The Blue Jays and Rangers rivalry is far from over
Sunday’s game between the Blue Jays and Rangers had eight total ejections
This isn’t over. Sure, the Blue Jays and Rangers won’t meet again in the 2016 regular season and can only play again if they meet in the playoffs.
I’m telling you right now it’s going to happen.
Argue with me all you want about how the Blue Jays bullpen can’t get them to the playoffs, or the Rangers don’t have the depth to win their division, or whatever you want to use as the rationale. Any other day I may agree with you, but today I’m absolutely convinced that the baseball gods aren’t done with this story.
For a while, it looked like we may get through the season series without an incident. The anticipated “incident” being a retaliation from the Rangers against Jose Bautista, for the now infamous “bat flip” in the ALDS last year. Sunday’s game marked the 7th and final regular season meeting between the budding rivals, and it wasn’t until the 7th inning that things finally came to a head.
With pitcher Matt Bush on the mound in just his second big league appearance, Bautista was greeted with the high and tight fastball we all expected six games ago. While fans chided Bautista and he was clearly upset with being plunked, it wasn’t until his slide into second on a play later in the inning that things got out of hand.
By now you’ve all seen it, but if not…..
Within minutes of the Raptors clinching their first ever appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA, the Twitter-verse was blowing up with images of Rougned Odor punching Jose Bautista, and the subsequent fallout. John Gibbons returning to the field after being ejection (which will surely bring a one game suspension his way), Kevin Pillar chasing after Odor like a maniac, and Josh Donaldson charging through the crowd with his head down like a bull.
All told, the game had eight ejections including Bautista, Donaldson, Gibbons, bench coach DeMarlo Hale (who took over for Gibbons as manager), and Jesse Chavez, who returned the favour to the robust thigh of Prince Fielder on the first pitch after things had settled down.
The comments from writers, and the players themselves, will be a storyline this season, even if the teams don’t match up again.
And lastly (although there are many, many more), the one that sums up one of my major feelings on the incident. I may be Canadian, but I like to keep my baseball and hockey separate:
After the game, Gregg Zaun of Sportsnet said, “everybody did exactly what they’re supposed to. Bush did what he was supposed to, Bautista did what he was supposed to, and so did Odor”.
While I agree (or more accurately, can “live with”) that both Bush and Bautista were following the ever-important “baseball code”, and were sticking up for themselves and their teams respectively, I can’t do the same for Odor.
Bush is looking to make an impression with his new club and hopefully stick as a first time big leaguer. He may have relished the opportunity to get Bautista back for last year’s bat-flip slight against the Rangers. Similarly, I don’t believe it’s outside of the realm of baseball code to slide through a base to break up a double play, after being thrown at in controversy. Last season that same play may have gone by without a second thought, or worse, Bautista may have made sure he broke up the double play, one way or another.
But what Odor actually did was over the top, and there is simply no room for it in baseball regardless of whether or not you like Bautista and his bat tossing antics. You especially can’t do that when you’re essentially a third-year player, albeit a good one, and hitting a star player. It’s not good for the players involved, either team, or the league.
It will be an interesting case, simply because you don’t see a lot of haymakers thrown and landed in the MLB. Plenty of dugouts clear throughout the season, and many a chest is puffed out, but rarely does an actual fight take place. The only one I could think of off the top of my head in the minutes following was Nolan Ryan walloping on Robin Ventura in the 90’s. Of course I wasn’t alone, as the memes were plentiful:
That’s why this story can’t end there, and I refuse to believe it will. Yes, there are many variables that need to fall in place in order for a playoff re-match to happen, but in a little over four months, you can bet I’ll be tagging this article in another. It may be to point out that I was blatantly wrong, but we’ll deal with that when we get there.
A suspension for Odor is almost certainly coming, but the Blue Jays won’t be satisfied with just that. Baseball is (unfortunately) a game a grudges, as we’ve witnessed first hand with this incident, and this may well be the fire the Jays needed to kick into the next gear going forward.
The only person truly satisfied with this incident is likely Odor, and that just isn’t right.
C’mon baseball gods, make this happen in October for Round 2.