Now that the Cubs have wrapped up the Crosstown Cup series against the White Sox, we would be missing out on a great opportunity if we did not bring up one of the greatest heroes (or villains) the series has ever seen. Michael Barrett spent three and a half seasons on the North Side between from 2004 to 2007 but may be most well-known for the punch heard round the world.
Up until May 20, 2006 Michael Barrett specialized in being a tremendously consistent baseball player. It was on that day though, that he ignited a spark into the Cubs-Sox rivalry that we all needed to see. On a play that involved Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski colliding at home plate with Barrett after a Matt Murton throw beat him to the plate, it ended with Barrett delivering a punch to the face of Pierzynski, which of course started a huge brawl between the two teams.
But the Pierzynski collision and punch wasn’t the only trouble Barrett got into during his time in Chicago. The following season he was involved in an altercation with another hot-head in Carlos Zambrano. The skirmish began in the dugout after an inning that saw Big Z struggle to find his way out of. Blaming his teammates for the runs that he gave up, the long-time Cubs pitcher got very heated and Barrett was not having it. After a few shoves in the dugout, the fight ended in the clubhouse and after all was said and done, Barrett ended up at the hospital with a cut up mouth.
But hey, enough of the fighting. Michael Barrett was a model of consistency at the plate during his years in Chicago. In his three full seasons behind the plate, he hit 16 bombs each year, 32 doubles in the first two years and 25 in the last, and always had between 53 and 65 RBI. His final slash line in Chicago reads .284/.343/.484/.827 which was the best he had at any of his four stops in the majors. He was awarded the Silver Slugger in 2005 after putting up a 111 wRC+ and a 2.9 fWAR.
After coming over to the Cubs in a deal that sent Damian Miller to the Oakland Athletics, he was eventually shipped out west again in 2007 when the Cubs traded him to the Padres for Rob Bowen and Kyler Burke. The trade took place just 19 days after the fight with Zambrano.
After spending just two more seasons as a backup in San Diego and Toronto, Barrett called it quits on a playing career. He put up a career 5.7 fWAR over the course of his 12 years in the majors. He now serves as the Catching Coordinator for the Washington Nationals in 2017 after spending a couple seasons as the manager for the Gulf Coast Nationals in the Rookie League.
As a man that will go down as the catcher who threw a punch at AJ Pierzynski, Michael Barrett should also be remembered for the solid years he had behind the dish.