When looking at a monumental moment it’s important to look at the context surrounding it. The Toronto BlueJays were on top of the baseball world when they won back to back World Series’ in 1992 and ’93. Nobody could have predicted the drought that was coming but they wouldn’t reach the playoffs again until 22 years later.
The 2015 ALDS did not disappoint.
The Texas Rangers took the first 2 games of the best of 5 but Toronto stormed back to force a deciding game back home. At the Rogers Centre. In the middle of a Canadian October. All the drama of the first 4 games was nothing compared to the 7th inning on October 14th. The bottom of the 7th alone took just under 30 minutes.
It all culminated with BlueJays slugger Jose Bautista taking a 1-1 fastball from Rangers reliever Sam Dyson into the seats in left field for a 3-run homerun. It remains one of the most iconic moments in the history of Toronto sports. Bautista celebrated accordingly with a bat flip that has been cheered, jeered, and everything in between.
Texas did not appreciate it.
Fast forward all the way to last night to Globe Life Park in Arlington for the last time the teams will meet each other this season. In Jose Bautista’s last at bat of the night he gets plunked by a Matt Bush fastball. On the ensuing play he slides hard into 2nd on a ground ball resulting in Rangers 2nd baseman Rougned Odor delivering a vicious right cross to his jaw and the benches clearing.
The Hit By Pitch
Let’s get this out of the way right now. The fact that Texas felt the need to retaliate for Jose Bautista hitting a monster home run in the deciding game of a playoff series is absurd. If they were so upset maybe they shouldn’t have thrown one of the elite sluggers in the game a fastball on the inner half. Jose Bautista has been putting those in the seats for years so do yourself a favour and make a better pitch. Professional sports is full of dinosaurs that still live by the unwritten rules that players should be humble when they accomplish something. Instead we should allow players’ personalities to shine through. If you do something iconic feel free to celebrate it. It’s embarrassing that the Rangers have been sitting on this since October and they still feel the need to retaliate in Bautista’s last at bat of the last game between the two teams. This whole thing should have been over a long time ago.
With that in mind, the notion that what Matt Bush did is somehow related to, or connected to the struggles that he has gone through to get here is disgusting. We should be applauding people that are able to turn their life around and make a positive impact in society. Waking up this morning and hearing people make a correlation between the two is sad. Cliff Corcoran wrote a great piece the other day about what he overcame to turn his life around.
The slide was illegal. Whether or not you agree with new rules, Bautista started his slide as he got to 2nd and slid right through the bag. It’s pretty hard to look at that and think it’s a good slide. There is a substantial difference between going in hard to break up a double play and trying to take out an infielders legs to hurt them
Jose Bautista has been a great player for the Toronto BlueJays for many years now and I like him a lot. He plays with the kind of emotion that should exist more often in sports and his abilities at the plate put him in the upper echelon of players when it comes to offence. Unfortunately his emotions can get the best of him when he feels like something hasn’t gone his way. You have to be willing to take the bad with the good and with Bautista the pros certainly outweigh the cons. Regardless, in a 1 run game it did not serve his team well to take it upon himself to seek retribution for being hit by a pitch and he should have at least been willing to deal with the fallout of his retribution. Anyone that watches baseball knows that when a player gets hit (and the team thinks it was intentional) they go out and hit someone to even the score. Bautista was far from the only guilty party involved but he shouldn’t be able to escape criticism. He intentionally used a slide that is currently illegal to send a message to his opponent. He’s not innocent.
It’s also worth noting that after everything, BlueJays reliever Jesse Chavez still ended up hitting Prince Fielder in the next half inning.
This is the part where I criticize Rougned Odor but first I have to say that he throws a pretty great right cross. Say what you want about the guy but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cleaner punch landed in a baseball fight. However, all of that toughness went out the window when he smacked Bautista on the head with his glove. The punch itself was a good one though.
Rougned Odor has a history of starting fights with other players in his career and he also has a history of utilizing some questionable at best slides when sliding into 2nd. That’s a fact. I’ve said it earlier but there is a difference between sliding hard to break up a double play and intentionally trying to hurt another player.
The fact that he has a history of doing what Bautista did, and arguably worse, makes it a little bit strange that he got so upset about it being done to him. You either accept those slides as part of the game or you don’t. His reaction had nothing to with the fact that those types of slides are now against the rules. It was the fact that Bautista did it to him, and not other way around. His history of throwing punches on the diamond also makes you wonder if perhaps he wasn’t looking forward to this as soon as Bautista reached 1st.
While I think throwing punches in baseball is unnecessary and I don’t think the whole thing needed to come to blows (remember that this all stems from something that happened in the middle of October) this wasn’t a sucker punch. There’s a shove, Bautista reaches his left hand out towards Odor, and without being inside Jose’s head it looks like he’s cocking back his right hand to throw it. Odor just threw his before he got the chance. This wasn’t an example of one player jumping another and hitting him . It was two players in a fight. A stupid, ridiculous, and unnecessary fight. Just because Bautista lost doesn’t mean he wasn’t in the fight.
At the end of the day there isn’t just one person that deserves blame. While I have no issue with the bat flip itself, Matt Bush shouldn’t have hit Bautista, Bautista shouldn’t have slid into 2nd illegally, and Odor shouldn’t have punched him in the face. Perhaps the umpires also deserve some blame for not keeping things under control.
This should have been over a long time ago and instead it escalated to the point where the benches cleared and punches were thrown. Hopefully now everybody can finally move on and put it behind them. We don’t want this turn into Fight Club because everybody knows you don’t talk about Fight Club
Follow me on twitter @_JaredClarkson