Fracas suspensions more costly than fines
Longer bans may discourage players from escalating bases-clearing incidents
Quick. Without racing to Google or using one of your lifelines, name as many Mother of all Brawls in baseball that come to mind from the last several months. OK, I'll expand it to the last couple of seasons.
I'm still waiting.
The point is, folks should cease the hand-wringing over the flirtation of the Los Angeles Dodgers these days with mixed martial arts.
So what if the Dodgers got a little wild this week at Dodger Stadium against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Six folks were tossed and eight were suspended between the two teams. And, yes, I know the timing wasn't the best. It occurred two months after the Dodgers slugged it out with the Padres in San Diego, where tensions remained so high that players nearly fought afterward in one of Petco Park's tunnels.
These things happen, but not as often as you might think, and not enough for the panic police to take over the game.
You probably remember Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips declaring his disdain toward the St. Louis Cardinals in colorful terms. Before long, both teams spent a night at Great American Ball Park reacting with their fists, along with their legs.
It was a huge deal ... two years ago.
Pedro Martinez versus Don Zimmer? Well, it has been a decade since the Boston Red Sox right-hander -- significantly younger than Zimmer -- threw the charging New York Yankees coach to the ground during a fracas. The next year, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek shoved his mitt into the face of the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, but nothing else of pugilistic consequence has happened since then between the two archrivals.
Remember when Nolan Ryan put Robin Ventura in that headlock and started pounding away before the Chicago White Sox third baseman began turning the tables on the Texas Rangers fireballer?
We're talking 1993.
Not to mention those sets of brawls between the Atlanta Braves, the Padres and several fans at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium occurred in 1984. That was 19 years after San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal set the foundation for the ugliest brawl of them all. He took a bat to the head of Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro.
This isn't to say there haven't been other brawls of note before or since those mentioned, but you get the idea.
Except for a tweak here and there, baseball officials should keep the status quo in these situations. Like always, they should let players, coaches and managers push and shove themselves silly -- with an occasional hook or jab in the mix -- and, like always, they should respond with game ejections followed by suspensions and fines.
As for those tweaks, baseball officials should increase the numbers associated with both suspensions and fines.
For instance: After Padres slugger Carlos Quentin pushed this year's Dodgers-Padres brawl into high gear by charging the mound upon being plunked by Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke, Quentin was fined $3,000. I mean, $3,000 for a Major League player these days? He was slated to make $9.5 million this year, so you do the math.
Then again, Quentin was also suspended for eight games, which meant he lost about $500,000 in salary.
Not a bad chunk. Even so, MLB officials need to combine with those of the Players Association to put baseball fines in line with 21st century inflation, but that's not the big thing.
The suspensions are the big thing.
Frank Robinson comes to mind. During the early 1980s, when I covered Robinson's Giants for the San Francisco Examiner, he used to say that the best way to get the attention of the players he managed wasn't by hitting them in the wallet but by reducing their playing time.
Therefore, if Quentin's eight-game suspension instead lasted a month or even two weeks, let's just say he and others who play regularly would contemplate going left if an incident was to the right.
Pitchers also need stiffer suspensions.
D-backs starter Ian Kennedy was suspended 10 games by Major League Baseball for throwing a pitch in the head area of Greinke at Dodger Stadium. A suspension of 20 days would have been more appropriate for Kennedy, because it would have forced the pitcher to miss a few more starts. It also would have made other starters (and managers, and pitching coaches) think more before retaliating during games.
Days before Kennedy's punishment, Giants reliever George Kontos was suspended for three games because he threw a pitch at the Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen.
Three games for a reliever? Who's to say Kontos would have even pitched during any of those games?
The definitive solution would be for baseball officials to triple the average number of games given to all pitchers for fines. If nothing else, they should at least double the usual number.
Still, courtesy of the Dodgers versus everybody these days, there is talk of baseball going with a less tolerant approach, similar to one employed by the NBA, which delivers an automatic one-game suspension to those leaving the bench during any on-court confrontation.
If you haven't noticed, confrontations during baseball games are common. So if MLB officials went the way of the NBA, nearly every other game would be filled with guys just called up from the Minor Leagues. That's because suspensions of Major Leaguers would be rampant.
I also suppose baseball officials could demand that all uniformed personnel attend anger management classes. If that failed, they could hire a massive security staff for every Major League ballpark to stand by, just in case the dugouts and bullpens clear.
Or they could just leave things alone.
Except for those tweaks.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.