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Bautista vs Texas, Part II – Breaking Down the Brawl

The Texas Rangers should just change their logo to the Crying Jordan Meme. Because they continue to be the biggest crybabies in all of professional sports, as demonstrated by their actions leading to a bench-clearing brawl on Sunday afternoon in Arlington.In order to try and make sense of what ensued (which I admit, is probably a fool’s errand) I’m going to break this down piece by piece.

Matt Bush Hits Jose Bautista

I have several issues with this. Let’s start with the fact Texas waited until Bautista’s final plate appearance against them this season to carry out their “revenge” for him showing an awesome display of human emotion in a playoff game SEVEN MONTHS AGO. That in itself is stupid. But that’s THE BASEBALL CODE, so we are told we must accept it. Whatever.

Another problem: the pitcher selected for revenge is rookie Matt Bush, who has a storied past that includes serving over three years in prison for multiple DUIs. Having made his MLB debut at age 30 on Friday night, he has no prior history with the Texas Rangers, was not a member of the team last season, was not involved in Game 5 of the ALDS. He really only has a beef with Bautista because he was wearing a Texas uniform TODAY. The veteran pitchers on the team should be embarrassed that they had to hide behind a rookie. If you’re that pissed off at what Bautista did, it should be one of them. Hell, it should be Sam Dyson who is forced to do it. He was the pitcher Bautista hit the home run off, he should have to answer the call if he’s still that butt hurt.

Further, they drilled Bautista in the ribs with a 96 MPH slider. In THE BASEBALL CODE this type of punishment is to be delivered in a non-injury threatening part of the body, most commonly the back, ass or thigh. Somewhere with muscle protection. It would have been so easy for Bautista to break a rib being hit in that area.

Texas is trying to use the defence that it was not intentional because Bautista represented the tying run in a close game, but when asked for comment after the game, Bush replied “no comment.” So, yeah. It wasn’t an accident.

Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna, whose strike zone was crap all day, and tossed John Gibbons for arguing about it earlier in the game, warned both benches immediately. This never makes sense to me. Why do the Jays get warned when they’ve done nothing wrong? If you think Bush did it intentionally, you have to toss him then. Not wait until he does it again. First base ump Dale Scott was on the crew for the ALDS. Why the hell would MLB assign this guys to this series, with so much bad blood in recent history because of the playoffs?

Jose Bautista Hard Take-Out Slide at Second Base

Let’s start by saying this was a stupid and selfish play by Bautista. As I mentioned, he represented the tying run in a 1-run game. With one out, Justin Smoak hit a grounder to third, and Bautista, having already been the victim of MLB’s new take-out slide rule this season, knew full-well that a slide that aggressive would result in an automatic double play, ending the inning. However, if he doesn’t violate the rule (which, for the record, has gone too far and still needs to be re-adjusted), Smoak is safe at first, bringing Troy Tulowitzki, who had 3 hits in the game, to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Just a dumb, selfish play by a guy playing with emotion, and needing to have the last word in this scenario.

The slide itself wasn’t THAT egregious. In fact, if this was last year, we wouldn’t even be looking twice at it. But it’s this year, so that’s important. But he actually makes contact with the bag first, and then follows through hard into Roughned Odor, but certainly not hard enough to hurt him. Bautista said after the game he could have hurt him if he wanted to, but chose not to. It’s hard to really think Jose took the high road here, but he’s certainly going to try and argue that.

So it was an unnecessary slide, that really wasn’t that big of a deal, and hurt the Blue Jays in the process. Bad look, Jose.

 

Did Odor try to hit Bautista in the face?

I hadn’t really examined that aspect very closely until seeing this, but now I have very little doubt in my mind that Odor was trying to hit Bautista (probably in the head, not in the face). I understand infielders sometimes use a sidearm angle when turning a double play. Hell, Tulo does it all the time. But it doesn’t look like Odor needed to go that low. And former players are seeing it this way, too.

If true, dick move. Ban him for 30 games.

The Punch

Bautista sizes up Odor, knowing he just went in asking for trouble. Odor gives Bautista a hard shove. Bautista, having shown he’s lived in Canada for nearly a decade, reaches for the collar of Odor’s jersey with his left hand, much like hockey players do at the start of a scrap. Before he can get his right hand in position, Odor cocks him square in the jaw, knocking off his batting helmet and sunglasses. I’m not gonna lie, the slow-mo video looks really awesome.

But this isn’t hockey (the only sport in which punching a guy in the face is allowed). You can’t punch a guy in the face in baseball. You just can’t. MLB needs that message to be heard loud and clear in their disciplinary action. They do a crap job of discouraging pitchers from intentionally hitting batters, which leads to this type of crap in the first place. Does a 6-game suspension which results in one start pushed back really deter a pitcher from doing this? No. Relievers miss usually a week, tops. While it sucks for them, it kinda helps in the long run, keeping their arm fresh down the stretch. If you sit guys on their ass for 20-plus games, maybe you eliminate this garbage from the game.

The After-Slide Aftermath

There’s all kinds of pandemonium. Kevin Pillar had to take on four guys by himself. Josh Donaldson spears two guys, making WWE look tame. Adrian Beltre gives Bautista a giant bear hug to restrain him. Some anonymous Blue Jays staffer is pulled off the pile, looking irate. Odor, meanwhile, is at the back of the pack, literally standing behind every one of his teammates. WHAT A HERO.

Gibbons, ejected earlier in the game remember, comes back on the field, and I have no problem with that. He did this against the Royals in August last year, too, so he knows better, and he’ll get suspended again for it. But when your franchise slugger gets socked in the face, you send a message to your whole team saying you have their back by coming back on the field, consequences be damned.

If you watch the highlights on the Texas broadcast they deliver a low blow by saying “Gibbons doesn’t want any part of Jeff Bannister. With all the energy he could muster just to make it to the outfield.” They’re essentially saying Gibby is old, slow, fat, etc and wouldn’t have the energy. Just crap. (Gibbons is a Texas guy, btw. You’d think they’d support one of their own, or something.)

Bannister raised his hands in the air as if to fire up his troops on the way back to the dugout. Encouraging more chaos. Cool dude. He won’t be suspended, nor does he deserve to be, but if I’m at MLB head offices, I give him a phone call to cut that shit out.

The Bottom Half

Jesse Chavez, who blew the save by giving up a 3-run home run, comes out in the bottom half of the eighth, and under normal circumstances wouldn’t be sent back out for another inning, drills Prince Fielder with the first pitch, and is tossed. Chavez was in essence a sacrificial lamb here, knowing the action needed to be taken, and the pitcher would get thrown out. Was it necessary? Probably not. Do I have a problem with it? Maybe a little, but not enough to get worked up about it.

And at the end of the day, the stupidest part about ALL of this …

Well said, Arden.

The bat flip was seen as “disrespectful” and Bautista and others need to “play the game the right way.” That “right way” includes hitting batters in retaliation, and hard take-out slides at second base. So according to old-school thinkers, both Bush and Bautista are in the right. But the “right way” does not include sucker-punching an opponent in the face. As I said above, this is all a result of THE BASEBALL CODE, which is the dumbest set of unwritten rules in all of sports. Let’s play by the rules that are actually written down, thanks.

More importantly, this loss drops the Blue Jays back a game below .500. It’s time for them to start winning ball games on a more consistent basis.

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