Gil LeBreton

For Rangers’ Odor, life after The Punch should be good

Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, right, landed the shot heard around the baseball world in May 2015 against Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista.
Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, right, landed the shot heard around the baseball world in May 2015 against Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista. Star-Telegram Archives

Rougned Odor is no one-punch wonder.

The Texas Rangers already knew that, even before last May when Odor – all 5-feet-8 or so inches of him – landed The Greatest Baseball Punch Ever.

Acclaim for the Rangers second baseman rained down, nonetheless, in the aftermath of his solid right to the jaw of the perennially loathed Jose Bautista.

“On behalf of former and current MLB players, I would like to thank Rougned Odor for that beautiful punch,” tweeted ex-San Diego pitcher Daniel McCutchen.

Heim Barbecue promptly announced that Rougie was welcome to eat in the Fort Worth restaurant – for life. “Rougned eats free,” read the T-shirts.

But as Rangers manager Jeff Banister contended Thursday, Odor was broadly respected as a salty player even before that play at second base.

“I think everybody knew who he was prior to him defending himself,” Banister said. “When you talk about in between these lines, the guys who put on uniforms, they knew who Rougned Odor was, who he is and that he plays the game hard. I think they appreciate he plays the game hard.”

My question that precipitated Banister’s response was about what happens next. For Rougned Odor, 23 years young and already beginning his fourth season in the big leagues, what’s the reception around the American League going to be like?

“He’s only been booed in one spot that I can think of,” Banister pointed out, mostly accurately. “He’s getting applauded in the other places I saw.”

A Toronto newspaper proclaimed Odor “public enemy No. 1” before the Blue Jays-Rangers postseason series. And he’s drawn a few jeers in Houston and Anaheim, the latter because of a slide into Johnny Giavotella that manager Mike Scioscia called “reckless.”

But, yes, Odor is reckless, reckless in the very best baseball sense of the word. Reckless wins games. Baseball has been known to pay big bucks for reckless.

Odor himself may be about to get some. A report Thursday said that Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was talking with Odor’s agents about a possible contract extension.

Daniels said his policy is not to comment about things like that. Odor reacted to news of the report with surprise.

“Yeah, my dad just called me,” Odor said. “I told him, ‘I don’t know that. But that’s not right.’

“If that’s right, I’m the first that would have to know.”

Odor is one the best bargains in baseball. He hit 33 home runs last season and drove in 88 runs. His contract will pay him $522,700 this year.

His first chance at salary arbitration won’t come until next season, but as they often do with their young players who are considered keepers, the Rangers likely will offer Odor a goodwill contract that will cover his arbitration years and then some.

Odor said he will leave that to his agents, but as he pointed out, “We are like a family here. That’s why I love being with this team. That’s why I love playing with this team.”

Odor’s game isn’t entirely polished yet. He still strikes out often, and he appears to harbor a chronic disdain for the base on balls (only 19 walks last season).

His fielding can range from the spectacular to the, well, reckless. The Rangers are working on making him better at handling the routine plays.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on what he needs to do,” manager Banister said. “Rougie has gotten better. I feel comfortable that we’re going to get him to where he’s capable of getting.”

Life after The Punch, in other words, is going to be good for Rougned Odor.

Good and wealthy, even if he can eat for free.

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