By Bill Plaschke
1:44 PM EDT, June 12, 2013
The Dodgers have finally found something they are willing to fight for.
But on Tuesday night, it was the wrong thing.
In a brawl that will undoubtedly cost them suspensions that could even include their best player -- what was Swingin' Clayton Kershaw thinking? -- the Dodgers precipitated a fight with the Arizona Diamondbacks that wasn't worth the effort.
The Dodgers say that the prolonged headhunting from the mound in the middle of their 5-3 win over the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium -- a sequence which ended in the thunderous melee -- was started when Arizona's Ian Kennedy hit the Dodger' Yasiel Puig in the face with a pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning. It was inarguably the worst pitch at the worst time. In just one week here, Puig has already become the Dodgers most exciting player, their most powerful hitter, their best new hope. Wearing number 66, he is Manny Ramirez turned upside down. His teammates desperately need him, and thus feel a desperate need to protect him.
But, c'mon fellas, look at the scoreboard. Why on earth would Kennedy be throwing at Puig with two strikes, nobody on base, and his team leading 2-0? What pitcher would willingly bring the tying run to the plate in that situation? The intention of a pitch can often be revealed by the immediate reaction of the pitcher throwing it. Kennedy spun and looked in frustration at the sky. He was throwing inside as anyone should throw inside to a hot young hitter. But he was clearly not trying to hit him.
How quickly the Dodgers forgot the idiocy of San Diego's Carlos Quentin exactly two months ago, when he charged the mound and broke Zack Greinke's collarbone even though Greinke was also not trying to hit him.
Puig didn't charge the mound this time, but the Dodgers nonethless retaliated one-half inning later when Greinke hit Miguel Montero, which led Kennedy to eventually hitting Greinke, and before you knew it, a 2 a.m. fast-food-restaurant brawl had broken out. You know a fight is bad when even old men are hobbling into the fray. The Legends of the Brawl featured Don Mattingly body-slamming Alan Trammell and Mark McGwire clutching Kirk Gibson.
The Dodgers looked tough then, but won't look so tough when they are hit with suspensions, which will no doubt include a few games for the one guy they were trying to keep in the game. Puig appeared to lose control during the fight and was as wildly aggressive as anyone.
The Dodgers felt they were doing the right thing Tuesday, and it's hard to blame a rudderless bunch for grabbing on to the nearest anchor, no matter how flimsy it might be. This fight shows once again that, with Matt Kemp having disappeared, the clubhouse is so sorely lacking in leadership, they will lose their minds over a kid who has been here a week. But in hindsight they will hopefully realize that there are smarter ways to become a tough and tight team than by picking dumb fights. Move a runner. Hit a cutoff man. Make a ninth-inning pitch. All of that is preferable to throwing a punch.
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