MLB has a long history of letting its players duke it out on the field in benches-clearing brawls to settle their differences; here are the best.
The optics of over 50 large men swarming each other on the field, throwing punches, swearing, and generally acting in a way that would not be acceptable in normal society are undeniably bad. For as long as baseball has been a professional sport, league presidents and commissioners have been trying to figure out how to keep the players from fighting.
Fines haven’t done it, suspensions haven’t done it. Heck, even seeing teammates concussed or dealing with broken bones or separated shoulders has not been enough to allow cooler heads to prevail. Deep down, we all know we shouldn’t enjoy watching brawls quite a much as we do, but their inherent entertainment value is almost as strong as the sport itself.
Eventually, the league will be forced to do more to address the problem of players punching each other in the face on the field over perceived slights. Until that unfortunate day, though, enjoy the top-20 MLB brawls of all time.
20. Jason Varitek stuffs A-Rod, 2004
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry has cooled in recent years with players switching sides back and forth to play for the highest bidder. One of baseball’s best rivalries was at its height in the first five years of the 21st Century. The last great fight between the teams came on July 24, 2004.
Boston and New York engaged in one of the biggest brawls in playoff history in the 2003 ALCS, which was won by the Yankees in Game 7. Every time these teams played during this era was appointment viewing because of how tense the games were. There was just a sense that the kettle was one second away from boiling over.
Bronson Arroyo hit Alex Rodriguez on the elbow. Rodriguez took exception and stepped toward the mound, hurling expletives the entire time. Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek got between A-Rod and his pitcher, attempting to hold him off. Rodriguez kept egging Varitek on, and the catcher responded by stuffing his glove into his opponent’s face.
This may have been the moment that turned Varitek into a folk hero in New England. The Red Sox came back to win the game on an epic walk-off home run from Bill Mueller which sparked them on a run that ended with the team breaking the Curse of the Bambino.