Carlos Lee

Ryan Ventura

The best (and worst) bench-clearing brawls of all time


I was not at all pleased to see Carlos Quentin and Zack Greinke go at it last night.  And I am on record as saying that throwing at guys is dumb. And that charging the mound is dumb. I am glad that fights are fewer and more far between now than they used to be back in the day, but I’d like to see them eliminated totally.

That said: some of these brawls can be kind of fun to watch if you put your hangups about such things aside.

Here are some of the more memorable ones, in no particular order:

Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Ventura, 1993:

This one needs no introduction, for we’ve seen it a zillion times. It’s often called an epic beatdown by the elder, just-about-to-retire Ryan on the poor young Ventura. But in reality Ventura fought back fairly decently after weathering Ryan’s initial, famous assault:

OK, maybe Ventura still got totally owned, but history would have you believe that Ryan knocked him into next Tuesday. It was next Sunday at best.

Braves vs. Padres, 1984

Pascual Perez hit Alan Wiggins and it led to not just one, but multiple fights throughout the game. If this happend today the Internt would break:

Juan Marichal vs. John Roseboro, 1965

This one was scary. Marichal had thrown inside to two Dodgers hitters early. When he came to bat later in the game, the Dodgers catcher made a point to throw the ball back to pitcher Sandy Koufax in such a way as to have it sail close to Marichal’s head. Marichal flipped out, clubbed Roseboro with his bat and then a lengthy brawl ensured. Roseboro needed 14 stitches. Marichal was suspended for eight games. It coulda been way, way worse:

Orioles vs. Yankees, 1998

Armando Benitez threw one in Tino Martinez’s back. All hell broke loose:

Kevin Youkilis vs. Rick Porcello, 2009

First pitch plunk, a mound charge, a helmet throw and then a skinny ground ball pitcher does what he does best: buries Youkilis into the ground with a nice takedown. My girlfriend, a Tiger fan, has a picture from this one framed and displays it in our home.

Major League Baseball won’t let us embed this one, but you can see it all here.

Pete Rose vs. Bud Harrelson, 1973 NLCS

This one was more notable for the timing of it than the actual fisticuffs. You just don’t see fights like this in league championship series, as no one wants to risk a suspension or injury with so much at stake. But then again, when Pete Rose is involved, all bets are off:

Don Zimmer vs. Pedro Martinez, 2003 ALCS

Another LCS fight, this one with a much greater age difference than the Ryan-Ventura fight.  Since it occurred, Pedro has said that he really had no idea what to do with the then-72 year-old coach charging him — Pedro also claims Zimmer was going to punch him and was insulting his mother —  so he sort of did an ole-job. Zimmer’s response to that in 2009? “Pedro is full of crap … It’s what, six years later? If Pedro wants to be a big man, I don’t care what he says.” Let’s just agree to disagree, gentlemen, and agree that this was hilarious:

Tigers vs. White Sox, 2000

I couldn’t find video of this one but I remember it well from the SportsCenter clips that night. Tigers starter Jeff Weaver hit Carlos Lee with a pitch. The next inning Jim Parque hit Dean Palmer. Palmer charged the mound, threw his helmet, and the fight was on. Unlike today’s pushing and shoving, guys were really punching each other. There was blood and guts and everything.


Hey, not all of these get their own category. Sometimes you just gotta listen to some bad music and watch baseball fights in montage form:

Got a favorite I missed? Let’s talk about them in the comments. But please: let’s keep it civil. I don’t want to have to eject anyone.

2013 Preview: Houston Astros

New look Astros

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Houston Astros.

The Big Question: Will the Astros be historically bad?

Maybe this isn’t the biggest question facing the Astros this year, but it’s one that’s sort of been sticking with me for a couple of weeks as I’ve made the rounds on various radio shows previewing the 2013 season. Almost all of the hosts ask me how bad the Astros will be and almost all of them are assuming this is going to be some sort of 1962 Mets situation or something. I actually had one guy take the under on an over/under of 45 wins for them. Which seems kind of nuts.

Look, the Astros aren’t going to be good, I’ll agree with that. But we have to be realistic here and note that in the 162-game era, only two teams have failed to win 45 games: the 1962 Mets and the 2003 Tigers. Indeed, unless I’m overlooking someone, I do not believe any team has won fewer than 50 games in a full 162 game season apart from those two teams.  Every season brings us some bad teams, but teams that putrid are few and far between. And really, there is no reason to think that these Astros, as thin as they are, will be historically bad.

Part of this is a gut feeling, based on the usual composition of awful teams. They tend to be teams who have not yet begun the full rebuilding process yet — or expansion teams — which feature a lot of old guys and castoffs on the roster. The sorts of players who can fool a GM into thinking, “well, maybe we’ll be OK because I’ve heard of that guy,” and thus causes them to forego real substantive fixes. That was the 2012 Astros, right? Home of Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. A team which gave Armando Galarraga a shot because, hell, he almost had a perfect game once, right? A team which went on a 7-43 stretch at one point because, eh, just because?

The 2013 team is not a talented one, but the moves to make them better have begun. The Jed Lowrie trade, which brought back Chris Carter, Max Stassi and Brad Peacock is the sort of move I like: boring ones to most fans, but moves which constitute the dirty work of a rebuilding process. Getting depth and incremental improvement. That, along with a pretty substantial overhaul of the minor leagues, represents an all-in approach which is admirable and rare in rebuilding. Let’s just forget for a moment that Carlos Pena, currently slated to be the Astros’ DH, was on that 2003 Tigers team, OK?

Little upside at the moment, but fewer gaping holes and a lot of hungry young players who are happy to be anywhere make for a much better vibe than last year’s 107 loss team possessed and, I have a feeling, will help stave off some sort of historically bad showing.  Perhaps that doesn’t make Astros fans feel better at the moment, but merely believing that this team will not set records for futility is a compliment. One that, for some reason, a lot of people are unwilling to offer. I think that’s both ahistorical and kinda sad. Think positively, Houston!

What else is going on?

  • Positive thoughts and the avoidance of ignominy are one thing, but this lineup isn’t gonna scare anyone:

1. Tyler Greene, SS
2. Jose Altuve, 2B
3. Carlos Pena, DH
4. Chris Carter, LF
5. Brett Wallace, 1B
6. Justin Maxwell, CF
7. Jason Castro, C
8. Fernando Martinez, RF
9. Matt Dominguez, 3B

Jose Altuve is legit and will likely be the last dude left from this bunch when the Astros next win 90 games, but I don’t know where the runs are gonna come from. Maybe Carlos Pena has one last good year in him. Maybe he can check the pockets of the pants he wore back in 2009.

  • How’s about that rotation?

1. Bud Norris
2. Lucas Harrell
3. Jordan Lyles
4. Philip Humber
5. Erik Bedard

Hmm. Phil Humber. Let’s forget that comment I made about Armando Galarraga and signing someone just because they once did something interesting above too.

  • The Astros may play poorly, but they’ll look awesome doing it. They will be sporting what are easily the nicest new uniforms any team has switched to in years if not decades.
  • That’s pretty, but you know what’s ugly? Moving to the American League West. With the Angels and Rangers being two of the most talented teams around, the defending champ Oakland A’s always being solid and with an improved Mariners team, the Astros are gonna have way tougher competition this year than they’ve seen in the past.

So, how are they gonna do?  Not good!  I will refrain from predicting loss totals, but I’ll give a range of somewhere between 100 and 110. And if things break awesome in six different ways and they lose only, like, 97, well then they should be allowed to crack champagne. Because it’s not 2013 that matters for this franchise. It’s the future. And no matter how dark the present may be, they’re finally doing the heavy lifting they’ve long needed to do in order to make that future bright, so bully for them.

That said: Fifth Place, AL West.

Quote of the Day: Brian Cashman isn’t excited about the corner infielder market

Brian Cashman Getty

Amid the news that Mark Teixeira will miss 8-10 weeks with a strained tendon in his right wrist, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman acknowledged late this afternoon that the alternatives in the corner infield market aren’t particularly strong. And he did so in an interesting way.

That’s a pretty sick burn, especially for folks like Aubrey Huff and Carlos Lee, who are still looking for jobs. Hey, at least Cashman can blame the pain medication from his broken fibula/ankle earlier this week.