Gil LeBreton

Bautista, Blue Jays return ... for next chapter vs. Rangers?

Jose Bautista says it doesn’t bother him if he’s viewed as a villain. “What can I do to change it?” he said. “I’m not going to start some nationwide tour to prove to people that I’m a nice guy.”
Jose Bautista says it doesn’t bother him if he’s viewed as a villain. “What can I do to change it?” he said. “I’m not going to start some nationwide tour to prove to people that I’m a nice guy.” AP

The bell had barely rung last May, signaling the end of the Rougned Odor-Jose Bautista fight, when the internet judges were already rendering their verdict.

“Good for you, Odor,” tweeted former Seattle infielder Matt Mangini, adding an #oldschool hashtag.

“Cleanest punch I’ve ever seen landed in the big leagues,” chimed in 12-year veteran Jeremy Guthrie.

And from Padres ex-pitcher Daniel McCutchen came this Twitter gem:

“On behalf of former and current MLB players, I would like to thank Rougned Odor for that beautiful punch.”

Rangers infielder Rougned Odor said the history between Texas and Toronto doesn't matter in the postseason (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

It was The Punch Heard ’Round Baseball. Scrappy, irksome Odor, who stands, oh, maybe 5-foot-8 with the right number of phone books, rocked one of the foremost irritants in the game.

And while today’s adversaries have meticulously filtered their responses, insisting that the stage is too meaningful, too brightly lit, for the war between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays to resume, fate has brought them together again.

“I wouldn’t expect anything,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “But nobody seems to want to let it go ...

“Every time you turn on the TV, it’s a replay after replay after replay.”

No sooner had Edwin Encarnacion’s wild card game-winning homer landed amidst the Labatt’s empties in left field Tuesday night, the TBS broadcasters and MLB Network were showing us montages that traced the history of Texas v. Toronto.

Who started it? You’ll get two answers, of course, one for each side of the border.

At the time, Bautista called it “very cowardly” for the Rangers to wait until his final at-bat of the series to hit him with a 96-mph Matt Bush fastball.

“To me it was gutless,” Gibbons said. “The other 29 teams out there, if they’ve got an issue, they come at you right away.

“Wait till the end ... it just kinda tells me a little bit something.”

Gibbons seemed to be directing his barbs at Rangers manager Jeff Banister, who didn’t exactly watch the May brawl from a neutral corner.

Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar said that there is a dislike between his team and the Rangers, but he and manager John Gibbons don't expect any new issues (video by Jeff Wilson).

So let’s review. We have pint-sized second basemen KO’ing slugging right fielders. We have manager hating on manager. We have the league’s MVP, Josh Donaldson, hurtling himself like a human cannonball into the crowd.

And we’re supposed to believe the bad blood between the two sides won’t come to a boil again until next May?

No way, Jose.

Bautista echoed the just-stick-to-baseball chorus Wednesday, which was somewhat predictable. But he raised brows when he continued with his “who, me?” act.

I asked him how he liked being the lightning rod for AL fans’ rancor towards the Blue Jays.

Like where, he asked? I don’t know. Pick a city. There’s 14 to choose from, not counting interleague play.

“I don’t remember getting booed in Boston and Tampa,” Bautista replied innocently. “I think the only place where I’m kind of disliked is Kansas City. I guess they have their reasons to.

“I don’t take pride in being hated. Absolutely not. I don’t think I’m a guy who does things purposely to get hated.

“If helping my team win ballgames, and me having to go about it the way I have to, make some people hate me, so be it.”

Throughout Canada, Bautista is a hero, and that’s totally understandable. He has been an All-Star player, blessed with a flair for the dramatic.

But around the rest of baseball — sorry if this is breaking news to anyone — Bautista is viewed as a cocky player, heavy on antagonizing theatrics, who whines on nearly every ball-strike call.

“I can’t say (the criticism) bothers me too much,” Bautista said Tuesday. “What can I do to change it? I’m not going to start some nationwide tour to prove to people that I’m a nice guy.”

No, it’s too late for that now. The internet has spoken, at least this side of the border of it.

Just turn on the TV on Thursday. Hear the boos.

Wait for the next chapter?

Rangers Game 1 pitcher Cole Hamels acknowledges the hype surrounding the ALDS but said both teams are focused on the World Series (video by Jeff Wilson).

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