To play hardball means to employ ruthless methods and tactics in order to succeed, to use any means necessary to achieve success, to show no mercy while attempting to obtain something one wants. Hardball is another name for American baseball, as opposed to softball which is played with a larger, softer ball. The term seems to have been first used in a figurative sense by the American newspaper columnist Robert Ruark in 1949. The term play hardball became popular during the 1970s, as the idiom was used often by President Nixon’s speechwriters. Occasionally hardball is rendered as two words, as in play hard ball, but the single word hardball has become much more common.
Najib Abdul Razak’s former political secretary Oh Ei Sun said his ex-boss will play hardball politics (politik keras) in his bid to stay in power. (The Malaysia Chronicle)
He was willing to play hardball, and when the legislature passed a no-new-taxes budget, he vetoed the entire thing, rather than just a portion of it. (The Christian Science Monitor)
Government has clearly indicated that it wants him to pay up, period) and eventually wriggle his way out of the system, he will continue to play hardball. (The Daily Pioneer)
Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid have confirmed they want to re-sign Diego Costa this summer but are braced for Chelsea to play hardball over a fee for the striker. (The Telegraph)
The Sask. Party government was able to “play both sides of the street” when we were awash in oil and potash money — it could keep taxes low, give raises to nurses — but Farney says “at some point soon, they’re going to have to play hardball.” (The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix)
Instead of providing a “helping hand” to Mehbooba as Mufti’s successor on the CM’s chair and head of the coalition in J&K, BJP decided to play hard ball and refused to give her any “political cushion” to begin her new innings. (The Indian Express)