When the Dodgers take the field against the Padres tonight in Los Angeles, I think we can all expect an electric atmosphere, coming just days after the brawl that changed the season for both teams. Dodger fans, you can rightfully imagine, will be thirsting for revenge, both real or imagined. As Jon Weisman eloquently pointed out recently, cheering for blood at Dodger Stadium with the recent history there is unseemly at best; vile at worst.
But Zack Greinke won’t be in the game, and neither will Carlos Quentin. It’ll be Chad Billingsley on the hill when (most likely) Everth Cabrera steps into the box to open the game, and I think you can see where this is going…
— Patrick Hamblin (@plh55) April 12, 2013
Chad Billingsley is LA’s probable starter on Monday. I’d like to see him fire one right at Quentin’s upper back.
— Brian Otskey (@botskey) April 12, 2013
Those two tweets, pulled at random out of dozens or hundreds like it, may refer to Billingsley specifically going at Quentin, but Quentin’s absence from the game won’t change the prevailing opinion of thousands of Dodger fans. Despite the fact that Billingsley had nothing to do with anything and neither did Cabrera, if that first pitch isn’t inside, the boos are going to rain down. Billingsley is going to be accused of “not sticking up for his teammates,” or “being a wimp” — we all know much stronger vernacular is going to be used in reality — and once again, the focus will be taken away from where it belongs: winning a baseball game against an inferior opponent. Fans are actually looking to buy Dodgers tickets just to witness the fireworks.
It’s almost unfortunate that it’s Billingsley on the mound and not anyone else, because he’s always been a target for this sort of thing. Yet people don’t even know why they think that about him, and few recall that it’s all because Bill Plaschke wrote yet another in a long career of idiotic, indefensible articles back in 2008, suggesting that a then 24-year-old Billingsley was lacking something in the manhood department for failing to throw at Phillies hitters after Brett Myers had done the same to Dodger batters.
What was lost, then and now, is that it was Game 2 of the NLCS with the Dodgers having already dropped Game 1, and Billingsley was just a bit more worried on, you know, getting the Dodgers to the World Series. He was pitching poorly enough as it was — he was yanked in the third inning with eight runs to his ledger — and yet the main concern was whether he’d “send a message”. Going on five years later, that’s somehow grown into a reputation, one that he’s unfairly worn.
Billingsley isn’t going to throw at Cabrera tonight, as he’s already made very clear in the press, or anyone else for that matter. That’s not because he’s less of a man. He won’t do it because he has half a brain in his head, and there’s almost no way this game gets going without the umpires pre-warning both benches. That means that if the umps even sniff the beginning of trouble, ejections are coming immediately. You want Billingsley to send a message? Then what you’re really saying is you want 8.2 innings out of the bullpen, and for Ted Lilly or Stephen Fife to make a start because Billingsley’s been suspended. That’s not good baseball; that’s foolish saber-rattling.
If you want a wrestling match, go watch the WWE. If you have the undying need to see someone you don’t know “prove his manhood,” well, you may have deeper problems than I can help you with. For me, the best revenge is the offense breaking out and the Dodgers crushing this team 17-0.