The Myth of Barfights

There’s this notion in some circles about the best ways to fire up a slumping team. Unnecessary roster shake-ups, role changes, juggling the starting rotation, maybe a manager getting ejected – everyone has their own ideas, and some have proven more effective than others. One that comes up quite often, and one of our personal favorites here on 35th Street, is a good old-fashioned team-on-team brawl like the one we saw yesterday in Kansas City.

Admittedly, Sunday’s skirmish was pretty lame, but it would be nice to think this new sense of unity against a common enemy (who happens to be coming to town next week! Oh, sweet malice!) could be the catalyst for a team to fire on all cylinders. Miguel Olivo’s suspension magically heals Joe Crede’s back; Zack Greinke’s missed bid at a complete game victory brings Paul Konerko’s bat back to life; old, slow men are no longer the logical replacement for younger, theoretically faster ones.

Part of the problem with this line of thinking rests in the assumption that memories of a haymaker some pitcher saw coming from 60 feet away are going to fuel a run of domination. People are quick to point out the 2000 mega-fight between the Sox and the Tigers as the spark that ignited the team. Maybe a combined sixteen players being tossed from a single game can build on-field bonds. Maybe Magglio’s karate skills and Keith Foulke’s toughness under fire brought together that ragtag bunch of misfits and showed them anything is possible. Maybe Jerry Manuel, upon return from his league-imposed eight-game exile, gathered the troops and told them “We will not concern ourselves with beating the Tigers with our fists, for we know we can do that. Our blows will pass, but history will remember that we stood here, today, and BEAT THE TIGERS TO INCREASE OUR LEAD IN THE DIVISION!!!”

Except the Sox have fought someone pretty much every single season and, with three notable exceptions, nothing has ever come of it. Come to think of it, that fight in 2000 was in the 17th game of the season. Could beating up Jeff Weaver really be the cause for the best record in baseball? The Cubs and Blue Jays fracases of 2006 and 1991 are probably better fuel for the discussion: could it simply be that teams don’t actually win because of brawls whatsoever?

Call us old-fashioned, call us stupid and say there’s no grit, heart or grindyness to what we do, but could it be that the true secret to success is not to assemble a softball team in a pro baseball league? As said before, no one here claims to be a general manager and no one purports to have all the answers. But we do love us some baseball fights. Smart money says the only way to win this week is to punch the hell out of the Tigers.

Seriously, do it; at this rate, mere White Sox hitting and South Side pitching aren’t going to cut it.