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Whether Jose Bautista had it coming or not, and that view surely rests on one’s opinion of Bautista in the moments before he dropped his left Sunday afternoon and not after, the game is not Black Friday at Walmart.
The same goes for Rougned Odor, the Texas Rangers’ chippy second baseman whose interpretation of middle-of-the-diamond engagements pivots upon whether he’s doing the breaking up or is the one being broken up.
And how Matt Bush ended up in the middle of this is a study in the accidents of time-space continuum and pure chance.
So the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays despise one another, that we gleaned when a grudge spread over seven months narrowed to the breadth of a red smudge on the off side of Bautista’s jaw, courtesy of a straight right hand from Odor, fighting one class up in weight and several in standing.
The cheers you heard were from those speared in the heart when Bautista’s bat landed on that evening in mid-October. The outrage from those wondering how Bautista got beaten so badly to the punch, particularly as Odor made it clear from the get-go this was not going to be the usual baseball to-do, more backseat grope than schoolyard throw-down.
This, clearly, is what happens when the game’s unwritten rules are found spray-painted across the side of the team bus as it idles in the stadium tunnel. And take that with you, Blue Jays.
To recap, Bautista pimped a home run in the final minutes of a game that eliminated the Rangers last October, Bautista was drilled for it Sunday afternoon by a guy who was getting three squares at the time, Bautista sought revenge for the revenge, and Odor staggered him for it.
The events were especially titillating because Bautista is a superstar and knows it, and because the last time something was hit that hard on a baseball field, well, Bautista himself followed with the bat flip that started all this. Also, the punch was so well timed, so well placed, so professional, the question followed, “Jesus, just who the hell is this Rougned Odor guy?”
He’s the suspended guy. Nearly 48 hours after the Battle of Arlington, Odor was docked eight games and fined $5,000 for punching Bautista, who received a one-game suspension for his actions and postgame comments. Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Chavez received a three-game suspension for intentionally throwing at Prince Fielder, manager John Gibbons received three games for returning to the field after being ejected earlier, and Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus received one game.
All of which seems fair, because no matter how strongly the league believes some things are best settled amongst the fellas, the fact is it cannot have its employees standing out there throwing haymakers. Think of the children. Think of Bautista eating dinner through a straw.
So one rather cool moment – Bautista homers and heaves his bat to downtown Buffalo – furthers a dreary conversation about on-field behavior and sportsmanship and baseball culture and what that’s all supposed to look like when we grow up in different parts of what isn’t a very big world anymore. Then, at the end, a Venezuelan guy playing in Texas takes a swing at a Dominican guy playing in Canada, and get back to us when you’ve sorted that out.
We ask for passion across 162 games and as much of another month as a team survives. So here it is. Sometimes it looks like a hard, even reckless, slide into second base. Ask Odor about that, as he’s played his role on the other side of the violence. Joe Panik and Johnny Giavotella could attest. Sometimes it looks like a fastball in, or a happy gaze in the direction of a home run, or dance off the mound. Sometimes it looks like 60 men running around with their necks turtled trying not to get hit in the back of the head.
It will pass. The Rangers and Blue Jays won’t see each other again in the regular season, though the visitors’ clubhouse at the All-Star Game might be interesting. The Rangers say Bush’s pitch got away, that the Blue Jays overreacted. The Blue Jays say the Rangers waited too long for their vengeance. (Here’s a possible consequence, unintended or not: Bautista surely was expecting to wear a fastball at some point, and while waiting for it batted .179 against the Rangers across seven games.) The truth is somewhere within the shades of blue both teams wear, and isn’t even important anymore. It was coming, and that’s dumb. And someone could’ve been hurt out at second base, and that’s dumb. And if Bautista and Odor had an issue with each other, it seems we have an outcome to that, which is OK. Meantime, the Blue Jays have found no traction in the AL East, and it appears they’ll be at less than full strength for a period, following appeals. And the Rangers have plenty to deal with in the AL West, and they’ll be down a man or two.
That’s the true outcome – lost at-bats, maybe lost games, and at the end of September it’ll be evident what those mean. It probably won’t be good, though, and it probably won’t be worth the bruises inflicted.
The only lasting lesson? Keep your left up, man. Keep your left up.