only to prevent things like Zack Greinke busting his collarbone, but I can't pretend to be pure of heart on this one. I link to Michael Barrett punching A.J. Pierzynski once a week, and that's just in e-mails to my mom.
Yet because Greinke's injury is an exception, not the rule, it becomes what should be done day. Should Carlos Quentin get suspended for a week? A month? Arrested? Sued? It's a topic of interest today. Maybe even tomorrow.
Which leads us to the two truths of baseball-related brawls. Keep these in mind while reading all of the articles on the Greinke/Quentin fracas:
1. Baseball won't change the rules for brawls any time soon
Oh, they'll suspend Quentin for a good long while. I really don't know what he was thinking, considering it was a one-run game and Quentin should be used to this. He was a goofball for charging the mound, though he probably didn't expect Greinke to shoulder-check him, so I'm not sure how it's different from any other stupid brawl. (Applicable: Here's one suggested strategy for smaller pitchers when monster-sized players charge the mound.)
And when the news cycle is over, the injury to Greinke isn't going to be forgotten, exactly, but the cries for baseball to do something will go away. The rules won't change. The next time a hitter thinks a pitcher is throwing at him intentionally, he isn't going to think about the Fate of Carlos Quentin before he decides what to do.
2. Eventually something will happen that makes baseball change the rules
To wit: Chan Ho Park roundhouse-kicking Tim Belcher is a hilarious piece of recent baseball history. Park fracturing Belcher's skull and ending his career would have had a much different result. Don Zimmer getting tossed to the ground makes for a hot debate and an instantly famous highlight. Don Zimmer getting tossed to the ground and breaking his neck would have ended on-field confrontations as we know them.
Basketball has a history of brawls, too. Rudy Tomjanovich almost died after a punch to the face, and the Malice at the Palace was an all-time stain on the sport. But basketball also has rules to prevent ultimate craziness now. Anyone who leaves the bench is suspended. Simple and effective. But eventually, the NBA will have to do more, too. Until draconian penalties are enforced to prevent in-game brawls in every sport, we're all just counting down to the sport-changing event that will eventually come. When large, large men throw punches and tackle each other, there's always a chance of something unbelievably horrific happening.
Something will happen. And that something isn't Greinke's collarbone. We'll have to wait and watch in horror when it does happen. Until then, this will mostly blow over, and the next time someone charges the mound, it won't be a big deal. Maybe it should be.
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