play hardball (with one)

play hardball (with one)

To be ruthless, aggressive, or harsh (with one) in order to achieve a certain result, especially compared to previous, less aggressive tactics. I think it's time we play hardball with the suspect—he's not going to talk otherwise. We're prepared to play hardball with the company if it means we'll be paid the appropriate amount for our work.
See also: hardball, play
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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.
See also: hardball, play
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

play hardball

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.
See also: hardball, play
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

play hardball

mainly AMERICAN
If someone plays hardball, they will do anything that is necessary to achieve or obtain what they want, even if this involves being harsh or unfair. In past deals, Mr. Peng has shown he's willing to play hardball. The White House decided to retaliate by taking jobs away from his state, showing they were tough guys who could play hardball. Compare with play ball. Note: Hardball is the same as baseball, and is here being contrasted with softball, in which a larger, softer ball is used and the ball is thrown underarm.
See also: hardball, play
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

play hardball

use uncompromising and ruthless methods. informal
In North America, hardball is literally baseball, especially as contrasted with softball.
2000 Environmental History The fact that Hayden wielded this unprecedented influence demonstrates that even at age 89 he was capable of playing hardball when the situation demanded it.
See also: hardball, play
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

play ˈhardball

(especially American English) used to refer to a way of behaving, especially in politics, that shows that a person is determined to get what they want: It’s time to play hardball with the unions.He’s playing hardball with a client of mine.
See also: hardball, play
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

play hardball

verb
See also: hardball, play

play hardball (with someone)

tv. 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.
See also: hardball, play, someone
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

play hardball

Behave aggressively and competitively, act ruthlessly. The term comes from baseball, where it is used to distinguish the normal ball from the somewhat larger and softer ball used in softball. It began to be used figuratively in the 1970s. A New York Times article about Senate majority leader Bill Frist, pointing out that he needs to enlist support from Democrats, quoted him saying, “I can play hardball as well as anybody.”
See also: hardball, play
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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