play hardball (with someone)
Fig. to act strong and aggressive about an issue with someone. Things are getting a little tough. The president has decided to play hardball on this issue. If he wants to play hardball with us, we can play that way, too.
to behave in an unpleasant, threatening way so that you get what you want Some of these religious groups play hardball with those who leave the faith.Related vocabulary: go for the jugular
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of hardball (the game of baseball, which is played with a small, hard ball)
play hardball(American & Australian)
to be so determined to get what you want, especially in business, that you use methods that are unfair or harm other people (often + with ) The company is playing hardball with the bank, holding back on payments it owes them to force an agreement.
Act aggressively and ruthlessly, as in It's only a month before the election, and I'm sure they'll start to play hardball. This term originated in baseball, where it alludes to using the standard ball as opposed to the slightly larger and minimally softer ball of softball. It was transferred to describe aggressive behavior only in the 1970s.