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Thursday, June 27, 2002
Updated: July 5, 2:37 PM ET
What caused 'Slugout in the Dugout'?

By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent fought in the Giants dugout a couple of nights ago, or at least that's the way it appeared on TV. Afterward, however, Kent maintained there was no fight whatsoever, telling reporters that he got his black eye when he slipped and fell while washing his truck in the fourth inning.

Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds
Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds debate whether it's possible for coconuts to migrate.
Actually, I'm just making that part up. There was no black eye. Truth is, there really wasn't much of a fight, either. Just Bonds and Kent shoving each other in anger. Dr. Phil and Oprah go at it more violently than that. But as baseball fights go, this was significant.

Apparently, it began with Kent yelling at third baseman David Bell over a play at second, then Bonds standing up for Bell. One thing led to another, a lot of bad language was used and pretty soon there were the National League's past two MVPs going toe-to-toe and mano-a-mano in the "Slugout in the Dugout." San Francisco manager Dusty Baker eventually had to separate the two, with Kent shouting that he didn't want to be on the team anymore.

Sheesh. Baseball usually doesn't see that sort of sparring until Donald Fehr and Bud Selig get in the same room.

What were Bonds and Kent fighting over? The recent situation in the middle infield? The current situation in the Middle East? Nothing quite so dramatic as it turns out. With apologies to Monty Python, Page 2 reveals what its special double-secret dugout camera and microphones captured:

[PAGE 2 CAMERAS PICK UP BONDS AND KENT IN THE MIDDLE OF A HEATED DISCUSSION]

BONDS: Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?

KENT: Not at all. They could be carried

BONDS: What the *&%#? A swallow carrying a coconut?

KENT: It could grip it by the husk.

Jeff Kent
If things turn ugly, Kent can always flee the scene on his motorcycle.
BONDS: It's not a matter of where he grips it. It's a simple matter of weight-ratios. A 5-ounce bird could not carry a 1-pound coconut.

KENT: Well, it doesn't matter. Go and tell Dusty that I don't want to play here anymore.

BONDS: Look! To maintain velocity, a swallow needs to beat its wings 493 times every second, right?

KENT: Please!

BONDS: Am I right?

KENT: I'm not interested.

DAVID BELL: It could be carried by an African swallow.

BONDS: Oh yes! An African swallow, but not an American swallow. That's my point.

KENT: Will you please tell Dusty and Brian Sabean that I'm not going to re-sign after the season?

BONDS: But then, of course, African swallows are non-migratory.

BELL: Oh, yes.

BONDS: So they wouldn't be able to bring a coconut back anyway.

[UNEASY SILENCE AS ANOTHER GIANTS BATTER STRIKES OUT]

KENT: Wait a minute! Suppose two swallows carried it back together?

BONDS: No, you $*@%& moron! They'd have to have it on a line!

[A SCUFFLE BREAKS OUT]

Barry Bonds
With all that body armor, Bonds is almost indestructible.
It's rarely wise to make too many judgments from afar but I think we can safely assume these two guys have a serious dislike for each other.

If this wasn't apparent earlier, it became very public last year when Kent ripped Bonds for being a selfish player who went by his own rules. Which is an interesting complaint, considering Kent put himself ahead of his team this spring when he broke his wrist while popping wheelies on his motorcycle in clear violation of his contract. He tried to cover it up by claiming he broke his wrist while washing his truck, a lie that unraveled because witnesses had called 911 to report his motorcycle accident.

Because of that, Kent began the season on the disabled list. And yet Bonds is the selfish one? The more Kent talks the more he performs the impossible -- he makes Barry the sympathetic figure in this dispute.

Meanwhile, Dusty is the man in the middle. The poor guy. He might be the best manager in the league, but managing a team with Bonds and Kent must be like having Pakistan and India in the same dugout, only with contract incentives instead of nuclear weapons.

And Kent says that this week's fight was just one of a half-dozen between the two players. He also says that it's no big deal. Not only did both players homer right after Tuesday's fight, Kent told reporters that he once hit a grand slam after one fight.

[PAGE 2 CAMERAS PICK UP BONDS AND KENT IN THE MIDDLE OF A HEATED DISCUSSION]

KENT: An argument is not the same as a contradiction.

BONDS: It can be.

KENT: No, it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a definite proposition.

BONDS: No, it isn't.

KENT: Yes, it is. It isn't just contradiction

BONDS: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.

KENT: But it isn't just saying, "No, it isn't.''

BONDS: Yes, it is.

KENT: No, it isn't!

[KENT WALKS TO THE PLATE AND HITS A HOME RUN TO LEFT FIELD, CIRCLES THE BASES AND RETURNS TO THE DUGOUT]

KENT: Look, this is futile.

BONDS: No, it isn't.

KENT: Screw you, I'm signing with another team this winter.

BONDS: No, screw you!

KENT: Take off your body armor and say that, you damn wussy!

[PUNCHES ARE THROWN]

Fortunately for the Giants and their fans, no rule says teammates must like each other. After all, the scoreboard keeps track of runs, not group hugs.

Remember the Oakland A's in the early 1970s? Or the Yankees during the Billy Martin-Reggie Jackson era? Those teams fought all the time, and it certainly never hurt them. As Bill Lee said, "The more self-centered and egotistical a guy is, the better ballplayer he's going to be. You take a team with 25 (jerks), and I'll show you a pennant. I'll show you the New York Yankees."

Clubhouse chemistry is way overrated. You don't need Leo Buscaglia in the clubhouse nearly as much as a couple of reliable starting pitchers and a powerful cleanup hitter. As Leo Durocher famously said, "Nice guys finish last."

Teams might want to be like the old "We Are Family" Pirates, but as long as Bonds and Kent don't restrict their slugging to the dugout, "We Are Manson Family" could work out just fine, too.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at cuffscaple@hotmail.com.