Yesterday was the anniversary of the infamous punch thrown by Rougned Odor to the jaw of Jose Bautista. Naturally, the story came up in the media yesterday, and to me, it still stinks.
On May 15, 2016, the Blue Jays squared off against the Texas Rangers in the rubber match of a three game series in Arlington, and Rangers’ second baseman Rougned Odor took the term “squared off” a little too literally.
We all remember what happened, as Odor landed a haymaker to the jaw of Jose Bautista, instantly blowing up the internet with memes that still make their rounds to this day.
Fortunately for the Bautista and the Blue Jays, they got the last laugh in 2016, as they eliminated the Rangers in the ALDS for the second consecutive year, and karmically, Odor made a crucial error in the deciding game to help bury his team. For Blue Jays fans, it was almost poetic.
For the most part, I’ve managed to let the incident go, although I’d be lying if I said I’ve forgiven Odor completely. As an avid Blue Jays’ fan, he’ll be forever tainted in my eyes, to the point where I even refuse to draft him in Fantasy Baseball drafts, simply because I can’t stomach the idea of putting him in my lineup, talent be damned.
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Beyond that, I’m a grown man so I can generally move past these things, for the most part anyway. But then I got reading yesterday, and sure enough there were articles about the anniversary of said “punch”.
In one particular article, Odor painted the picture of a man who wanted to put the incident behind him, and as the article’s title states, “Texas Rangers: A year later, Rougned Odor has not allowed Jose Bautista punch to define him as a player”.
Here is a video of a random little girl on youtube that summarizes my feelings about the title of that article, from respected Rangers’ writer, Evan Grant (nothing personal here, Mr. Grant).
The article talks about how Odor refuses to sign photos of the incident, which is understandably a common request of the 23 year old. I’ll give him credit that he doesn’t want to profit from the incident, as has been the case with Nolan Ryan over the years and his incident with Robin Ventura (details in Scott’s article), but that’s about as far as I’m willing to go with “credit”.
Scott quotes Rangers’ shortshop and longtime veteran Elvis Andrus, who describes the situation quite well.
"“He knew it was a reaction he wasn’t proud of, he knows it was violent. He just wants to turn the page. But I think he also knows how hard that is. It’s the same thing that happened with Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura, like 100 years ago, and that’s still out there. This is more for the fans now, than for him or us.”"
Yes, Mr. Odor, people don’t just forget about haymakers thrown in a baseball game. The old saying goes that you should forgive, but never forget, and that’s exactly how I believe the Blue Jays need to handle things with Odor going forward, especially this season.
You forgive in the sense that you don’t need to throw fuel on the fire by throwing at him, or any of his teammates when the two teams meet for the first time this season on May 25th. As we’ve witnessed with the recent Red Sox-Orioles rivalry, nobody wins when pitchers are intentionally throwing at batters. I don’t even want to see that, even if Odor is on the receiving end of a fastball to the ribs.
But you don’t forget in the sense that you can beat him where it hurts the most, on the scoreboard, just as the Blue Jays did in last season’s ALDS. It shouldn’t be hard to get fired up for a series with the Rangers at any time, but using the Odor incident as additional motivation is never a bad thing. And frankly, if anyone is going to get booed at the Rogers Centre, I hope it’s Mr. “I don’t want this to define me”.
You can bet that Jose Bautista will have the 25th circled on his calendar, and so should the fans. Yes, the ALDS may have been the last laugh for the Blue Jays in 2016, but as far as I’m concerned, as long as there’s an Odor, it’ll stink a little bit when the Rangers come to town.