Padres CEO Not ‘A Very Smart Guy’

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres

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.

10 thoughts on “Padres CEO Not ‘A Very Smart Guy’

  1. So stupid people say dumb things? About things they don’t understand? How is this news? Seems to me he was having some fun with his fellow fans, who also happen to be customers, and he made a terrible joke. No malice, just ignorance, poor taste, and a situation he’s probably required to do. The fear & loathing. Let it go.

    • It’s news because it’s not appropriate for the CEO of a Major League Baseball team to mock the mental health disorder of an opposing player, while disrespecting people with autism for good measure. I never said there was any malice involved, but as you yourself note, there certainly is ignorance. And if you want to prevent more ignorance going forward, you have to address it.

      • I see your point, but I get tired of ignorance getting attention at all. It gets us reality TV, and Westboro Baptists. All press is good press, but I’d rather not hear it. I love your writing, Ms. Span, and simply feel it is easy these days to make mountains out of molehills. Thanks for responding.

  2. if you don’t like what he has to say don not listen. he is allowed to say what he wants.

    • So the CEO of a major league baseball team mocks those with mental health disorders and we should just plug our fingers in our ears and scream, “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-I-DON’T-HEAR-YOU-LA-LA-LA!!!!” Sorry, but in as much as he has a right to “say what he wants,” he also must face the consequences of the damage those words can cause. He should know better than to have said those things. He deserves to be called out for them.

  3. I’m certainly not going to defend Garfinkel’s ignorance, but I will speak up on behalf of Quentin, and the larger issue involved here.

    I’ve always felt that pitchers who throw at batters, particularly multiple times at one individual (which certainly seem like something other than coincidental accidents) ought to to face the consequences of doing so — without their catcher or other teammates protecting them. A batter can get badly hurt by beanballs (think Tony Conigliaro, to name just the most infamous example), but the worst thing that ever happens to a pitcher is a fairly short suspension & insignificant fine . How “fair” is THAT, Donnie Baseball?

    I say: if you think you’re enough of a bad-a$$ to throw AT someone, then you should be tough enough to throw down WITH him, as well — without your catcher tackling him from behind.

    • So you can prove that he threw at Quentin on purpose in this game? And what kind of spectacle are you advocating for with these ridiculous (and needless) baseball fights anyway? Would you prefer they just stop the game altogether and set up an impromptu boxing ring in the center of the field? Let the two guys duke it out one on one? Maybe they could charge a pay-per-view rate every time that happens! Get real.

  4. It may not be a manifestation of his mental issues, but Greinke definitely has exhibited odd behavior over the years that has shown him to be arrogant, insensitive, clueless and inappropriate. That type of behavior continued with the KC Royals after medication and therapy supposedly enabled him to control his anxiety disorder.
    So it certainly is reasonable to suspect that he threw at Quentin on purpose, especially considering the track record between them. It also is reasonable to believe that after he hit Quentin, Greinke said things and did things to exacerbate the conflict. Is that a symptom of his disorder, or is it behavior totally separate from it? In either case, Greinke has to own his behavior.
    This doesn’t excuse Quentin for charging the mound, and his suspension is justified. But just as no one can prove that Greinke’s beanball was premeditated or malicious , no one can prove that Quentin left home plate with the intention of breaking Greinke’s collarbone.

  5. An ignorant, uncaring, inflammatory remark from a person of influence!
    His player has been hit much more often than most because of his unique batting stance. Does that mean the dozens of other pitchers who have hit him have mental illness?
    Quentin is not sorry, and his employer is only sorry his own remarks were recorded. Both of them are literally begging for further retaliation, and will, again, justify their actions! One says he had to stand up; the other should shut up!