While we learned in grade school that fighting never solved anything, it is said that a good dugout donnybrook can actually be a positive for team morale. Sometimes we get past the ability to use words and our fists take over. The result can be the catalyst that sparks a team to the World Series.
The first week of spring training saw yet another dugout meltdown by a Cubs pitcher. This time the feud involved two players in their contract year, Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez. In the first inning against the Brewers on Wednesday, Silva managed to serve up a pair of dingers as his fielders yakked up three errors. Following the inning, frustration reared its ugly head, comments were made and a fight started in the dugout.
Quoted in a recent Chicago Sun-Times article, Todd Hollandsworth, who played for eight teams in his 12 year career, had this to say about intra-team fighting…..
“I can’t think of a team it didn’t happen to, if it didn’t happen, that team probably didn’t care very much. If it didn’t happen, that, to me, was a show of no team. They show up, put in the time and just get out of there.”
“Guys typically care. It’s virtually impossible to spend 16 hours a day, seven days a week for eight months without there being conflict. These things happen. It’s just that the media is not privy to most of it.’’
So, as a tribute to the Carlos Silva meltdown (and an effort at keeping hope alive for Cubs fans), here is a look back at a few of the more prominent dugout skirmishes resulting in a success for the team.
1977 – Reggie Jackson vs. Billy Martin
This wasn’t the first or last time Billy Martin engaged himself in a disagreement with one of his players. This is, however, the most famous, likely because it involved the team’s star player, Reggie Jackson. It didn’t help that the game was on national television against the rival Red Sox at Fenway. Apparently, Billy got the feeling that Jackson was dogging it a little in the outfield. Martin benched Jackson, who immediately took exception to it, and the fracas began. After standing nose to nose no punches were thrown and it ended with Martin being held back by a few of the players.
Result: The Yankees won 100 games en route to a World Series Championship over the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2.
2002 – Jeff Kent vs. Barry Bonds
This one had been brewing for some time. Apparently David Bell was in the process of being verbally assaulted by Jeff Kent regarding a play that took place the previous inning. Barry Bonds stepped up in defense of Bell, inserting himself between the two, and the shoving began. Kent, who was quoted a year before as saying Bonds was a selfish player, said this was nothing and it basically happened all the time between the two of them. Sounds like great clubhouse chemistry, huh?
Result: 95 wins and finished 2nd in the NL West. They faced the Angels in the World Series and lost 4-3.
2007 – Michael Barrett vs. Carlos Zambrano
Similar to Mike Quade and his situation, this was Lou Piniella’s first year as manager for the Cubs. What a better way to welcome a manager to an organization then a fight in the dugout!
The Cubs were in the midst of a five game slide in late May and the booing began at Wrigley early in the year. Zambrano was doing his typical implosion job on the mound and runs were crossing the plate in abundance for Atlanta. After an inning featuring five runs on five hits and a play where the catcher, Michael Barrett, was charged with a pass ball and a throwing error, the top blew off in the dugout. While Zambrano was able to land what looked like a few punches on Barrett, the real scrap supposedly happened in the club house. Barrett suffered a cut lip and ended up in the hospital. The best part? It happened to be Carlos Zambrano’s 26th birthday.
Result: Michael Barrett was traded to the Padres about two weeks after the fight. The Cubs finished 1st in the NL Central with 85 wins. They quickly lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-0.
(Yes, it is sad that this is considered a positive outcome, but when the team hasn’t won a World Series in over 100 years, the post-season is a feat all its own.)