Diamondbacks Suspensions, Reactions and Blind Justice

USA TODAY Sports

Time to review the suspensions and other punishments handed down by MLB in the wake of the Dodger brawl on Tuesday.

It's been a fun day since the news of the suspensions broke. I've virtually worn out my fingers on The Twitter, responding to comments from Dodger fans, varying from the reasonable to the Neanderthal (the latter were particularly amusing). It's amazing how many Dodgers fans still appear to believe that both Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke were actually hit in the head, when virtually all neutral reports media reports agree otherwise:

  • "Ian Kennedy hit him in the sixth inning with a fastball that glanced off Puig’s shoulder and grazed his nose." - Sporting News
  • "In the bottom of the seventh, Kennedy's first pitch to Greinke appeared to hit Greinke's left shoulder." -- LA Daily News

It's also striking how many "forget" that the war of intentional hit batters was started by Greinke, who threw several times at Miguel Montero in the previous inning, before eventually nailing him. Sure, it came after Puig got hit, but not even Don Mattningly thought that was deliberate. Greinke, however, deemed it worthy of vengeance, and lit the fuse which lead to the brawl. For that, he receives absolutely no suspension, and a fine which will be pathetically trivial, for a man who makes more than half a million dollars every time he takes the mound. Not bad for a repeat offender, now involved in two bench-clearing brawls in a couple of months.

Now, there's no denying Ian Kennedy's part in proceedings. But for both pitchers to be responsible, but only one to be suspended is wildly illogical. Both men should have been suspended, especially when baseball makes such a fuss about "instigating." Again: it was Greinke, not Kennedy, who "instigated" this by deliberately hitting Montero. It's also worth noting Kennedy was suspended for three more games than Johnny Cueto, after he kicked Jason Larue in the head, giving him a concussion. Apparently, the best way to escape punishment by MLB is to throw the first punch. Or, in this case, it seems better yet to throw all the first punches.

And that's what we find in particular when we move across to the player side, where Eric Hinske will miss as many games as everyone on the Dodgers' playing roster combined. I defy anyone to go watch the video, and figure out where the hell that came from. Even the forces of the Evil Empire a.k.a. the Dodgers were surprised by the fact Hinske was suspended. Reliever/enforcer J.P. Howell said, "He was actually being cool," and was also described by other Los Angeles players as a "peacemaker" and "punching bag." Given this, frankly, I'm astonished Turner Ward wasn't suspended five games for brutally vandalizing the Dodger Stadium dugout railing with his head.

It doesn't help that official press release explained Hinske's suspension as being for "leaving the dugout and for his aggressive actions during the incidents." Well, duh. If that's a crime, then the entire Dodger team tonight should be wearing Albuquerque Isotopes uniforms. Now, it has been suggested that MLB have extra footage showing Hinske popping up - probably from behind a grassy knoll - to clock Puig or something. Aside from not being sure where such footage would come from (time to get those RoboUmpires with their camera eyes!), that's exactly why the appeal process needs to be transparent and public. Because the evidence right now is woefully inadequate.

Ken Rosenthal has an article up citing the usual "sources" and saying, "Hinske hit Puig first," to which Hinske replied "Watch the video." Meanwhile, Puig, who was ejected from the game, described by one of the umpires as an "instigator", and is clearly visible in the video engaging in what can only be called "aggressive actions," also gets off with a fine, like Greinke - who was also visible in it, throwing punches. The source says Puig "did not make contact with Hinske, his punch getting blocked by another Dodger after his arm started forward." So basically, poor control doomed Kennedy and saved Puig.

In terms of impact on the Diamondbacks, let's be honest, this really isn't significant. They have lost the starting pitcher with the highest ERA and a pinch-hitter who averages 0.78 plate-appearances per game. The former might not even require a replacement pitcher, as Fangraphs points out

Kennedy is scheduled to start for the Diamondbacks against the Padres on Sunday... [An appeal] allows him to make that start, then he’ll inform the league he’s dropping it immediately following that outing, so the suspension will begin on Monday when the Diamondbacks begin their three game series against the Marlins. He wouldn’t have pitched in any of those games anyway, so there’s no real loss there. Then, on Thursday, the Diamondbacks have a day off, which will allow them to roll their rotation over and just skip Kennedy’s spot in the rotation for their weekend series against the Reds. And then they have another day off following that series, so the rotation shuffling gets even easier.

Here's how the rotation would shape up

.And then Kennedy is eligible to come back on the 29th. So, with a little fiddling, these will have next to no impact on the team. But it's not really that which bothers me. It's the yawning charm in punishment between that given to the Diamondbacks and that to the Dodgers. Our starter misses 10 games; theirs none at all. Our "peace-maker" is suspended for five games, the same as J.P. Howell, Ronaldo Belisario and Skip Schumaker combined, while Yasiel Puig got a financial tap of the wrist, even though he apparently injured himself throwing punches.

Given the complete absence of evidence, it's not unreasonable to wonder if MLB's Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations, Joe Torre, was fair and unbiased in his assessment. After all, this is a pal of the current Dodgers' manager, who occupied the very same position immediately before Mattingly. It'd certainly be in MLB's "best interests" not to punish the gargantuan behemoth of cash, especially when it has sputtered its way to last place in the standings to date and apparently needs all the help it can get. [More of a stretch, some have suggested Torre still hates the D-backs for the 2001 World Series. I'm impressed by his ability to hold a grudge if that's so]

I'll hold my final judgment on this, but I'm very curious to see how what data, exactly, comes out in the appeal process and down the road to justify the suspensions awarded today. Because, right now, this has the unpleasant scent of week-old fish to it - the last time a video-taped incident in Los Angeles led to such an apparently dubious verdict, riots ensued.

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