By my calculations, I was sound asleep en route to San Francisco in seat 12F, the sweet exit-row seat where there’s no seat in front of you, about the time Rougned Odor buckled Jose Bautista’s knees with a solid right to the left cheek.
Once on the ground, I popped on my cell phone and went to my Twitter feed to see if the Texas Rangers had won the rubber match against the Toronto Blue Jays, and couldn’t believe what I had missed. What I didn’t see on the Twitter was found quickly as a TV at the nearest airport bar was showing the brawl.
In the aftermath of Odor-Bautista I, many thoughts have been written in stories or put down on the Twitter or aired on TV. Most are from people who, like me, weren’t there.
As such, I was hesitant to offer the following More Rangers Reaction, in addition to what the Star-Telegram’s Stefan Stevenson had to say, but that cell phone isn’t just for Twitter. It can make and receive phone calls and text messages, and has.
Along with it has come some pretty interesting stuff from some baseball folks, plus a few of my own thoughts.
1. More than a few have pointed out that Odor’s arm angle as Bautista was sliding in was intentionally low and led to accusations that Odor was trying to hit Bautista with a thrown ball as he slid into the base.
It was low, according to big leaguers, because that’s what middle infielders do.
One player said that it’s common for middle infielders to go low in trying to complete a double play in an effort to protect himself from the in-coming base runner.
To that point, after former All-Star Torii Hunter pointed out the arm angle on Twitter, former teammate Justin Verlander, a pitcher mind you, replied that middle infielders are taught to throw low to avoid prevent a base runner from coming in high.
Anyone who has watched more than one play of Rangers baseball this season knows that Odor throws from all kinds of angles, frequently from where he threw with Bautista coming at him.
Those saying Odor was trying to hit Bautista are wrong.
2. If hitting Bautista was intentional, resulting from his infamous bat flip in Game 5 of the division series last year, it’s a shame that it was Matt Bush who got put in charge of it.
Bush, as was documented Friday, is a recovering alcoholic who was serving a jail sentence this time a year ago. The Rangers had genuine concern about how he would handle being in the big leagues and all that comes with it, and in his second career appearance he is thrown into a fracas that took root two weeks before he completed his sentence.
The Rangers also raved about the excellent command Bush had, making it A) unlikely that a pitch would just get away from him, even in his second career outing and B) likely he wouldn’t miss Bautista.
Bush had to answer questions about it after the game. He, according to folks at the game, was helping rile up the crowd after he left the game by waving his arms to them. So was the manager after the brawl.
If the Rangers wanted to hit Bautista, and they did, they should have done it before Bush pitched. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said that the Rangers should have done it earlier this month, in the first game between the teams. It was gutless to do it in their last matchup of the season, Gibbons said.
What did he want, advance notice? Maybe a note from counterpart Jeff Banister?
Hey, bud, we’re going to go ahead and hit Bautista today in his last at-bat. Tell him to wear even more armor than he normally does and to not have any hard feelings about it. It’s just baseball.
P.S. Your bullpen is worse than ours.
3. Multiple photos are making the rounds showing Odor’s past questionable slides into second base. He’s a hypocrite, I guess those tweeters are implying. Those slides were as bad as Bautista’s, but that doesn’t make Bautista’s any less bad or mean that Odor can’t be angry someone tried to break his legs.
Blue Jays teammate Josh Donaldson, who TV replays showed also took a shot from Odor after wildly jumping into the melee as if Bautista had just tagged him into the ring, said that a player is going to slide with ill-intentions after just getting plunked.
(Not sure where that comment ranks on the Smart-’O-Meter, but I’ll say three or under.)
The slide was deemed illegal after a replay review, and Justin Smoak was called out at first. Double play. Inning over. Sam Dyson closed it out an inning later, and then the clubhouse doors opened to the media and the flood gates to the Twitter opened.
Among those venting was Marcus Stroman, the Blue Jays’ staff ace and, by all accounts, a good kid who worked hard to return from a knee injury last year and a fan favorite. He graduated from Duke on Sunday, and later said on the Twitter that he will never respect Odor.
That led to a witty reply from former Rangers pitchers Brandon McCarthy, who asked, “Was Bautista winding up to tickle him?”
But the Stroman tweet comes from a player who tested positive as a minor-leaguer for a banned substance. It was unintentional, he claimed, as the performance-enhancing drug was in an over-the-counter supplement he was intentionally taking and didn’t know, unintentionally, of course, it contained something on the banned list.
Just last season Stroman was suspended five games for intentionally throwing at a batter’s head.
Not sure Odor wants his respect.
4. Also seen on the Twitter, at least before he deleted it, was a tweet from former Rangers pitcher and native Texan Daniel McCutchen, another PED guy, who lauded Odor for doing something that all current and former big leaguers wished they could have done.
Bautista, you see, is one of the most unpopular players in the game among his peers. One player on a different team whose thoughts I sought was asked if anyone likes Bautista.
“Not that I know of,” the player said.
Odor’s stock with other teams might actually rise because of what he did.
“Odor’s the man,” the player added.
But Bautista’s lack of popularity isn’t justification for getting popped in the jaw, just as Odor’s past slides aren’t justification for him being on the receiving end of a late slide. Bautista’s bat flip and slide and constant whining about strike calls probably weren’t justification, either.
Notice on the replay, though, that he popped up with his chest out. Odor took it the way Bautista meant it to be took.
Afterward Bautista told reporters the following: “He got me good, but it takes a little bit of a bigger man to knock me down.”
Pretty weak. Mr. Popularity got whipped by someone not even in his weight class.
5. The fallout, i.e. Odor’s suspension, could come as early as Tuesday. Odor will likely appeal unless the punishment comes after MLB consults the players association first. If that occurs, Odor will take the penalty.
I would expect no less than six games.
The Rangers can’t replace him on the roster with a 25th player. They will have to play short for however long he’s out. They will option a reliever to the minor leagues, going back to a standard seven-man bullpen, and recall an infielder.
The logical choice is Jurickson Profar, who on Thursday said that he was going to being taking grounders at second base this week. Profar, on the 40-man roster, homered Sunday for Triple A Round Rock.