Ranking the best bench clearing brawls of the MLB first-half

Well, we’re halfway there.

It feels like we’ve only just begun, but with the MLB All-Star game (read: Chicago Cubs-American League throwdown) on Tuesday night, the MLB is in mid-season form with the fall looming on the horizon.

And now, of all times, is the right time for a brief retrospective on this season’s most inconsistent but entertaining happenings: bench-clearing brawls. We’ve had a few potential all-timers so far this year, and I think it’s high time the hierarchy of face-punching and chest-shovery is set in stone. 

Let’s get started.

Two nights in a row, Joey Osich zipped in high, inside fastballs at David Peralta, tagging him in the left arm. 

Neither seemed to be intentional, but two’s the limit, and after the second plunking, Peralta flipped his batter in a very "I’m about to beat your insides out" manner. 

But no such beatdown came to pass, and after some mild, hubbub, the ensuing bench-clearing ended without incident. Womp womp.

Grade: C- for starting strong but ending with zero fireworks.

This was a weird one. 

For whatever reason, Jeff Francoeur took exception to a pitch winged belt-high and inside by Hector Rondon late in a tilt against the Chicago Cubs this July.

There was likely no intent, as the game hung in the balance and hitting Francoeur would’ve put the go-ahead run on base.

But Francoeur didn’t appreciate having the tower buzzed and, according to Cubs catch Willson Contreras, started talking after the pitch.

"I call a fastball in, and he doesn’t appreciate that," Contreras said. "We’re just trying to go in on him, and after that he starts talking to me."

Grade: C for a pitcher walking to protect his catcher, for a change.

Back in May, Jose Abreu did a thing you don’t often see during a bench-clearing situation: continue holding the bat as you walk at the pitcher.

Yeah, that’s not, uh, ideal. And commentators quickly noted that Abreu probably should’ve dropped the lumber after Twins pitcher Trevor May nailed him with 97-mph heat during a White Sox blowout in May.

But Abreu held the bat, perhaps unconsciously, and while nothing came of the incident, he later said it was one of the more uncharacteristic moments of his career.

"I was out of character," Abreu said. "It was something in the game." 

Grade: B- for speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

He’s calmed down a bit from 2015’s bean-a-palooza, but Yordano Ventura continues to exhibit historically low levels of chill when the mood so strikes him.

Back in June, the Royals pitcher provoked his most ridiculous bench-clearing to date, tagging Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado in the leg at Camden Yard.

The result was Machado rushing the mound and doing a rare thing: actually throwing a punch in a baseball brawl.

Grade: A- for vintage Yordano petulance and this guy’s "I’m just here for the shrimp" fighting face.

This is it. The Mother of All Pearls. The Hope diamond of baseball brawls. 

We may never witness a more perfect baseball punch than the Hammer of Thor Rougned Odor dropped onto Jose Bautista’s jaw after a hard, low slide in May. 

Bautista came in hot looking to break up a double play, and Odor wasn’t having none of it, throwing a punch that was felt throughout the collective citizenry of Canada. The meme-ry that followed should be ensconced in a museum.

The post-game trash talk was also top flight.

"I don’t know what to do with my hands."

Grade: A+ for extreme pettiness and slow motion jaw-jiggling.

Dan is on Twitter. Make baseball punch again.