The message was relayed quickly. It had to be since it was about life and death… or at least about whether or not I would be picked up and stuffed into a trash can. Considering that I am 6-foot-1 and heavier than I have ever been in my life—far heavier than the comfortable 160 pounds I prefer to carry—the fact that the trash-can stuff wasn’t hyperbole was a bit worrisome.
“You tell him the next time I see him I’m going to kick his ass,” was the message Scott Rolen sent through Mike Radano to give to me.
OK, it was a joke (I hope!), but after zinging Rolen the day before about his recent health history only to hear how back spasms kept him out of the lineup, yeah, the ass-kicking retort was the play right there.
“Tell him I’m ready whenever he is,” was my reply. Hey, why not? Since we’re just joking around (I hope!), might as well return the volley. C’mon, like Scott Rolen is really going to beat me up. Why would he waste his time? Sure, I zinged him pretty good—all in good fun—but would he really go through with a pretend threat?
Yeah, I probably should have kept my mouth shut.
That was never more evident than Tuesday night when Rolen turned into a human bowling ball before turning his former Cardinals’ teammate Chris Carpenter into a human ragdoll. Knowing the brotherhood and comradery that goes on inside of a baseball clubhouse and the fact Rolen and Carpenter were teammates for a long time with the Cardinals, I got scared. If Rolen can pick up a 6-for-6, 250-pound dude like Carpenter and heave him against the backstop with a crush of ballplayers all jostling and grabbing one another around him, I realized I was going to become intimate with the inside of a trashcan whether we were joking around or not.
This is especially true after it was revealed that Rolen was trying to be the peacemaker. Reports say Rolen rushed at Carpenter after the pitcher exacerbated the situation by yelling at Reds’ manager Dusty Baker. “We're not going to let this happen,” Rolen reportedly shouted at Carpenter before grabbing a hold of him shoving him against the backstop. “We're not going to let this happen.”
Not sure of the context there, but it makes Rolen sound like a “peacemaker” much like Clint Eastwood in Fistful of Dollars.
“It was two teams defending their own people, and standing up for their own players and managers and coaches, so ... that got ugly and obviously it was heated when it started,” Rolen said.
OK, by now most baseball fans saw the donnybrook that occurred in Cincinnati last night spurred on by Reds’ second baseman Brandon Phillips calling the Cardinals, “whiny bitches.” Maybe Phillips’ words were not the most diplomatic of things to say, but harmless nonetheless. The paradox, of course, was when relayed of what Phillips said, Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa acted like a little whiny bitch. Truth be told, La Russa has been called a lot worse than a whiny bitch, but as they say, “The truth hurts.”
The only people upset by being called “whiny bitches” are little whiny bitches. At least that’s my theory.
For those who didn’t see it, take a look.
Anyway, whiny bitches aside, the Reds-Cards brawl was a pretty good one by baseball standards. It was almost like one of those classic old-timey fights from the 1970s where someone like Spaceman Bill Lee would get body slammed by Carlton Fisk or Don Zimmer… and yes, they were on the same team. Besides, when is the last time a baseball fight was sparked by a silly quote in a newspaper? Maybe that’s the underlying theme in all of this not being discussed? If not for the written word, would anyone gotten worked up over Phillips’ comment? Would Scott Rolen have had to choke a whiny bitch?
The short answer? No.
Which brings us back to the main point… why would anyone start a fight with Rolen hovering around the area? To start with, the dude has the widest shoulders I’ve ever seen. Coat racks? Not even close—they are more like the size of a walk-in closet. At 6-foot-4, Rolen has to walk sideways through a standard doorway because his shoulders are so wide. Plus, when he shakes your hand, your hand and part of the wrist disappears. He just swallows it up.
Here’s how intimidating Rolen is… when ex-Phillies manager Larry Bowa was talking trash about him in the Daily News in June of 2001, Rolen burst into the manager’s office in St. Petersburg before a game against the Devil Rays and said, “I came in here with the intent to kick your ass.”
Now as far as great quotes reported in a newspaper go, Rolen telling Bowa he was going to be turned into a hand puppet is almost up there with Phillips calling the Cardinals “whiny bitches.” The difference, of course, was Phillips’ words are very comical. They were so funny that you can go back and re-read them a second after the first read and they would still be funny. And, if they are being read aloud, the right interpretation could be a one-man act.
Imagine a dramatic reading of Brandon Phillips by Christopher Walken. It works on so many different levels.
But with Rolen telling Bowa to get ready to get his ass kicked, that was serious. If Bowa would have left a little puddle on the ground next to his shoes it would have been completely understandable. Most times Rolen is a really funny dude with that dry wit typical of his fellow Indianans, David Letterman, John Cougar Mellencamp or Larry Bird.
Yet for some reason certain folks from Indiana seem to react to every slight or insult. When he was in playing in Philly, Rolen looked like he played baseball because he wanted revenge for something. It was something to see. Sure, guys with his sensibilities have traits that can be a bit alienating, but whatever. We appreciate iconoclastic tendencies here. In fact, it’s the preferred style we like from our athletes here at The Food. Better yet, there are no hidden meanings when Rolen plays third base or circles the bases. It’s all effort and power with some finesse sprinkled in around third base with some glove work that even forced Mike Schmidt to admit that Rolen was the best he’d ever seen. There also is no searching for nuance, which somehow makes his game appealing. Rolen really doesn't have any style when he plays and anyone with a sense of fashion will tell you, sometimes no style is style.
The point is, the next time we cross paths I’m just going to throw myself onto the ground like someone about to be mauled by a grizzly or a jaguar.
Think it will work?