SAN FRANCISCO — Your view of which side was to blame Tuesday night depends almost entirely on which side of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry you grew up on. That much was made clear over the past three days, both in the aftermath of the mini-brawl and when the punishments were handed down Thursday.
At this point, it doesn’t really matter how much blame to place with either party. The only thing that matters for the Giants is that for the second consecutive year, they found themselves mixed up in a silly skirmish that cost them a player. This time around, the price is steeper for the team, both because of the player involved and the circumstances of the season.
A year ago, Michael Morse’s career ended with a concussion suffered when Jeff Samardzija crashed into him seconds after Hunter Strickland threw at Bryce Harper. Morse was put on the DL and soon found himself retired, but with a .194 average on a terrible team, he wasn’t going to stick around much longer anyway. Morse admitted to USA Today earlier this year that he looks back on that stretch as “playing with house money.”
This season’s injury will have a far greater impact, even though the hamstring strain Dereck Rodriguez suffered was announced as just a Grade 1. The timing couldn’t be worse for the Giants, who are on the fringes of the playoff race, sure, but are far from the 98-loss pace they were on when Morse went down last season. They still have hopes of making a run.
The staff got together in Los Angeles and went away from manager Bruce Bochy’s tradition, using the off day to skip the fifth starter spot. That had Rodriguez lined up to face the Reds on Friday night, with the hope that the Giants could build off the momentum from the Dodgers series. He was going to face the lowly Mets next week, too. Those were two very good opportunities for road wins.
Instead, it’ll be Casey Kelly on Friday, and the Giants will piece it together from there. The rotation is weakened with the loss of a dominant rookie who was soaking up innings like an ace, and the repercussions surely will be felt in the bullpen at some point on this important road trip.
The Giants have no margin for error this season, and they already have found themselves reeling from things like Madison Bumgarner being hit by a liner, Brandon Belt’s appendix acting up, Evan Longoria getting drilled by a pitch, Joe Panik spraining his thumb on a tag, and Mac Williamson suffering a concussion when he ran over a bullpen mound.
There was blame to be placed Tuesday, but this also is another bad break. Rodriguez was the first from the dugout to reach the scrum, doing what players do dozens of times a year without injury, and he appeared fine as he hopped around the outside of the altercation. Two days later, the Giants admitted their latest beef with Yasiel Puig had come at a costly price.
The Giants will hope Rodriguez can return on the next homestand, but this is a blow to his Rookie of the Year campaign and a big shot to a roster that now has just three healthy starters and really could have used two more Rodriguez starts over the next week. Chris Stratton is an option to return, and Ty Blach is available for spot-start duty. Tyler Beede is on the minor league DL, so you can cross him off. Perhaps Shaun Anderson is thrown into a playoff push. Management surely spent the flight to Cincinnati trying to figure all that out instead of enjoying a successful and dramatic series at Dodger Stadium that was highlighted by Tuesday's shoving match.
An hour after the shoving had ended, catcher Nick Hundley said he hoped the incident would bring the team closer together.
“This is a tight-knit group,” he said. “We’ll feed off that. What a great win.”
The next night, the Giants lost in extra innings. They now have lost at least two starts from a player who was the best part of a season forever stuck around the .500 mark.
It doesn’t really matter who is to blame at this point. The simple truth is that the Giants have been involved in several of these incidents the last five years, and they finally paid a steep on-field price.