- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 18, 2005

If you really want to know how tough Frank Robinson can be, here are his bona fides that indicate he may be the toughest man to put on a baseball uniform in the last 50 years.

When he was managing the Cleveland Indians in 1976, they were playing their Class AAA farm club, the Toledo Mud Hens, in one of those July exhibition games major league clubs used to play as a drawing card for the minor league team.

Robinson was still a player-manager at the time and came to bat as a designated hitter against Bob Reynolds, one of Robinson’s potential future players.

Robinson flied to center and headed back toward the dugout. But somewhere along the way, he and Reynolds exchanged words. Then Robinson flattened Reynolds with two punches and was thrown out of an exhibition game against a minor league team!

So when Robinson outfoxed Mike Scioscia by getting pitcher Brendan Donnelly kicked out of the game for having too much pine tar on his glove, then went face to face with the Angels manager, he was showing remarkable restraint by not decking Scioscia. And even though Robinson is nearly 70, I still think he could take Scioscia out.

Then again, Jose Guillen had Robinson’s back.

All this bad blood during the Angels series was a stroke of good fortune for the fortunate, first-place Nationals. The fun and the glory of winning had been there for them so far this year, but the heat had not. It was a nice group of guys playing some entertaining baseball, but there were no moments yet when they were called out.

The Robinson-Scioscia confrontation was the sort of defining moment, such as when Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez went at it last year during a Red Sox-Yankees game, that can galvanize a team.

But what makes the Angels-Nationals feud even better is that this wasn’t a team that was floundering or needed to be galvanized. The Nationals were playing good baseball and appeared to be a pretty tightly knit group. What the whole Robinson-Scioscia-Guillen flap did was make a strong team stronger.

“I know we were playing well,” infielder Carlos Baerga said. “But I believe that what happened got this team together even more.”

And you know the best part? This is not the Yankees-Red Sox, a feud that sometimes can overshadow and consume both teams. This was a one-time deal. The Nationals won’t see the Angels again for a few years. So they get the boost without the baggage, unless somehow they meet in the World Series.

Wouldn’t that be rich? It would make the whole Roger Clemens-Mike Piazza broken bat flap seem like a love match.

Guillen certainly raised the level of animosity in this feud with his comments after the final game of the series, when we really found out what he felt about the manager who suspended him at the end of last season with the Angels.

“Like Frank said, I’ve got no respect [Scioscia] anymore,” Guillen said. “I don’t want to make all these comments, but Mike Scioscia, to me, is like a piece of garbage. I don’t care if I get in trouble. … I’ve got no respect for him. … You know what? I wanted to beat this team so bad. I can never get over what happened last year. It’s something I’m never going to forget. Every time I play that team and Mike Scioscia, it’s always going to be personal.”

Good. Finally, we hear what Jose Guillen really thinks, deep down, about what happened in Anaheim last year. Now he will be criticized in some media circles for being so brutally honest, but not here. We rip players for never saying anything, for mouthing the party line night after night, and when we finally get someone with something honest to say, he gets ripped for saying too much.

And now it is over. The Angels served their purpose. They stoked a team that already was on fire. It’s amazing what a little pine tar can do.

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