Neither the Atlanta Braves nor the Los Angeles Dodgers are strangers to bench-clearing brawls. The Braves have had two incidents during the past month and the Dodgers had the biggest fight of the season this April against the San Diego Padres.
So what are the chances that Braves catcher Brian McCann will start a fight in the NLDS against the Dodgers? He was an instigator both times the Braves threw down earlier this year, but would he do it again? The key to answering this question is determining what would set him off.
Maybe he won’t like getting hit with a pitch, and he’ll charge the mound like Carlos Quentin did against Zack Greinke. This is highly unlikely. McCann’s only been hit by a pitch five times this year, and there’s no way a Dodgers pitcher would intentionally throw at him (or anyone) in a playoff game – there’s too much on the line.
Which leaves one other possibility, the same thing that incited the benches to clear twice before in Braves games this year: an opposing batter hits a home run and shows up the Atlanta pitcher.
Los Angeles has power throughout the lineup, but if McCann is going to try and fight someone, it’s not enough to just hit the ball out of the park – the batter also has to showboat and rub it in that he just teed off on the pitcher. There also needs to be a history — that is, bad blood from previous head-to-head competition.
The Dodgers have a bunch of players who can rake. Adrian Gonzalez is one of the best hitters in the league, but he doesn’t celebrate excessively. Andre Ethier is the same way. Yasiel Puig has home run power but always sprints out of the box instead of watching where the ball lands.
Juan Uribe is a potential candidate when it comes to showboating. He loves to flip his bat whenever he knows he hit one out, but he doesn’t have a history with the Braves.
There is only one Dodgers player who fits all of the criteria: Hanley Ramirez. As the Dodgers’ cleanup hitter, he has the ability to drive the ball out of both Dodger Stadium and Turner Field. He has a tendency to watch all of his home runs while he holds his finish, his left arm raised in the air.
Atlanta has some great right-handed pitching, but 13 of Ramirez’s 20 home runs this year have been off of righties. Furthermore, El Nino has 15 career home runs against the Braves, second-most against any one team.
I doubt McCann will risk ejection and suspension during the playoffs, but if Ramirez gets into one, watches it sail out of the park and takes too much time to trot around the bases, he might not reach home plate – because McCann will be waiting for him.