Rougned Odor’s popularity among peers soars after punch

Jose Bautista pleads his case with umpire Lance Barrett after a bench-clearing fight broke out against the Texas Rangers.
Jose Bautista pleads his case with umpire Lance Barrett after a bench-clearing fight broke out against the Texas Rangers.

Nearly a week has passed since Rougned Odor became more known for his right cross to Jose Bautista’s jaw and slides into second base last season than for his seven home runs in 2016 and the fact that he’s playing like an American League All-Star.

Take a look at the second basemen around the league. Odor, despite his strong start, might not even be in the top five. Jose Altuve is a shoo-in, and so is Robinson Cano. Ian Kinsler is making a strong case. Dustin Pedroia is having a rebound season. Jason Kipnis might have an edge on Odor, too.

Maybe Odor will gain in the fan vote. The little guy taking on the big, bearded slugger. There are probably a lot of people who have wanted to do what Odor did, pop the guy acting all tough and acting like he’s better than everyone else.

That photo and video clip aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

But the players’ vote also comes into play when picking an All-Star team, and that’s where Odor has a shot. His shot to Bautista has made him a rock star among his peers.

Imagine that: Odor a first time All-Star for the Texas Rangers, sharing the same clubhouse as Bautista.

It might get a little lonely for what would be the Toronto Blue Jay’s seventh All-Star Game.

One AL player has offered to buy Odor an expensive bottle of scotch for his punch. Another AL player simply said via text that “Odor’s the man.” Yet another said that Odor was one of his least favorite players, but because of the punch, “everything changed. New favorite player.”

But it’s not that Odor punched somebody that is being condoned. It’s who he punched.

Bautista is about as popular as Nickelback. If he’s not the most hated among his peers, he’s just behind Alex Rodriguez, who learned how popular he is last year when the players kept him off the All-Star team despite a big first half.

A-Rod, of course, has been caught cheating the game. He’s admitted to it. He sued the players association. Through it all, he remained smug. No wonder he’s so unpopular.

Bautista’s smugness similarly rubs players the wrong way. Everything is about him. There was a time in Bautista’s career when he was barely hanging on in the majors, but he has forgotten his humble beginnings.

The Game 5 bat flip is an example. Had it been a walk-off, the Rangers wouldn’t have been as peeved. Had it clinched the AL pennant or the World Series, they also wouldn’t have been as ticked. But it was in the seventh inning of the ALDS, when it was still completely possible for the Rangers to win the game.

The Rangers didn’t like it, obviously, but the fact that it was Bautista made it worse.

A few more leftovers from the Odor-Bautista brawl:

▪  The bat flip and Matt Bush plunking Bautista have given the crowd who detests the unwritten rules of the game more ammunition to their argument.

Their beef begins with the bat flip being an expression of a player’s emotion, and emotion should always be unbridled. It is in other baseball cultures, like in Korea, where the bat flip is so commonplace that a player might get plunked if he doesn’t do it.

I buy the argument that players need to be aware of how baseball is played in other countries, and that intentionally hitting batters, sliding late into a middle infielder’s legs and punching a player can all lead to injuries and suspensions that hurt a team more than their feelings have been hurt.

But even though baseball is a game, it’s a job to the people playing it and each has expectations of how business in his workplace should be conducted. Just as is the case at any other workplace, things aren’t always full of rainbows and lollipops.

If the joy that comes with a bat flip is acceptable, why can’t players be offended by a bat flip or a hard slide or a slow trot around the bases? Anger is an emotion, too, after all, and sometimes a player gets a ball to the elbow pad.

Maybe I’ll throw a stapler at my editor the next time I don’t like the way something has gone down.

▪  While some Rangers were perplexed that Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar wasn’t suspended for running around the field and admitting that he was out to get Odor, everyone else, it seems, was surprised that Bush wasn’t suspended.

14 Players or coaches who were suspended and/or fined for their actions last Sunday in the Rangers-Blue Jays brawl

There were precedents supporting both outcomes — as was reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal — but Bush avoided a ban based on not admitting to it afterward and by doing it before any warnings had been issued.

Keep in mind that MLB found video of Elvis Andrus swinging at Pillar, shocking everyone — including Andrus. MLB was thorough, but it’s hard to please everyone every time.

▪  A player’s right to appeal is necessary as part of due process protection from The Man, but, man, it sure takes a long time.

Odor’s suspension hearing won’t be until Monday at the earliest but maybe not until Tuesday. He might not know if his eight-game suspension has been reduced until Thursday.

If so, he will have played eight games between the time MLB handed out its punishment and a ruling was made after his appeal.

That doesn’t seem right.

Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor talks about the length of his eight-game suspension (video by Jeff Wilson).

Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor reacts Tuesday to receiving an eight-game suspension (video by Jeff Wilson).

Jeff Banister reacts to the eight-game suspension given Tuesday to Rougned Odor and the one-game suspension handed to Elvis Andrus (video by Jeff Wilson).

Manager Jeff Banister said that the Rangers are looking at ways to fill in for Rougned Odor after he is suspended (video by Jeff Wilson).

Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, asked what he thinks about being considered a dirty player, said he plays to win (video by Jeff Wilson).

Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor felt that Jose Bautista gave Odor no choice but to confront him (video by Jeff Wilson).

Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor talks about what led to him punching Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista on Sunday (video by Jeff Wilson).

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