SAN DIEGO -- The nexus of Thursday night's incident at Petco Park in which Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin was hit on the left shoulder by Zack Greinke was an alleged expletive that came from the lips of the Dodgers right-hander.
With a history of brushbacks and a pair of hit-by-pitches in their immediate past, Quentin took a few steps in front of the plate after being hit again on a full count. Clearly on video, Greinke can be seen mouthing something, and then Quentin stormed the mound.
According to Quentin on Friday before the Padres played the Rockies, this is what led to the melee and Greinke suffering a broken collarbone that will now sideline him after surgery for at least two months:
"It's documented on video, and you can see what I saw. It was an expletive followed by whatever you guys want to translate came out of his mouth. There's obviously a history there, but that is the only reason [it happened]. It was the tipping point."
Greinke declined to elaborate about what he said to Quentin when asked about it on Thursday night.
Clearly, since the compound circumstances were so personal, it seems unlikely that any bad blood will carry over between the two teams when they meet again this coming Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Dodger Stadium.
On Monday, Major League Baseball and the Dodgers are celebrating the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson shattering the color barrier, so that's a night to turn the other cheek. Greinke won't be in uniform next week, but Quentin has appealed his eight-game suspension and undisclosed fine.
To that point, on Aug. 12, 1984, the Padres and Braves engaged in what was one of the worst incidents in history. It involved both teams quarreling in back-to-back innings and fans spilling out of the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium stands on to the field. Despite the clear animus between the two teams, a month later they met again in San Diego and nothing happened.
Thus, expect not much to happen in Los Angeles next week, even though Quentin and Matt Kemp had to be separated by teammates near the Petco Park players' parking garage near the visitors' clubhouse after the fireworks on Thursday night.
"What I've noticed about some of these things is that they have a way of being overplayed at times," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We'll play those games and there might be no incidents at all. That's what I suspect."
By now, Quentin would seem to have gotten it out of his system. He said he was remorseful Greinke had been injured, and Black added that the outfielder intended to reach out to the pitcher through club channels. But he was not apologetic about why it happened.
There is an unwritten rule in baseball that is documented by Mike Piazza in his recent autobiography "Long Shot." Piazza, who had running battles with Roger Clemens and Guillermo Mota after he was hit by the two pitchers, said that he'd glare out at the mound after being struck. If the pitcher offered a conciliatory motion or a quick apology, Piazza would walk down to first base.
If he didn't, "It was on," Piazza said.
Quentin said he gave Greinke that momentary opportunity on Thursday, and everything would have turned out differently had Greinke not appeared to be so confrontational. As Dodgers manager Don Mattingly so aptly put it after that game, squarely placing the blame on Quentin: "Nothing happens if he goes to first base, because in baseball that's what you're supposed to do."
"[If Greinke apologized], I would've had to," Quentin said. "To go out there after that would have been to try to instigate a fight. And [under those circumstances] one was not to be had."
Piazza was hit only 30 times in his 16-year career, the most famous one being the night in 2000 at Yankee Stadium when Clemens, pitching for the Yankees, hit the then-Mets catcher in the head. Piazza became so aggravated with Mota he once was intercepted chasing him into the visitors' clubhouse at Vero Beach, Fla., after being hit during a Spring Training game.
The Clemens-Piazza battle, fueled by the New York media, took on a life of its own and reared its ugly head again during the 2000 World Series when Piazza broke his bat hitting a grounder and Clemens hurled the wooden head toward him as he ran toward first base. Piazza, though, never charged the mound to get Clemens and wrote that he regrets not having done so.
Quentin is in his eighth big league season and has already been hit 116 times, three of them by Greinke. In 2009, when Greinke pitched for the Royals and Quentin was with the White Sox, Greinke hit Quentin in the back. The previous pitch went flying over Quentin's head. At the time, Quentin had to be kept from charging the mound, but ill feelings still linger. Quentin told White Sox teammates that he'd charge Greinke if he ever hit him again. Quentin made good on that pledge on Thursday night, stampeding the mound for the first time in his career.
Quentin said he didn't like Greinke's words and actions nearly four years ago, just like he didn't like them on Thursday night.
"I've never gone out there until last night," Quentin said. "I never felt that someone has thrown at me intentionally until what happened in 2009. And even last night, I didn't go out there until I was provoked to go out there. It's been three years -- over three years -- and a lot of that could have been resolved in that amount of time. I was very open to resolution. And you can ask Zack about that."
Asked if Greinke had tried to open a dialogue with him about it, Quentin offered one word: "Never!"
Like Clemens-Piazza, Greinke-Quentin won't die. It may not be until Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at Dodger Stadium when the two players play for their respective teams in the same series again.
Hopefully by then, they'll have that long-awaited heart-to-heart chat and cooler heads will prevail.