In the annals of Texas Rangers baseball history, Rougned Odor’s straight right hand to Jose Bautista’s jaw will probably rank somewhere in the middle of the Top 10 punches.
Despite the huffed-up self-outrage in some quarters, yeah, that’s about all it will rank. Don’t forget this is the franchise where a disgruntled second baseman once clocked the manager in pregame.
Lots of folks have thrown around terms like vicious, brutal, devastating in describing the dust-up. It happened in the eighth inning after Toronto had just managed to squander a 6-3 lead in one half-inning. The guess from these quarters is the Blue Jays were more than a little ticked-off.
It started with Rangers’ pitcher Mike Bush plunking Bautista in the ribs with the first pitch in the eighth inning. You could say that started it all because it put Jose down at first.
Blue Jays’ skipper John Gibbons, who had been thrown out of the game earlier for expressing his opinions, even claimed later hitting Bautista to lead off the inning in a one-run game was intentional.
“Everybody is going to say, `Oh, it was a one-run game. The ball got away,’ Gibbon said later after qualifying to get thrown out twice in the same game by coming charging out of the locker room when the fisticuffs started. “That ain’t going to fly.”
Well, John, it WAS a one-run game and you are sorta carrying a gas can while holding a lit match by doing that, but, okay, that’s about all you can say at that point.
With Bautista on first, Justin Smoak hit a ground ball to Beltre, who threw toward Odor in the hopes of starting a double play. Bautista’s hard slide into Odor was ruled an automatic double play by the umpires, ending the inning.
They didn’t get around to another pitch for about 10 minutes or so.
Odor and Bautista began exchanging comments about the ferocity of the slide. Odor pushed Bautista, who then balled up a fist and moved his arm to, well, we’ll never know because Odor shot a quick right hand into Odor’s jaw.
“I was pretty surprised,” Bautista said. “I mean, obviously, that’s the only reason that he got me and he got me pretty good, so I have to give him that. It takes a little bit bigger man to knock me down.”
Spoken in true baseball fashion. Amidst all the talk of playing by the game’s unwritten rules, one of them is to never admit backing down from a fight or rubbing anything that is hurting like it should be amputated. Oh, and you never admit you lost one, either and the only reason you did is because of an outside contributing factor.
He could have — accurately — said he couldn’t do anything about it immediately afterwards as Adrian Beltre had him in a pretty stiff bear hug and Bautista didn’t fight too hard to get out of it.
Shoot, back in 1993 when Nolan Ryan got Robin Ventura in a headlock and proceeded to beat him about the head with several noogie shots, Ventura claimed outside interference.
“I knew Pudge (Rodriguez) was behind me and I was kinda checking on him more than looking at the mound,” he said in the lockerroom later while rubbing the knots on his noggin.
Bautista and Odor were ejected along with Toronto’s Josh Donaldson and Rangers bench coach Steve Buechele.
Once order was restored, Blue Jays reliever Jesse Chavez hit Prince Fielder with the next pitch, who proceeded to laugh about the whole thing as it was a pretty weak payback pitch. Chavez was ejected after umpires had warned both teams earlier in the eighth inning when Bautista was hit by Bush.
In the end, it was baseball truly as it used to be.
“It was just two hard-nosed baseball teams that play the game hard,” said Texas skipper Jeff Banister, who exchanged words with Gibbons as the field was being cleared. Whether he was surprised at Gibbons being on the field after being booted earlier is not known at this time. “They like their club. We like our club. I take offense to everybody that thinks this is a game that shouldn’t be played hard, that it shouldn’t be played with emotion and intensity.”
And that’s probably the most accurate assessment of the whole thing.
That, plus the Rangers won the game.
By the way, that shoots them into first in the AL West as Seattle lost it’s third straight.