Base-brawl: Ranking MLB's Top 10 Individual Feuds
There are some players in the game today who flat out don't like each other; players who take rivalries further than most. They come in all shapes and sizes, and their feuds range from the one-off minor altercation to full-out fisticuffs.
Some feuds are an extension of historic team rivalries, others develop after friendships turn sour, and occasionally a war starts when a pitcher comes looking for retaliation.
Here are the top ten feuds in baseball, with odds on who would be the last man standing if it came to a punchout.
10. Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin
There was no fight here—meaning that punches weren't thrown—but there was a whole load of animosity.
In a game against the Red Sox in 1977, Billy Martin yanked Mr. October from the game after his lazy play allowed Jim Rice to stretch a routine single into a double.
According to Big League Stew on Yahoo! the pair "went nose to nose and Martin then tried to get at Jackson on two separate occasions."
The New York Daily News reported that Jackson called him an "old S.O.B." and challenged him to a fight.
Martin said the only thing he ever demanded was hustle and that he wouldn't accept anything less. It's all pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things.
Odds: I wasn't around to see this feud, so I'm only speculating on what could have happened, but in an exchange of jabs Reggie would probably have taken this one, but it wouldn't be pretty...Just ask Don Zimmer. In their prime, this could have been vicious.
Jackson -170, Martin +150
9. Dallas Braden and A-Rod
The most recent mini-feud came when the Yankees and A's met a few weeks ago.
Rodriguez broke the unwritten rule of jogging across the back of the pitcher's mound, prompting the virtually unknown hurler to yell at him.
If it was anyone other than A-Rod, it probably wouldn't be too much of a big deal, but the fact that he had the cajones to go at the Yanks third baseman made national headlines.
A-Rod laughed the incident off and said Braden had his 15 minutes of fame, Braden's grandmother told Rodriguez to stick it, and Mr. 209 pitched his way into the record books by throwing baseball's 19th ever perfect game on Mother's Day.
His 15 minutes in the limelight turned into an eternity of bragging rights. Really though, Braden is nothing more than a minor footnote on the Wikipedia page documenting A-Rod's greatness.
Odds: Braden is straight out of the 209, homies. He's street. He thinks he's gangsta. He has a whole bunch of his friends waiting for A-Rod in the parking lot. A-Rod typically avoids the big fight. I'm not sure Braden would.
Braden -136, A-Rod +124
8. Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez
One of the best teammate rivalries and feuds came to a head at a team photo session during the Mets spring training in 1989.
In Bob Klapisch and John Harper's book The Worst Team Money Could Buy: The Collapse of the New York Mets they retold the story of how Hernandez was telling reporters to vote for Kevin McReynolds in the MVP race instead of Strawberry.
The pair almost got into a fight at a bar in Port St. Lucie that night, and the next day the duo came to punches on photo day when a photographer tried to stand them next to each other.
Strawberry called him a backstabber, Hernandez called him a baby. I don't know when the pair kissed and made up, but the 12-time All-Star moved to the Indians the following year after only playing half of the '89 season in his final year in New York.
Odds: Straw would be pretty comfortable here and I don't think it would be much of a fight. Hernandez could try to use the 'stache as a shield, or he could try to hide a shovel or something in there, but the slugger should win this one.
Strawberry -140, Hernandez +124.
7. Kevin Youkilis and Joba Chamberlain
You could pick a number of instances of bad blood between the Red Sox and Yankees, but two players who recently got in on the feud are Youk and Joba.
In 2007, a rookie Chamberlain almost took Youkilis' head off twice with back-to-back pitches up and in during a tension-filled game at the old Yankee Stadium. He was suspended two games for his behavior.
Last season Youkilis slid hard through Chamberlain when he scored from third base on a wild pitch when the Yankees' pitcher came to cover the plate.
The next time Youkilis came up to bat, Joba went head-hunting again, throwing behind the slugger and prompting more shouts and finger-pointing. After surrendering back-to-back hits to Youkilis on outside pitches, I actually believe Joba just missed inside.
If he wanted to hit him, I don't really think he would have missed. Still, there's no love lost between these two.
Odds: Joba has the height, the weight, and the youth over Youkilis. Plus we already know that he's a little bit of a psycho when he's fired up. Youk is no pushover, but the edge goes to the Yankees pitcher.
Joba -120, Youkilis +110.
6. Pedro Martinez and Gerald Williams
This isn't so much for the individual incident—which was admittedly minor—but for the impact it had.
The Red Sox had been beating up on the Rays in their first few years in the league and Pedro had developed a reputation as someone who wasn't afraid to plunk the opposition. Without having to worry about retribution, the Red Sox pitcher would go through periods where he would bean someone almost on a weekly basis.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays were no exception to this, apparently, and Pedro hit Williams when he came up and in on the outfielder. A furious Williams charged the mound, the benches emptied, and seven or eight Rays were suspended for their part in the brawl.
The rivalry simmered throughout the year and the animosity eventually grew to one of the best in the league.
Scott Kazmir and Bronson Arroyo picked up the charge for each team when they took it in turns to go after each other's hitters, and Lance Carter threw at Manny, gave up a homer to him on the very next pitch and then threw behind Big Papi.
According to Steve Schaefer, Arroyo later ignited another benches-clearing fracas when he drilled Chris Singleton. And to think it all began with Pedro. Did anyone notice he barely hit a batter when he came to the National League and had to step into the batter's box? Coincidence?
Odds: Williams has three inches and 20 pounds on Pedro, and even though he has a couple years on the veteran hurler, Pedro is probably in slightly better shape today. But Williams was a .200 hitter over his final five seasons, so Pedro shouldn't be too worried about the former Blue Jay hitting anything.
Pedro -110, Williams +105
5. Michael Barrett and A.J. Pierzinski
Michael Barrett received a 10-game suspension for punching White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski after a collision in May 2006.
Pierzinski tagged up at third base on Brian Anderson's sacrifice fly and he charged home in an attempt to beat Matt Murton's throw from left field. A.J. arrived at the plate before the ball, but he lowered the boom on the Cubs catcher, sending him reeling backwards.
Pierzinski got up and smacked the plate; Barrett got up and smacked Pierzinski. And I mean 'smacked.' He grabbed him with both hands and landed a fierce right hook to his jaw, knocking him backwards.
John Mabry and Anderson got into an altercation, the benches cleared, and mayhem broke as players, coaches, and umpires tried to bring the brawl under control. Barrett says Pierzinski "stepped towards him" instead of heading back towards the dugout and that he just overreacted. Play was stopped for 13 minutes. "Overreacted" is probably an understatement.
No stranger to controversy, Barrett also had several run-ins with Roy Oswalt and a few scuffles with teammate Carlos Zambrano, including when a dugout brawl spilled into the locker room and Zambrano sent him to the hospital needing six stitches.
Odds: Barrett slugged A.J., Zambrano whipped Barrett. If Pierzinski came out looking for revenge I think he could take Barrett. He'd probably need to get the cheap shot in first, but I think he could do it. A sucker punch is always a good first choice of attack. A.J. wins this one, but barely.
Pierzinski -115, Barrett +110.
4. Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent
After a number of locker room disputes and behind-closed-doors arguments, the much-publicized feud between Bonds and Kent came to a head when they began shoving in the dugout in 2002.
The pair never liked each other very much, despite the success the Giants had, and Kent called Bonds a selfish player who only cared about individual accolades.
Their troubles turned public on national TV when Bonds stood up for David Bell after Kent began reaming him out. The pair starting pushing and exchanging expletive-filled rants and fans everywhere got to see that clubhouse chemistry isn't always what it's cracked up to be.
Kent said he no longer wanted to play in San Francisco and he signed a $19.9 million deal with Houston the following year. He went on to sign with the Dodgers in 2004 and controversy followed him again when Milton Bradley accused him of being a racist. Then again, would you expect harmony with those two around?
Odds: Both players are listed at Baseball-Reference at exactly the same height (6'1") and weight (185), so this would be an even matchup, even if common knowledge dictates that Kent weighed well over 210 and BB tipped the scales at closer to 240. Kent has four years on Bonds, but the home run leader has roid rage.
Bonds -145, Kent +115
3. Mike Piazza and Roger Clemens
In July 2000, Roger Clemens hit Mets catcher Mike Piazza in the head with a pitch a month after the catcher torched him for a grand slam home run.
Clemens was known as a fearless headhunter who wasn't afraid to throw up and in, but it didn't stop the Mets from becoming stunned and angry in equal measures when their star took one off the helmet.
Piazza missed the All-Star game with mild concussion and the Mets failed to retaliate by choosing not to bean a Yankee at the next opportunity.
Fast forward three months to Game Two of the World Series.
With two outs in the first inning, Piazza shatters his bat on a 1-2 pitch. While the handle of the bat stayed in Piazza's hand, the barrel flew down the first base line. Clemens, apparently believing this massive splinter of wood was actually the ball, moved to his left to pick up the bat between the mound and the line. Then he flung it into foul territory towards the dugout, right in front of Piazza who was running to first.
Piazza yelled and pointed at Clemens and the benches cleared. Nobody was tossed for the incident, but it goes down as one of the more memorable feuds in playoff history.
Odds: Clemens was an intense as they come on the mound and his reputation preceded him. You'd have to give the edge to Clemens if he was throwing the ball against Piazza throwing the bat. When Clemens throws both, it's a no contest.
Clemens -155, Piazza +130.
2. Chris Young and Derrek Lee
I don't know of too much bad blood here between these two guys, and as far as I know there has never been any real animosity between the Cubs and the Padres.
Back in 2007, Alfonso Soriano admired a home run at the plate and then started jogging backwards a few steps on his way to first base, Lou Piniella flew off the handle against third-base umpire Mark Wegner, and Ted Lilly was ejected 10 pitches into a start against Atlanta for throwing at shortstop Edgar Renteria.
Most notably though, Young beaned Lee in the fourth inning of a game, knocking him to the floor and sending his helmet flying, starting a scrap between the mound and first base and a benches-clearing brawl.
Young walked towards Lee, apparently said something that irritated the first baseman even more, and Lee let fly.
But this animosity makes the list because of the ridiculously funny fight that ensued when neither one of these mammoths could land a punch.
Lee missed with a right hook to the chin and Young came about three feet short on a windmill punch as Lee leaned back Matrix-style. They were each fined five games for the rumble.
Young is 6'10" so you can only imagine his wingspan. How much did Lee have to back off to avoid getting whipped like a mule at Wrigley Field?
Odds: Young's massive frame is the key factor here. Lee is probably the biggest guy on the list who would lose in a fight. As we saw last time these two went at it, neither is particularly smooth when it comes to landing a punch. But if it came down to who would land a punch first or hardest, my money is on Young.
Young -165, Lee +138
1. Jose Mesa and Omar Vizquel
The former teammates that pushed the Indians all the way to the '97 World Series had a long-running feud that seemingly lasted a decade.
Basically, Mesa blew the lead in Game Seven of the World Series and his good friend Vizquel called him out for it.
The pair exchanged words and the following year Vizquel showed up Mesa in a spring training inter-squad scrimmage by dancing and hot-stepping around the bases after hitting a home run.
Even after Mesa moved to Colorado via stints with San Francisco, Seattle, Philly, and Pittsburgh, Vizquel still blamed the pitcher for costing the Indians a championship ring. That was nine years, numerous brushback pitches, finger pointing and stare-downs later. It was almost three years after he had slammed Mesa in his book.
Vizquel said he had an empty look in his eyes and blew the save. Mesa said he wanted to kill him and that if he faced him 10 times, he would hit him 10 times.
Mesa responded by beaning the shortstop at every opportunity, just as he promised he would. After the third time, Mesa was suspended for four games.
Talk about holding a grudge.
Odds: feud that will never end. Mesa has taken the whole thing way too far and he has never been able to let the attack on his pride go. He has an advantage in height and reach, but his mentality is the kicker. If he’s out for revenge and to save face, there’s no stopping him. Mesa –165, Vizquel +136.