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April, 2000.  A wild brawl with Fightin' Phil Garner and the Detroit Tigers prompts this totally biased response from WSI's Vito Fungo.

Italian Beef by Vito Fungo

The Busher is Back

Phil Garner returns to the American League

"This was a good loss for the Detroit Tigers.  Guys went to battle for each other.  This is what brings teams together."  - Detroit pitcher Doug Brocail

Thank you, Doug Brocail.  Thank you for removing any doubt over what caused Saturday's bean ball war at Comiskey, a 14-6 butt whuppin' applied by the Chicago White Sox to the hapless Tigers.

This time, the usual cliches about baseball fights don't apply.  Doug Brocail proves the point.  It wasn't "boys will be boys."  It wasn't "our guys have to pitch inside to be successful" either.  It most definitely wasn't "it's part of the game."  

No -- what this fight was all about was dime store motivational techniques -- Doug Brocail confirms it.  Can any reasonable person be surprised?  The Tigers suck, playing far worse baseball than anybody ever imagined them capable of.  In these situations their manager has always used fights (or instigating fights) as a means to motivate his team.  We're talking about the ultimate reptilian brain in baseball today,  the friend of small men and sub-par talent, the mental midget, and buffoon, Phil Garner.  

Sox fans, the busher is back.  

Fresh from tearing up his last bit of credibility in Milwaukee's clubhouse, Phil has taken his same tired act to Detroit.  Trying to fill seats in a new ballpark, this once proud franchise scrambles to bring their fans excitement by any means necessary, stooping to make room for a sideshow freak, the bearded lady of managers.  Talented players leave town while shills for the manager take their place.  Milwaukee was a regular cellar dweller.  Now Detroit aims for the same locale.

Here's the lie you can expect to hear from Phil Garner.  It's the same one he feeds his players, guys like Doug Brocail who can only have their intelligence insulted so many times before they wise up.  Phil tells us (and them) that his pitchers have to pitch inside to be successful.  Thus, hitting an opposing hitter is inevitable and shouldn't be construed as anything more than "scrappy" baseball -- the kind he was known for as a player years ago.  

To that we offer a dyslexic, "Shull Bit!" 

The lie comes when his own players get hit.  Suddenly the argument is reversed.  Now your pitchers are aiming at our guys and we (the scrappy guys playing for the scrappy manager) can't tolerate it.  We're going throw at you, just so you know we mean business.  And so on and so forth...

Phil can't lose this argument -- he's always right.  Even Doug Brocail can be expected to wise up eventually.  It's the marginal players who have no choice but believe and follow everything Phil Garner says -- or they won't keep their jobs on the team.  

You know exactly who we're talking about.  It's bullpen catchers like Robert Fick.  First base coaches like Juan Samuel, too.  Guys with brains and batting averages large enough to speak and act freely know Garner is full of shit.  Wasn't it Juan Gonzalez breaking apart teammates and acting as peacemaker?  

Tiger fans, it's time to rename Juan Gon to Juan Gone.  There isn't a chance in hell he will play for Phil Garner next year -- or that Garner would want him.  He would rather stock the whole roster with the Robert Ficks of this world than deal with any challenge to his authority in the clubhouse.  They'll fight Phil's fights and never ask why.  Meanwhile the team will lose a lot of ballgames because frankly, Robert Fick sucks.

Doug Brocail can be counted on to figure this out some day.  When he does, he's gone, too.  On the other hand, when the Tigers front office figures it out, Phil Garner will be sent packing.  Of course another loser organization will doubtlessly want him.  Weren't the Cubs interested last winter?

Kinda proves my point, doesn't it?

Sox fans, take comfort that our team responded the best way possible.  First we humiliated them, then we fought them, then we humiliated them some more.  The six extra Sox runs (including two homers) scored after the fight sends a powerful signal both inside and outside our own clubhouse:  "We won't back down."  That's the kind of killer instinct past Sox teams have lacked.  This team could be special.  Don't think Phil Garner didn't notice the difference.

Meanwhile in Detroit's clubhouse, the question inside everyone's head is, "How long before Juan leaves the team -- and how can I join him?"

For the Robert Ficks and the Juan Samuels of Detroit's clubhouse, acting like a major league idiot is still better than driving a cab.


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