In modern Internet times, terms like “amazing” and “incredible” probably have lost most of their meaning — everything can’t be the greatest, most amazing thing that’s ever happened. So I don’t use the term loosely when I write that this study from the Wall Street Journal about bench-clearing “brawls” is fairly mind-blowingly amazeballs.
The WSJ went through 32 bench-clearing incidents from the start of the 2014 season. These donnybrooks lasted a combined 128+ minutes … which should mean a lot of wild, flying haymakers, right?
In the 32 games in which the benches cleared, there were a grand total of five punches thrown that were clearly caught on camera. And only one of those punches connected.
Look at it this way, Nolan Ryan landed at least five punches square to the face of Robin Ventura in less than five seconds during their famous mound-charging incident back from Aug. 4, 1993.
How times change. Then again, the Ryan-Ventura fisticuffs happened pre-social media (i.e. no immediate, screaming outrage) so maybe that’s why it’s a collectively fun memory for everyone on Planet Earth excepting the current White Sox manager.
The WSJ spoke with Mike Bordick, a longtime shortstop who was involved in the infamous Yankees-Orioles brawl in 1998. Bordick offered up a interesting opinion why fights were more-heated in previous decades:
Bordick said the pervasiveness of steroids at that time may have made players more prone to rage. By contrast, he said players today simply don’t want to hurt themselves in a fight. “I think the game has—I don’t want to say softened—but there’s just so much money involved and the risk of injury is so substantial,” he said.
Unless you’re inside a Major League dugout or clubhouse it’s probably impossible to say what any of this fighting — well running out of the dugout and standing around like a wannabe tough guy — actually accomplishes, aside from suspensions. Technically speaking, had Chris Sale charged into the Royals clubhouse, as reported earlier this year, to fight Yordano Ventura those potential punches wouldn’t have counted in the WSJ study.
This quote from Orioles reliever Darren O’Day basically sums up the state of baseball “brawls” in 2015:
“I’ve been out on the field during a heated exchange between two other guys and I’m out there talking to my buddy who I played with the year before,” O’Day said. “Like, ‘Hey man, let’s just hug it out, me and you, if this thing goes south.’”
Anyways, in closing I’ll just go ahead and assume that Robert Fick was unavailable for comment for this story.
[Photo via USA Today Sports Images]