In honor of the 2019 MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland—a bad little city that celebrates bad boy rock ’n rollers and birthed the bad little punk band Dead Boys—it’s high time baseball’s baddest men get recognition for making the game great. That’s right. Baseball is bad, and bad is baseball. Think about it. All the best baseball stories chronicle the bad and/or badass deeds of bad men: Ty Cobb’s infamous foul play on and off the field, Babe Ruth hitting dingers while drunk, the 1919 Black Sox throwing the World Series, Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, Doc Ellis throwing a no-hitter on acid, Doc & Darryl and the cocaine-snorting, ’86 Miracle Mets, Pete Rose gambling on games while managing the Reds, the Steroid Era, and, now, Tim Anderson.
With the Chicago White Sox shortstop and bad man being placed on MLB’s Injured List for the next four to six weeks with a high-ankle sprain to his right leg, I pondered who MLB’s baddest man is with Anderson out. He was, you might remember, suspended one game by Joe Torre for calling a pitcher the n-word. Anderson is Black; the pitcher and Joe Torre are white. In searching for the next baddest man, I found that Major League Baseball has a bad problem with Anderson injured: there’s not enough bad men in the bigs, and baseball is bad because of it.
.@TimAnderson7 just embodies fun. We asked him whether he shares some of his fellow Chicagoan @Mtrubisky10's food takes and we also talk about those pesky unwritten rules of baseball.
— Dan Le Batard Show (@LeBatardShow) May 9, 2019
Anderson called baseball “boring” after being named the American League Player of the Month in April, and it’ll be even more boring with him out for a month. In his absence, baseball’s baddest player, meaning both the most badass and bad behaving, is probably either Manny Machado or Yasiel Puig, depending how you weigh the determining factors.
As far as behavior goes, Puig is beating Machado in badness this season if ejections are the measuring stick. Puig’s been ejected twice to Machado’s once, but Machado has undeniably provided more badass play on the field. No other MLB player has been ejected twice thus far in 2019, but neither has been suspended under the same circumstances as Anderson. Neither is baseball’s baddest man in Anderson’s absence, either.
On Saturday, Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected in the top of the fourth inning for arguing balls and strikes. It was his seventh ejection in 80 games, putting him on pace to be ejected 14 times in 2019. That would crush the single season record by a manager of 11, set by some MLB All-Bad men: the Braves’ Bobby Cox in 2001, the all-time MLB leader in ejections with 158, “Bad Bill” Dahlen, nicknamed for his ferocious temper with umpires, and John McGraw, MLB’s poster bad boy for bad behavior and foul play.
Not only is Gardenhire on pace to set the MLB record for ejections by a manager in a single season; he’s on pace to break Bobby Cox’s career mark. In 13 years as manager of the Minnesota Twins, “Gardy” was ejected 72 times. Now in his second year with the Tigers, Gardenhire has become the seventh-most ejected manager in MLB history with 82 in 14.5 years. That’s a rate of 5.66 ejections per season. Cox put in 29 years and was ejected 158 times for an average of 5.49 ejections per season.
If Gardenhire spends another 13 seasons in the dugout, he’s going to break Bobby Cox’s all-time ejection record, becoming the baddest man in all of baseball history. At 61 years of age, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. And given the quality of play he can expect from his Tigers this season and next, he might be in a bad mood often enough to do it in a dozen or so.
One thing is certain: baseball needs to embrace its badness and follow everything Gardy does for the rest of the 2019 season. Sports media must give Gardenhire’s ejections ample airtime and let people know he’s arguing with umpires at a rate and ferocity never before seen in the long history of baseball. But if Gardy, the jovial kidder, is the game’s baddest man with Tim Anderson away, baseball has a real problem.