I’ve been kind of quiet this off-season. Partly because I’ve been nursing a Grade 3 ankle sprain that’s made me want to cut off my foot rather than wait for it to heal, and partly because I have a book coming out in a couple weeks. It’s called Throw Like a Woman and it’s about a single mom who discovers she can throw 95 mph whenever she thinks about her ex-husband. So it’s about baseball but also about anger and what you do with it. I started thinking about past Indians players who were famous for their anger. After some more thought, I made a short list. You can call them angry, you can call them wacky, but these players definitely had issues. Who would you add?
1) Albert Belle
When you think of angry Cleveland Indians players, Albert Belle is probably one of the first names that comes to mind. Belle was famously pissed off about, oh, everything. Hannah Storm, egg-throwing trick-or-treaters, hecklers who called him “Joey.” During one stretch, he was disciplined by MLB three times in 100 days, culminating in a five-game suspension when he side-armed Fernando Vina. It seemed that pretty much 90% of everything ticked him off. He was also one of the greatest hitters to ever wear a Cleveland Indians uniform, so maybe it all balances out.
2) Julian Tavarez
The Indians signed Julian Tavarez as a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic and he quickly made his way up the farm system ladder and into our hearts as the sweet kid who didn’t speak the language but threw 4.1 scoreless innings against the Braves in the 1995 World Series. Then the angry kicked in. In June 1996, after buddy Albert Belle clocked Fernando Vina, Tavarez pitched behind Brewers catcher Mike Matheny who, predictably, charged the mound. During the ensuing fight, umpire Joe Brinkman grabbed Tavarez from behind. Tavarez threw him to the ground, which is way worse than just kicking dirt on the ump’s shoes. This was Tavarez’s first but hardly last suspension.
3) Chris Perez
Pure Rage, know thyself. Perez saved a lot of games for the Indians. He also vented a lot of anger about Cleveland fans through social media. With a couple of rude gestures, a media boycott, and a celebratory dousing of the pitcher’s mound with vomit after notching his 20th save, Perez used his anger for entertainment purposes only.
4) Milton Bradley
Bradley played for the Tribe from 2001-2003, and didn’t exhibit any really crazy behavior until after he left. In 2003 he was stopped for speeding in Akron, refused the ticket, and sped away. He spent three days in jail. In 2004 a fan threw a bottle at Bradley. He thew the bottle and some insults back at the fan. In 2007, he had an altercation with umpire Mike Winters. Bradley was injured as his manager restrained him, and missed the final week of the season. In 2009 Cubs manager Lou Piniella kicked Bradley out of the dugout after a Gatorade cooler tirade. Bradley was eventually barred from playing the remainder of the season. Off the field he was convicted of spousal battery, vandalism, and assault with a deadly weapon.
5) John Rocker
In 1999, during a Sports Illustrated interview, Rocker managed to offend almost everyone in America who didn’t resemble him, and things only got worse. When he was traded to the Indians in 2001, he came with the reputation of being a hard hurler on and off the field. Rocker didn’t live up to half of that reputation, as he compiled a 3-7 with a 5.45 ERA in his time here. Amazingly enough, he only appeared in 38 games for the Indians. The psychic toll of his presence made it seem much longer. Rocker did an AMA on Reddit in 2013 in which he answered questions and traded insults with the world. (NOTE: the thread is rife with bad words and is not for the faint of heart.) Age mellows some, but not John Rocker.
Oh, Tony Plush, we hardly knew ye’. Before coming to Cleveland, Morgan got into a lot of trouble during his time with the Washington Nationals. He allegedly threw a ball at a fan in the stands (not in a nice way); collided with Marlins’ catcher Brett Hayes hard enough to dislocate Hayes’ shoulder; ran into Cardinals backup catcher Bryan Andersen even though Andersen didn’t have the ball and had stepped away from the plate; and was famously clotheslined by Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez when he tried to go after pitcher Chris Volstad. All these antics were really the doings of his alter ego, Tony Plush. By the time he got to Cleveland (after a season-long sojourn in Japan), Plush was nowhere to be found. We’ll let Michael Baumann at Grantland finish the legend of Tony Plush.
Billy Martin, who famously kicked dirt on umpires during arguments as manager and drank a lot of adult beverages with Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, spent the 1959 season with the Indians. He played in 73 games, 66 of them at second base. The Lake Erie air must have agreed with him, because I couldn’t find any reports of Martin getting into fights while playing here. However, as a player with the Reds, he famously broke Cubs pitcher Jim Brewer’s cheekbone during a fistfight after a brushback, and as a manager, he fought with everybody. Martin was also the manager of the Texas Rangers when they played Cleveland on June 4, 1974.