Commentary

Differing views of the unwritten rules

Tuesday's brawl between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers got ugly in a hurry

Originally Published: June 12, 2013
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

You've heard of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of Waterloo, the Battle of Wounded Knee?

Tuesday night at Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks fought the Battle of the Unwritten Rule book.

We're talking about a book that never seems to get around to rolling off the presses. Ever. And is never available in a bookstore, or dugout, near you. Ever.

But it continues to serve as a guide for hundreds of players and managers any time something goes slightly amiss in these games they play every night. And that's fine. Heck, in some ways, it's actually kind of cool.

[+] EnlargeMark McGwire, Matt Williams
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsMark McGwire, left, and Matt Williams were heavily involved in Tuesday's brawl at Dodger Stadium.

In this game, though, that invisible book led to big trouble -- because, as it turned out, the two teams involved clearly had two different copies of those unwritten rules.

Let's fill you in:

It was the sixth meeting of the season between two teams that have been having issues since 2011. It quickly became the most memorable.

Sixth inning: D-backs starter Ian Kennedy hits the Dodgers' new human highlight machine, Yasiel Puig, with a pitch. In the nose. Not flush in the nose. But enough to bring out the Dodgers' training staff to administer a concussion test. On the field.

Well, there's no dispute about what was obviously going to happen next, no matter which edition of that unwritten rule book you favor:

Somebody on the Diamondbacks was about to get plunked.

Even the Diamondbacks expected that. But here's where their view of these proceedings diverged after that:

In the next half-inning, Dodgers starter Zack Greinke set out to drill Arizona catcher Miguel Montero. And let us repeat: The Diamondbacks expected that.

But …

It took Greinke not one, not two, not three, but four pitches to accomplish that mission, with a 91-mile-per-hour fastball in the back.

So what was the Diamondbacks' take on that, according to their version of the unwritten rule book?

Violation. Clear violation.

"You get one shot," Arizona reliever Brad Ziegler told us. "He took four shots. He kept going after him until he hit him. If he takes one shot and hits him, it's over. But you can't just keep throwing at him. I've heard that since high school.

"I had a Legion coach," Ziegler went on, "whose whole thing was, 'Play the game the right way.' … He said, 'There are times you have to protect your teammates. But if you do, you only get one shot. And if you miss, then it's on you.'"

So when the Diamondbacks saw their catcher bobbing and weaving out of the way of the first couple of pitches, and then get drilled, that was crossing the line, in their eyes.

But the Dodgers? Let's just say their unwritten rule book didn't read that way.

"Ive never heard of that," Dodgers super-utility man Skip Schumaker said. "I've seen many games where a team tried two or three times to hit a guy in the same at-bat. So if that's how they saw it, I disagree with that. And I played under Tony La Russa.

"Tonys whole thing was: We never started it, but we'd end it. If one of our guys got hit, your guy was going to get hit. And it didn't matter what pitch. … I played for a manager who believed in retaliating. So I kind of know how things should get done."

So how did the wildest baseball brawl of the year come to erupt? That's how.

The Diamondbacks were incensed that Greinke kept hunting till he hit his target. The Dodgers were enraged that Kennedy went back out and nailed Greinke in the shoulder in the next half-inning, because at that point, according to the Dodgers' unwritten book, they'd already gotten even -- so this case should have been closed.

"That unwritten rule book says, 'You hit one of our guys, we hit one of your guys. Then it's over," Schumaker said. "I mean, if Paul Goldschmidt had gotten hit instead of Puig, what do you think would happen on their side? If one of our guys had gone up and in on Goldschmidt, we'd expect them to do the same. That's just part of the game. But for them to go out, after that, and go up and in again [on Greinke], that's what fired us up."

So the next thing they knew, there were about 90 bodies on the field. And peace would not be restored for a lonnnnggg time. But what we wonder now, frankly, is whether peace will ever be restored.

The Diamondbacks continue to question, for example, why Greinke wasn't ejected for hitting Montero, considering all the quotes coming out of the L.A. clubhouse afterward about the old you hit our guy, we hit your guy maxim.

If that's the case, Ziegler said, "we won't just stand around and hang our catcher out to dry like he's target practice for the pitcher."

The Dodgers, meanwhile, figure to take a long time to forget the sight of two of their most important players -- Puig and Greinke -- finding fastballs hurtling toward their noggins.

"When you throw up and in like that, with all the concussion stuff in the game right now, it's dangerous," Schumaker said. "It's just not smart. It's understandable if he hits a guy in the butt. But when two guys get hit right near the head like that, there's no call for that.

"You know what? Rivalries are fun," Schumaker said. "They make the game more fun. They make coming to the ballpark more fun. And I respect Kirk Gibson. I respect their whole staff. I love those guys. I like the toughness, the grittiness of that team. I just don't like guys getting hit where our guys got hit."

This is a ruckus that's been building for two years, since a Clayton Kershaw-Gerardo Parra incident that occurred long before Greinke or Puig ever set foot in the Dodgers' clubhouse.

But now that it's reached a whole new level, where does it stop? Let's just hope a cease-fire is coming, because these two teams are now supposed to kick off the 2014 season with the first major-league baseball game ever held in Australia.

We can only pray that when that game actually rolls around, nobody in Sydney will be asking why they went to a baseball game and had a rugby scrum break out.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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