Baseball’s Baddest Asses Don’t Talk Much
Raise your hand if you knew Rougned Odor oozed machismo.
Basebrawls are always great fun for the 30 seconds of hand-to-hand combat, the 60 seconds of post-shoving bear-hugging, and then the 90 seconds of hard staring as players return to their dugouts. Occasionally, much like in Sunday’s affair, you see something that gets you really excited and actually makes the 18 hours of post-brawl analysis worthwhile. (If I pat Eric Byrnes on the head and tell him he’s a bad ass, will it finally make him go away?) But what’s best about a basebrawl? Fans get a rare peak into the hierarchy of a MLB ecosystem.
Make no mistake: as a pro athlete you’re either an Alpha or you fake it. No one ever wants to be declared “soft,” but when the shit hits the fan, that’s when you find out the difference between a Graeme Lloyd and a Jose “Bobblehead” Bautista; the guys like former New York Knick Charles Oakley, who once tried to collect a gambling debt during a game, and Jeff Van Gundy, who once resorted to hanging onto a player’s leg like it was the last helicopter out of Saigon.
Bautista is an interesting case because for years, he’s put himself out there as baseball’s resident tough guy: bat flips, contract demands, and his general IDGAF attitude toward anyone who questioned him or his motives. On Sunday, someone finally called his bluff and that person was Odor. Bautista tried to intimidate through showy gamesmanship, and Odor wasn’t having it, so he decked him. Something tells me Bautista won’t be flipping bats again anytime soon.
In 1998, Lloyd was a lanky reliever who had a fastball who barely topped 90 mph. But during the greatest basebrawl of all time, Lloyd was a catalyst, throwing punches at any Oriole who dared exit the dugout. Fans never looked at Lloyd the same way again.
When Mike Mussina made his debut, the Stanford grad was pinned as a nerdy intellectual. But in 1993, Mussina pegged Bill Haselman after he homered earlier in the game and waited for Haselman to attack. No one ever questioned Moose’s toughness again.
Conversely, some guys are punks and fight dirty. Basebrawls are great for exposing those guys, too. In 2010, Johnny Cueto was scared and just started kicking, nailing Cardinal catcher Jason LaRue in the head and giving him a concussion. LaRue never played again.
Before Bautista and Cueto, there was Alex Rodriguez (shocking, I know). In 2004, he got into it with Boston catcher Jason Varitek after he was beaned by soft-tossing Bronson Arroyo. Do even I need to tell you what happened next?
And of course, the greatest badass of modern times, Nolan Ryan, who at 46 years-old, pummeled Robin Ventura in August of 1993. Ventura, Chicago’s cleanup hitter and a man 20 years Ryan’s junior, decided to take him on after White Sox players grew tired of the Rangers beaning their hitters that season (despite the fact Ventura was the first and only batter Ryan hit during 1993). Ryan calmly awaited the young man’s arrival, then fed him a steady diet of punches to the face (if you watch the entire video, notice big-talker Ozzie Guillen dance around the pile while Bo Jackson and his artificial hip literally throws people off his teammates).
So this Thursday night, raise a glass to Graeme Lloyd, one of baseball’s greatest badassess, who proved 18 years ago that night that the game’s truest tough guys don’t need to talk much.