Padres president and CEO Tom Garfinkel is catching well-deserved scathing criticism for comments he made to season-ticket holders the day after the brawl in which Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin charged Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke and broke his collarbone. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports on Garfinkel’s remarks, which were caught on tape:
“He threw at him on purpose, OK?” Garfinkel told an estimated crowd of 40 or 50 at Petco Park on Friday, a day after the fight. “That’s what happened. They can say 3-and-2 count, 2-1 game, no one does that. Zack Greinke is a different kind of guy. Anyone seen ‘Rain Man’? He’s a very smart guy.”
There are two big problems here. The first is conflating the kind of autism depicted in “Rain Man” (with the usual Hollywood inaccuracies) with social anxiety disorder, the completely different issue that Zack Greinke deals with. Apparently this is not as uncommon as you might think. Since people seem to understand physical ailments a bit better, this is sort of like making fun of someone with diabetes for having asthma. And if that prompts you to think, “okay, but also, don’t make fun of somebody with diabetes for having diabetes either,” well, that is the second big problem.
About all that can be said in Garfinkel’s defense is that he did apologize, promptly and directly (and mercifully without the “I’m sorry if you were offended” construction that characterizes so many insincere regrets these days). It would have been nice if he’d done that before Passan’s story made his comments public and essentially forced him to, but hey. If you listen to the tape of his remarks, it’s clear that he realized at the time that this was not a good look, adding “I can’t say this publicly… we’re in the trust tree here.” (Uh oh! The ‘trust tree’ has been violated! Is nothing sacred?)
Garfinkel’s main goal was to defend his player, which is an understandable impulse, though not one that justifies snarking with wild inaccuracy on Greinke’s mental health. Garfinkel felt that Greinke had thrown at Carlos Quentin on purpose, despite how unusual that would be with that count and score, because … that’s something a person with autism would do, he seems to think? Which, again, is not what Zack Greinke has? It’s not great logic. As a bonus, he also threw in a nice bit of victim-blaming, critiquing Greinke for putting his shoulder down when Quentin charged him, as if instinctively knowing proper fighting techniques should be one of a pitcher’s responsibilities.
You wonder how often people in baseball have, privately, in their own little “trust trees,” said similarly ignorant things, either about Zack Greinke in particular or about anxiety and mental health more generally. If there’s any consolation among all this stupidity, it’s that Greinke’s pitching speaks for itself. The Dodgers signed him to a six-year, $147 million contract neither despite nor because of his mental health, but simply because they believe he can help them win. Here’s looking forward to Greinke healing and getting back on the mound, so we can stop with the digs about psychology and fighting technique and get back to talking about his slider.