Rangers manager Jeff Banister: "Obviously, we knew suspensions were coming"
Major League Baseball has spoken, levying suspensions and fines Tuesday for the Sunday brawl between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays.
Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor was handed an eight-game suspension for a solid right cross to the jaw of six-time All-Star Jose Bautista, and shortstop Elvis Andrus was unexpectedly banned one game for taking a swing during the melee.
Four more Rangers players and a coach were fined undisclosed amounts, while Bautista was handed a one-game suspension and manager John Gibbons and right-hander Jesse Chavez were told to sit for three games. MLB went after the wallets of three more Blue Jays.
In the 48 hours between the brawl and the punishments, journalists who cover MLB and some of the game’s players have spoken. As a result of some of what was said about Odor, the Rangers wanted to speak, too.
Their 22-year-old budding All-Star is not a dirty player, as some have labeled him for slides into second base last season, which at the time were legal, and for an A-ball brawl as a 17-year-old and for the Sunday fracas at Globe Life Park.
“I probably take it a little harder when I see ‘dirty player’ attached or I hear ‘dirty player’ attached to Rougned Odor and I think what I know about Rougie,” manager Jeff Banister said.
“He is such a team player. He does everything to be able to play for the team. He plays hard for the team, to win for the team. It’s never individualized for him. It’s always about the team. He plays with passion for the team.”
Odor was in the Rangers’ lineup Tuesday night in a late game against the Oakland A’s after notifying MLB that he will appeal his punishment, and he can continue to play while his suspension is held in abeyance until his appeal is heard.
Odor spoke again with reporters but had very little to say. He said that he has spoken with his agent, Rick Thurman, and isn’t sure if he will speak directly with the union attorney handling his appeal or with baseball officials.
“I knew I was going to be suspended,” Odor said. “I just have to follow the rules. I’m just waiting.”
Odor said on Monday that he doesn’t worry about talk of him being a dirty player, saying that he plays hard to help his team win, and current and retired players across the game contacted by the Star-Telegram overwhelmingly agreed.
He’s hard-nosed and carries himself confidently, players said, but he isn’t dirty.
The Rangers are confident that he won’t be adversely affected by the fallout from the biggest story in baseball so far this season and the fallout from it, with assistant general manager Thad Levine saying, “Unequivocally, no.”
The Rangers’ concern is how some are portraying Odor as dirty.
“If anything comes out of this process which in our minds is unfortunate, it’s the mischaracterization of Rougned Odor and what he stands for,” Levine said. “Anyone who is around him in this organization, people who have played with him and against him, know this guy has a heart of a champion.
“For him to be construed anything shy of that, I think, is a misfortune. I hope through this process that will be remedied. I think he’s taking this to heart. He’s not relishing the fact that he’s going to be away from the team at some point. We’re standing behind him, and, candidly, we wish we had another 100 Rougned Odors in the organization.”
Levine speculated that the appeal could be heard as soon as Thursday, an off day, or as late as Monday, when the Rangers return home from their six-game road trip. Andrus chose not to appeal his suspension and served it Tuesday.
Right-hander Matt Bush was fined for intentionally throwing at Bautista, fellow right-hander Sam Dyson and bench coach Steve Buechele were fined for aggressive actions, and righty A.J. Griffin and catcher Robinson Chirinos were fined for being on the field while on the disabled list.
Bautista was suspended for his actions and for his postgame comments in which he admitted he slid illegally into second base to make a point. John Gibbons was suspended because he came back to the field after having previously been ejected, and Chavez got three games for hitting Prince Fielder after both teams had been warned.
Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson and center fielder Kevin Pillar, who charged wildly into the melee and was the target of an Andrus punch, were fined along with bench coach DeMarlo Hale.
Odor’s punch came two batters after Bush hit Bautista in the padding on his left elbow and the ball deflected down and hit Bautista in the hip. It was the first pitch of the inning.
An angry Bautista went to first base and later slid late into second base as Odor tried to turn a double play. Bautista hopped up with his chest out. Odor shoved him and then beat Bautista to the punch with a right to the jaw as it looked as if Bautista was getting ready to punch him.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre grabbed Bautista and restrained him well back from the growing melee, in which it is believed that Odor also punched Donaldson.
Banister did not say if he thought the Blue Jays’ punishments were too light, though some Rangers quietly though Pillar deserved a suspension. Banister said he is focused on his team, which knew punishments were coming and is making plans to fill Odor’s void at second base (Jurickson Profar) and in the leadoff spot in the batting order (Shin-Soo Choo).
But their primary concern is for Odor’s reputation, which they say has been sullied the past 48 hours.
The Rangers contend that he isn’t a dirty player.
“So, yeah, I probably take the context of the words ‘dirty player’ a little harder because I know him so well,” Banister said. “I know what’s in his heart, what’s in his mind, and I know where his competitive fire is at.”