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Notes on the Rockies-Padres brawl

Thoughts on teammates and glorious hair from Wednesday’s skirmish

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It turns out Elton John missed it: Fighting isn’t limited to Saturday nights. Wednesdays are perfectly good, at least in Major League Baseball. By now, you've heard of the Rockies-Padres brawl during a sunny afternoon game at Coors Field. The Padres said this was retribution for the Rockies throwing at three of their hitters, with one ending up in the hospital; the Rockies say these were honest errors.

The brawl has gotten a lot of attention (for example, see here, here, and here) not to mention rewatches of the video that aired on AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain, which had 1.27 million views as of this writing. (To see the Padres announcers’ take, watch here.)

Later Wednesday night, the Yankees and Red Sox followed with a skirmish of their own, but, frankly, the Rockies had a much better go of it. And let’s be honest: The Sox and Yankees were bundled up in coats and beanies, which removes much of the physicality of the proceedings. The Rockies fought in shirt sleeves.

I consider myself a nonviolent person, but I found myself fascinated by both fights. Here’s what I’d say about the Rockies when it comes to a bench-clearing brawl.

Nolan Arenado is intense — We knew this, but when Nolan Arenado decided to rush Luis Perdomo on the mound, you can see the fervor radiating off him. He throws down his bat, tosses off his helmet (more on his hair in a minute), and dodges Perdomo’s thrown glove as he charges the mound. In short, Nolan is passionate, and he is focused. Those of us who’ve watched Nolan play for years understand this is how he rolls, and we love him for it. Perdomo should not have expected anything less.

His teammates were right there with him, too.

And that’s what you want from a team: You want them to have each other's backs. Always.

Always have Carlos Gonzalez on your side — From the moment the fight began, the person standing with Nolan and trying both to protect him and calm him down is Carlos Gonzalez. CarGo is there for Nolan. I kept thinking about this picture:

(See earlier point: Nolan Arenado is all in. Always.)

CarGo said of the brawl, “I went out there ready to take punches or throw punches. Whatever it took to protect 28.” That’s what you want in a teammate, someone who has your back.

Ian Desmond is a good person — We’ve been hard on Ian Desmond because of his inconsistency at the plate, but no one doubts that he’s a genuinely good person, and that came through again yesterday. Watch him try to restrain AJ Ellis — he wraps his arms around Ellis, at one point grabbing his belt. He is trying to calm a tense situation and keep players safe. Then he goes out and scores a run. I’ve got nothing but respect, Ian.

Gerardo Parra is Truly “El Yolo” — Gerardo Parra is the fun guy whose walk-up music last year was “Happy.” It turns out, he’s pretty serious when his teammate is threatened because when the fight broke out, he was in the middle of the action.

He’s easy to pick out because of the white hair. After he colored his hair when the season began, I thought, “That looks like Targaryen hair — white with fire and the blood of the dragon.” Turns out, I was right — just add some smudged eye-black. There’s speculation he will get the biggest suspension, but that’s El Yolo, doing nothing by half measures.

Do not underestimate Gérman Márquez — Granted, he only threw a towel, but Gérman Márquez joined the brawl along with the rest of the pitching staff and bullpen. Someone on the Purple Row Slack feed said, “I’m glad to see him supporting his teammates, but I wish the starting pitcher had stood to the side and yelled.” That’s just not Gérman’s style.

Nolan took responsibility for his actions — I was fascinated by the locker room interview with Nolan.

It’s worth watching Aniello Piro’s video. And here I’m going to do a bit of interpretation. Nolan is initially uneasy, maybe even embarrassed — he’s hiding under his hat a bit and feeling his way through his answers, as this is something new for him. But he accepts responsibility for what he’s done, and you can see him figuring out how he should handle this. That’s character.

Hair matters — The surprise trending topic of the afternoon was Nolan Arenado’s hair.

Years ago, I got a piece of advice from Seventeen Magazine (a must-read for all teenage girls) that has stayed with me: Never scrimp on a haircut or products because your hair is the one thing you wear everywhere. That wisdom came home again during the brawl.

Because we mostly see Nolan wearing a hat, we don’t often notice his hair. I knew it had gotten longer in the off-season, but it turns out, Nolan Arenado’s hair is absolutely glorious: thick, wavy, and just the right length. It glistens in that mountain sunlight and looks marvelously disheveled. If you watch the video of the fight, you can see him running his fingers through it three times, adding to the effect. (Really, those bundled up Yankees and Red Sox never had a chance.) It’s worth watching all the video feeds of the locker room interview to see the different perspectives — here’s Jake Shapiro’s video, though I recommend Drew Creasman’s because it has the best view of Nolan’s hair.

I loved this line from Nick Groke’s piece: “In Colorado’s clubhouse early Wednesday evening, after Arenado tried as he might not to say too much, his teammates prodded him with jokes, telling him how good his hair looked while charging the mound.”

We’ve been talking about Charlie Blackmon’s hair and Gerardo Parra’s hair and Jon Gray’s hair, but it turns out the best hair was right in front of us, and we missed it. So as the Rockies prepare to play the Nationals, keep this in mind:

Final Thoughts

I was worried about this team. DJ LeMahieu said the night before the brawl that the Rockies were “about to catch fire.” Turns out he was right — and he caught fire himself going 3-for-5 — it just wasn’t the kind of fire we were expecting.

I think two things happened Wednesday. One, the Rockies stopped thinking about their game and started really playing their game. They became distracted by a fight and got out of their own heads. Second, the young players, Pat Valaika, Ryan McMahon, and Tony Wolters, had to step up. There was no one left — Tyler Anderson pinch hit after pitching the night before because the bench was short — so the young players couldn’t think about it; they just had to do it because there was no one else.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

(A personal note: I also hope the suspensions aren’t in effect during my trip in May to see the Rockies play Cincinnati, just in case you’re reading, Mr. Manfred.)