Last night, the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals got in two fights, both of which were instigated by the team that was losing 7-2 in the fourth game of a series in which they would ultimately be outscored 31-9 at the hands of the best team in baseball.

Framed that way, how do the Cubs look? I promise you, that’s how every non-Cubs fan is framing the fights today. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you don’t find that odious.

I find it unfortunate.

The first fight began when Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk started jawing at the Nationals, generally, and third base coach Bo Porter (the closest National), specifically. Apparently he was grousing about Jayson Werth swinging at a 3-0 pitch … with the bases loaded, in a five-run game, in the 5th inning. Because that’s clearly something that should be complained about. The Cubs were also unhappy that the Nats were stealing bases with a five-run lead, because that’s also something that’s just so totally beyond the pale that it can’t be tolerated on the civilized field of baseball.

(If you had any doubt about the relative rightness/wrongeness of Quirk and Porter, note that Quirk was ejected while Porter was not (despite him leaving the third base coaching box), and crew chief Jerry Lane didn’t paint a pretty picture of Quirk’s actions after the game: “Quirk was ejected for screaming out obscenities at the third-base coach. That was the ejection for the coach. The fracas was started because all that stuff happened and that was instigated by Quirk screaming out at Porter. And the obscenities that he screamed out I just felt was inappropriate and that’s what caused everything.” Quirk made a mistake, and almost everything else stemmed from it.)

After that fight, Lendy Castillo uncorked a fastball at Bryce Harper’s midsection, and a more feisty rumble broke out, featuring the kind of big talk and simultaneous backpedaling that would have made me proud as a (diminutive and drunk) college tough guy.

Dale Sveum and Steve Clevenger both said the pitch to Harper was unintentional,* but you can dismiss that pretty easily given that it was the very first pitch the Nats saw after the previous inning ended (recall, the bases were loaded and it was a three-ball count when the first incident occurred, so Castillo wasn’t going to throw at anyone then). Further, when Castillo’s pitch sailed inside to Harper, Clevenger didn’t so much as flinch – he didn’t move an inch to his right in an effort to make the catch. If he didn’t know that “wild” pitch was coming, his instinct, of course, would have been to reach for it. He didn’t budge. He knew it was coming.

And it was another mistake.

I keep hearing things like, “at least the Cubs showed some fight.” Really? Is that the kind of fight you want the Cubs to show? We can’t beat you on the field, so we’ll whine about you and throw pitches at you?

Sometimes my daughter wants a cookie when I think she should have vegetables. She screams. She kicks. She fights. That’s what I saw on the field last night. Not all “fight” is good or productive. Some of it is just petulant and embarrassing.

Now that I’ve got my rare soapbox moment out of the way …

Do I agree with the “unwritten rules” regarding not showing up your opponent? I do. Not stealing with a huge lead, not swinging at 3-0 with a huge lead. I actually do agree with these things, and I’m glad that the Cubs tend to stay on the right side of them.

But, even acknowledging that, I have two big beefs with what went down last night:

(1) A five run lead is not a sufficiently “huge” lead to invoke these rules. A five run lead is nothing. Let’s start talking when it’s about seven or eight, and maybe when it’s later than the 5th inning.

(2) Setting No. 1 aside, even if I agree that it’s not cool to steal or swing in those situations, that doesn’t mean the response is automatically to throw at the other team and start righteous scuffles from atop your high horse. Absent extenuating circumstances, you know what the response to what the Nats did is? Remember it. File it away in your memory banks for a day when your team isn’t so terrible. Then, when the opportunity for recompense presents itself, you give it back to them in the most satisfying way: you beat their brains in on the field, stealing and swinging at every turn. You beat ’em 10-0 while trying to make it 11-0.

I can only assume that the order for the pitch came from the dugout (the shouting that created the issue in the first place certainly did), as I highly doubt Castillo would have done that on his own, or even under direction from Clevenger, only. It was a mistake, and the Cubs look bad for it. Hopefully they move on, and don’t revisit this approach to shutting the other team up. There are better ways.

*Something I’m wondering about the assertiveness with which Sveum said Castillo wasn’t throwing at Harper: as a Rule 5 selection, we know that Castillo has to spend at least 90 days on the active, 25-man roster this year in order for the Cubs to keep him (without having to continue this roster dance into next season). The Cubs were cutting it very close to that 90 day requirement when they had Castillo on the DL for a couple months mid-season. If Castillo were suspended for, say, five games, how does that impact the 90 days? Does a suspension mean he’s not on the 25-man roster for purposes of the Rule 5 calculation? If so, would he not reach 90 days this season, and the Cubs would have to keep him on the 25-man roster to open the 2013 season before they could finally then keep him for good? If that happens, the Cubs could be put in a tricky roster situation next April. Let’s hope there’s absolutely no connection here, or that Castillo isn’t suspended, or that suspended games don’t impact the 90-day Rule 5 calculation.

Happiness bonus – when the first altercation broke out, who was the Cubs’ number one protector, hopping out of the dugout to stand shoulder to shoulder elbow with Dale Sveum? Boom:

Watch your back, Adam LaRoche. Tony Campana is eyeballin’ you.

  • jasn

    didn’t clevenger slap the nats 2baseman?

    • Spencer

      he pushed someone a little bit a couple times.

  • mikaylaaa

    my favorite part of this whole thing is the picture at the end. i literally laughed out loud. awesome!

  • Tommy

    Well, I remember a game where the Cubbies came back from 10 runs down to win, so stealing bases and such with a lead is just part of the game. Throw out the base runner’s and it’s not an issue.

    As far as the pitch that caused the tussle. When did a pitch inside become such a big freakin’ deal? Seriously? He didn’t even hit him! So now, even pitching inside is crossing the line? Ludicrous.

    • ssckelley

      Pitching inside was not a big deal but the fact that Clevenger did not even attempt to make a move on that ball clearly shows the intent of that pitch.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        How? That assumes “if beanball, then catcher does not move.” I’ve seen catchers move plenty of times on “purpose” pitches. (In one case, the catcher moved away from the batter; the subsequent explanation was that they didn’t like the fact that the guy was looking back at the catcher!)

  • gratefulled

    I’m not sure if there is a scrappier player in baseball than Campana!

  • IACubRob

    The 2014 season can’t get here soon enough!

  • hcs

    While I don’t think that the Cubs response was merited, I think that Harper should probably get used to being beaned. He comes across as extrememly arrogant, and it sounds like he always has. Karma can be a bit of a bitch.

    • ryan

      Karma can be a bitch? Harper puts his head down on the field and plays the the game hard and the right way

      • Spencer

        clown statement, bro.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Unfortunately, baseball is like religion: different people take very different views on what is “right.” Last night was just a baseball inquisition of sorts. Yee-hah!

      • Drew7

        Maybe pitchers should, like, get him out then – That would probably solve his “attitude problem”.

        I can’t wait to read what some of you guys think about Baez if/when he hits Wrigley.

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      Yeah, and they used to say the same about Pete Rose because he hustled to everything the same. If that is “showing up the other team,” I wish we had 9 of those types of players on the field every game, and so would every manager, GM, and owner of every team.

      • SirCub

        Yea, except Pete Rose actually was an asshole. Dude was dirty, spiking players with his cleats, and looking to take people’s heads off in collisions.

        • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

          True that. Sorry, I was speaking from the hustling aspect of their games. That is why many perceive Rose as showing up the other team very early on in his career.

  • Cubbie Blues

    I could see Campana thinking “OK someone hold me back. Please?”

    • New Guy

      Or “I will punch you in the kneecap!”

    • Drew7

      That’s what drives me nuts about these bench-clearers anymore. All they do is scream, act all tough, and walk backwards.

      Remember Farnsworth absolutely pummeling Paul Wilson? That. Was. Awesome.

      • ssckelley

        How about Michael Barrett punching AJ Pierzynski?

      • TonyP

        Farnsworth is right up there with Ryan when he pounded on Ventura’s melon. Actually Farnsworth’s is probably better because he beat his ass about 3 steps from the batter’s box. LMAO

      • cas-castro

        i was at that game and it was glorious…

        • TonyP

          I remember the next day someone had a sign that said something like “don’t even look at Farnsworth”. lol

  • Zack L

    While I do think its embarrassing, I feel as if the Umpires had it out for the Cubs. Nobody on the Nats was ejected when they clearly should have been. How can you eject someone that, while swears, stays in the dugout. When Porter entered the cubs dugout. I feel that the whole entire situation needs to be looked at, by MLB.

    • Sal

      somebody in their bullpen was ejected

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      Why would their 3rd Base coach be ejected? He didn’t start the altercation. Beyond that it was pretty obvious who side the umps were on in that argument. I don’t find a damn thing wrong with that either, because both the Ump and Porter’s argument is correct without question. We were the one completely in the wrong on both ends. There is no question to that from anybody that understands what the argument was about. I think Porter has every right to voice his displeasure when getting called out like that. As long as he wasn’t cussing to anyone and it doesn’t sound like he did.

      • ssckelley

        Portor not getting ejected was confusing, he was the one who started the whole mess by going over to the Cubs dugout. He could have just stayed in the box and shouted back at Quirk.

        • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

          He didn’t start the mess. Even the Ump said that, as did everyone else. Quirk screaming and cussing about something he should never have said is what started it. Porter went back off on him. The Ump had no problem with that, and neither do I. It is a 5 run game in the 5th inning. Mind your own damn team. I would have said the same. If you feel that is running up the score, tell the Cubs to go home and I am sure they would have gladly taken that pitch. It is 5 runs in the top of the 9th, then yes take it. But, it is the 5th inning..

  • TWC

    The (9 minute) “highlight” on the MLB app was from the Nationals broadcast, and they were remarkably candid about the immaturity this showed and the general embarrassment that this whole scene caused this Chicago Cubs organization. As much as it made me cringe, I think they were absolutely correct. The was quite the nadir to an already bad season.

    Do I agree with the “unwritten rules” regarding not showing up your opponent? I do. Not stealing with a huge lead, not swinging at 3-0 with a huge lead. I actually do agree with these things…

    Meh. I would never want the Cubs to hold back in any situation. The best way not to get shown up is to be a good baseball team. The Cubs are not. That’s not the Nationals’ fault.

    • Spencer

      Those Nats announcers are ass holes…..”Now the Cubs are gonna throw at a teenager” was one of the quotes. So they’re implying that a teenager doesn’t belong in a man’s game? If you step in that batters box you better be ready for anything.

      • TWC

        Well, yeah, the teenager thing was a bit dumb. I mean, Lendy Castillo ain’t too far removed from his teens, really. But those announcers were entirely correct on how bad it made the Cubs look.

    • Tommy


    • DocPeterWimsey

      The (9 minute) “highlight” on the MLB app was from the Nationals broadcast, and they were remarkably candid about the immaturity this showed and the general embarrassment that this whole scene caused this Chicago Cubs organization.

      The Nats announcers also go by a different book than do others: they were adamant that the Nats were playing the game the “right” way by swinging 3-0 and stealing.

      What I did find funny was the illogical assertions that followed. They were upset that J. Zimmerman was pitching with a warning because now the umps had to “read minds” to determine whether an inside pitch was intentional or a mistake. However, they had no problems reading Castillo’s mind despite how bad Castillo’s control is!

  • @cubsfantroy

    Everything that happened last night was embarrassing to the Cubs as an organization. If they don’t want them to do that, then they better start stopping them and not digging themselves into a bigger hole. Everyone involved in that should be embarrassed. I don’t really know what else to say about the whole situation. It is beyond comprehension. Unjustified and uncalled for.

  • bails17

    Well said Brett. It was all bad for sure.

  • Spencer

    Lendy Castillo is a bad pitcher. I think it slipped.

  • Luke D

    Clevenger has some growing up to do. And some adjustments to make at the plate.

    • TWC

      Yeah, I agree. I think Clevenger look like a little antagonizing twerp during that whole brouhaha.

  • JR

    Not only do the Cubs suck really bad, but they are annoying now.. The FO has more patience than me to allow this to go on for a couple more years.

  • Spencer

    “(2) Setting No. 1 aside, even if I agree that it’s not cool to steal or swing in those situations, that doesn’t mean the response is automatically to throw at the other team…”

    If you agree with the unwritten rules about stealing and swinging in certain situations, then you also must agree that the response to having a beef with stealing and swinging is throwing at the other team. I’m not saying it’s right, but that’s how baseball handles these “unwritten rules”.

    • Drew7

      “If you agree with the unwritten rules about stealing and swinging in certain situations, then you also must agree that the response to having a beef with stealing and swinging is throwing at the other team.”

      I’m with Ace on this one, as I’ve never known it to be “by the unwritten rulebook” to throw at someone in that situation. Go out and do the same thing to them next time you have the opportunity.

      That said, point number 1 is most important: a 5-run lead in the 5th is not enough to call off the dogs. It says a lot about the coaching staff’s faith in the ballclub when your crying mercy that early in a game that’s still relatively close.

      • BD

        A 5-run lead in the fifth is borderline, at best. I think these 2 variables here make it a lot more of a “blow-out” situation than most: (1) The entire series was a blow-out, so the Cubs probably felt like they were down by 20. (2) A 5-run lead isn’t always safe, but it is insurmountable for this Cubs team.

        That said, the Cubs do look extra whiny. I believe in the “unwritten rules,” but if you don’t like what the other team is doing, the best response is to stop them. Throw runners out. Throw strikes before it is 3-0. etc.

  • The Dude Abides

    Coaches are frustrated with the bush league team they have been given and the players on the roster are more or less substitute players and aren’t sure how to act or what to do. This unfortunately should not have happened but the FO is as much to blame as anyone for putting Chicago in a bad situation.

  • Adam1680

    I bet Tony Campana is like a spider monkey..

  • fortyonenorth

    Good article, Brett. I agree with most of your thoughts–though not all of them–but wanted to point out something that hasn’t been hit upon yet.

    1) Yes, Quirk was being mouthy, but that happens all the time. We don’t know with certainty the basis of his anger – although I think the guess is pretty good. As the 3B coach of the #1 team in the league, why take the bait?

    2) We can debate whether Castillo’s brush-back was warranted – or even stupid. But, again, this stuff happens all the time and, yes, it’s part of the game. Harper should have stepped out of the batter’s box, taken a deep breath, and given the ump the proper opportunity to warn (or toss) Castillo. End of story. Instead, he makes a play for the mound and inspires the whole incident that followed.

    So, yes, perhaps the Cubs made some ill-advised choices based on frustration and anger, but the Nats (and especially Harper) had a prime opportunity to stay above the fray and they didn’t. Instead, their actions escalated the situation in both instances. And, as opposed to the Cubs, they had a hell of a lot to lose.

    • Brett

      That Harper bit is a very fair point.

      • BD

        Proof that the immaturity came from both sides.

        • Brett


          But I’m not a Nats fan, so I don’t really care if they embarrass themselves.

          • BD


  • JR

    Damn those Astros. I mean the Cubs are freaking terrible, and an absolute joke. We really deserve that #1 pick. But those turds in Houston are some how throwing out a YMCA softball lineup everyday. And they’ll be terrible again next year, and beat us out for the #1 pick then too. I mean really at this point, that’s all that matters..

    • JR

      We can’t even have our logos right on our helmets, thats how bad we are.

  • Sal

    is this the start to a rivalry?

    • fortyonenorth

      WIth the Nats or the Astros?

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      No. A rivalry is either historical or competitive and we would be neither to them for a long time. Remember, when we start getting good again, they will be just getting into their prime. They don’t have a starting pitcher over 30 and their lineup is young. That is the best built team for the long haul.

      • JR

        Well they do have Jayson Werth and his crap contract.. That’s one bad thing i can say about the Nats.

    • jungledrew

      I actually think it makes perfect sense for these 2 teams to become heated rivals in the NL.

      Reason 1. The Cubs are currently 1 year younger than the Nationals. According to ESPN the Nationals average age is 27.5 and the Cubs are 26.5. And while it will be at least the 2014 season before The Cubs are ready to contend, the Nationals will still be really good and then both teams should continue to be good. And for similar reasons. which brings me to…

      Reason 2. Both teams are looking to build young players for a core of long term dynasty types while suplimenting with free agents at key locations. And both of those future dynasty teams have a good number of the players currently on the roster. Do you think Rizzo, Castro, Samard$%?a or Jackson will be gone anytime soon? Cause you can believe they’ll be seeing Harper, Storen, Zimmerman (both of em), and Strasburg for years to come. So last night was a minor skirmish, but next time Jordan Zimmerman hits Anthony Rizzo… you’re telling me that won’t be a major altercation with some suspensions handed down?

      Reason 3. The Cubs and Nationals (formerly the Expos) are the 2 teams that have gone the longest without a World Series appearance… And if the NAtional haven’t made an appearance by the time the Cubs are good you can believe that will create tension between the two.

      Reason 4: Andre Dawson is wearing an Expos hat in the Hall of Fame… so all the Nationals need to do is retire his number and basically stright up slap every Cubs fan in the face…. those bastards….

      I think this was minor and will probably lead to nothing… or it could be looked at as the moment that a true Rivalry began…

      • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

        I stopped after #1, because that says it all…

        Yes, we are one year younger than them. The difference their kids were always talented, ours are not. There is no chance and hell we are on the same planet as them for the forseeable future, unless we go out and spend like $400 million in FA the next couple of seasons. That isn’t going to happen.

  • rick

    to bad farnsworth was not on the mound at least we would have seen someone from the nats take a beating

  • rick one of steve stones best call LOL

  • Flashfire

    Thanks for saying this. Exactly right.

  • Diesel

    I have a question. Hasn’t every team in baseball and one point in their history had an incident like this? Being the highest level of the game comes with extremely competitive people and it is bound to happen. They hate to lose and they hate being embarrassed. I’m not saying the cubs were right but you have to look at it from the stance that these things happen. Every team does it and every team looks like they lack class when they do it. Don’t judge too harshly and remember how harshly the nationals announcers judged the cubs when they do something similar in the future. Every team looks bad when this happens. Also if the nationals had more class they wouldn’t have come out of the dugout after the pitch at harper. This is one of the unfortunate things that happens in baseball and we won’t be the last team to do it. We have to move on and prepare for the next game. Sorry for the long winded rant I just want to remind everyone that the dugouts emptying is not a sign of no class for if it was then no teams have any class. GO CUBS!

    • Drew7

      “I just want to remind everyone that the dugouts emptying is not a sign of no class ”

      Nobody said that’s what it meant. It was what the Cubs did to provoke the emptying of the dugouts that was unfortunate.

      • JR

        Personally, I could care less about the Cubs emptying the dugout. Although, I think doing anything like that when your terrible like the Cubs are looks stupid. But I guess you have to do something to show you still have interest in the game.

      • Diesel

        Yeah it is very unfortunate and should never have happened but it is not the only time this has ever happened and won’t be the last time it does. I’m just advocating to not call the cubs a completely classless organization because tempers got the best of them.

  • EQ76

    (1) A five run lead is not a sufficiently “huge” lead to invoke these rules. A five run lead is nothing. Let’s start talking when it’s about seven or eight, and maybe when it’s later than the 5th inning.

    – umm….. this is the Cubs.. that 5 run lead was sufficiently huge..

    • Brett

      Haha. Ouch.

  • willis

    Ha, this made the opening couple minutes on Rome today. He just clowned the Cubs. And I agree. No one was showing anyone up. This just shows the lack of class and management skills in the dugout. This team is pathetic, and as bad as we all saw they were before last night, this made it worse.

  • baseballet

    This is a great post Brett.

    • Brett

      Thanks, BB.

  • Jon

    If this is kids little league then I am all for the unwritten rules. The game we’re discussing is professional baseball with many people making large sums of money. If you can’t keep the other team from running over you that’s not their fault, it’s your fault for not executing. This team is frustrated because they’re not a good club and they should be embarrassed by certain members of that clubs play on the field

  • clark addison

    Does anybody listen to Rome any more?

    • willis

      His hyperbole makes me giggle. I don’t necessarily agree with a lot, but some of his stuff is pretty funny.

  • 1908Blues

    Did anyone notice how Boise gave up a 6 run lead? Think they should have taken their foot off the pedal to not embarrass Vancouver? They probably didn’t, but the point is the team in the lead, especially a team playing for something, has to win those games.

    Also, it’s not easy being the one in the lead, making the decision to call off the dogs, because you don’t know if the other coach will do the same. Was Sveum and his staff willing to lay down in the fifth inning because the game was out of hand? In that case MLB should have a mercy rule. A 5 run lead after 5 innings, game over.

    I don’t believe in showing the other team up and making them look more ridiculous than they are (Cubs don’t need any help there). At some point there is a time to pull back but that time is subjective depending on the teams playing and what’s at stake.

    Florida State will provide a wonderful example of the right side of this discussion. The line is around 70.5, but I’m sure they wouldn’t dream of approaching that number. Especially after they didn’t last week in their 69-3 victory.

    • 1908Blues

      Sorry that’s a 4 run blown lead for Boise.