“Make baseball fun again.”
I’m not certain if the incident that occurred between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers Sunday afternoon was what Bryce Harper had in mind when he spearheaded the campaign to breathe life back into the game.
Nonetheless, what happened between these two teams was seven months in the making, and it took the final plate appearance from Jose Bautista in the last game of the season series for the Rangers to exact their revenge.
It started with Matt Bush, the 30-year-old rookie who spent the last 12 years of his life trying to make it back into the big leagues. Last season, when Bautista hit his home run heard across the world in game five of the ALDS, Bush was sitting in a prison cell. He spent more than three years in jail after driving under the influence and causing serious bodily injury during a car crash. The Rangers team and organization certainly had no difficulty opening their arms to a player of this stature, but they did have a problem with the flipping of a bat, and this is what sparked the next exchange.
The 5’9”, right-hander, plunked Bautista with a 96 mph fastball that deflected off his elbow and into his ribcage in the eighth inning. His comeback story has been great, don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to bash Matt Bush. He needed to prove himself to his teammates and the fan base, and he took the first opportunity he could find. He provided the cliche “no comment,” after the game when asked whether or not it was intentional. Yes, it was.
Justin Smoak approached the plate with public enemy number one in Texas land on first base. After grounding out to Adrian Beltre, the potential hall of famer tossed the ball to Rougned Odor, looking for a double play. Bautista wouldn’t have anything of it and responded to getting intentionally hit by sliding hard through the bag. Real, old-school style move on his part. As he said after the game “I tried to send a message that I didn’t appreciate getting hit.” Which makes sense, you respond to a heated “baseball play” with one of your own. What transpired next is rarely seen on a diamond. Odor popped up and delivered a towering right hook to the face of Bautista before the benches cleared. Odor will likely and rightfully face a hefty suspension. The second baseman can be up in arms all he wants, but he has to be able to receive the punishment if he is going to dish it out. There are several cited occurrences that show Odor over-sliding and trying to take out his counterpart. His being more dangerous than the one he received Sunday afternoon. Not being lost here is the work of Josh Donaldson and Kevin Pillar for stepping up and backing their teammate, coming out of their respective dugout like raging bulls. Pillar was seen taking on four Rangers at once, while Donaldson delivered a WWE-like spear to Odor.
The funny thing is, the mayhem caused in Arlington ultimately boiled down to a bat flip. Someone caught in the moment. A blast that will live on forever in Toronto and in the rest of Canada. A bat flip. For the Rangers, who sulked about it all offseason, to get their revenge on Bautista’s final plate appearance of the season series, shows their true colours. If you are going to get your retribution, do it in the first game, and have it be done by someone who was a part of the 2015 roster.
As far as the fight goes, was it a good thing to have an all-out brawl in Texas? Probably not. But, to many, baseball is a passive sport. In some eyes, it was a refreshing anecdote. To witness players pouring gas on top of an already heated rivalry that will no doubt continue onto next season, or better yet, in the playoffs, is a rare sight in this sport. So many times we see players talk and not act. Now, I’m not saying that a bench-clearing brawl is needed to enjoy the game, not by a long shot. But, it is invigorating to see players back up their teammates under these circumstances and show the world that there are consequences in baseball too.