By now, you’ve probably seen the video. This goes back to last October when Jose Bautista crushed a game-winning home run, and followed that up with the bat-flip heard ’round the world.
It was the first step forward in the “Make Baseball Fun Again” movement. A lot of people loved it, and a few people hated it. Mostly, it was just Goose Gossage, some other old white people, and of course, the Texas Rangers, who had a front row seat to Bautista bat-flipping right in their eyeball, which was one of the last images the 2015 Rangers saw before being eliminated from the postseason. There are a few layers to this story, so let’s try to peel them back one by one.
First, were the Rangers out of line for throwing at Jose Bautista in the first place? Absolutely not. And that’s coming from someone who loved the bat-flip last October. I thought it was a great moment, and the perfect exclamation point on the second greatest home run in Toronto Blue Jays history. However, for as great as it was, there are consequences for showboating to that extreme, and dancing on the grave of an entire franchise. Again, I thought it was the most memorable moment of the entire postseason, but he had to pay the price. So goes the infamous unwritten rules of the game.
What I had an issue with, though, is that the Rangers had Matt Bush, the former first-round, first overall draft pick from the 2004 MLB draft, who had just made his major league debut just two days prior, throw at Batista. That’s the guy you’re telling to throw at Bautista? If you’re not familiar with his story, read up on it here, because it’s one of those 30 for 30 type paths to the big leagues. But the issue I have with Bush being the guy to throw at Bautista is that he wasn’t even there last year. The pitcher who Bautista hit the mammoth home run off of and then bat-flipped right in their face was Sam Dyson. And then, after the game, Dyson made a bunch of comments, saying that Bautista had to “calm down” and “respect the game a little more.”
If Dyson had kept his mouth shut, then that’s a different story. But if you’re going to open your mouth, and piss and moan about the bat-flip, then be man enough to say that you want to be the guy who throws at him. Not a guy that’s been in the big leagues for two days, just got out of jail, and took him 12 years to get there. Dyson appeared in all three games over the weekend, although he never did face Bautista. At least have someone who was on the friggin’ 2015 team do it.
But regardless of all that, Bush was the man who drilled Bautista. Now, there’s no denying that Bautista goes in late and hard on Rougned Odor, which I have no problem with. There’s a reason why players say that you’re going to get somebody hurt if you throw at someone intentionally. Sometimes they’re talking about retaliation by someone else getting thrown at, but other times, they’re talking about slides like this. The Pedro Martinez/Karim Garcia incident comes to mind. Pedro threw one behind Garcia’s head, then Garcia went in as hard as he could at second base, and the fight was on. I have no issue with Bautista’s hard slide.
What I do have an issue with is the fact that Odor definitely lowered his arm angle in what looks like an attempt to throw a baseball at Bautista’s face. That is some incredibly vindictive shit right there. The man flipped a bat after a home run; he didn’t burn your fuckin’ house down, man. Relax. Save breaking bones in a man’s face for offenses that are a little more serious than throwing a piece of wood in the air. But that really didn’t stop Odor from attempting to break bones in Bautista’s face, anyway.
So, to the people who were calling this a sucker punch, just stop. Yes, Odor initiated the fight with the shove. But once Odor shoves Bautista, then Bautista is smart enough to know that this isn’t one of those run of the mill “hold me back, bro” type baseball fights. This thing is on, and Bautista got into a fighting position after the shove, and prior to getting socked in the face.
What I didn’t like, as much as I love the guy, was Adrian Beltre stepping in and breaking this thing up so quickly. I’ve seen people say things like, “Yeah, but Beltre saved the dude’s life. He didn’t want any part of Odor.” Okay, but I didn’t see it that way. Bautista was still trying to get after Odor once he remembered where he was. I understand that Beltre was trying to do the right thing and protect Bautista, who I assume is a friend, but he kind of made Bautista look bad. You’ve gotta at least give him the opportunity to get some swings in.
In the end, the loser of this fight is all of us, because these two teams don’t play each other again this season. I think it’s kind of cowardly to wait until the last game to do something like this. If you knew all along that you wanted to retaliate for the bat-flip, get it out of the way. Give the other team a chance to get you back, instead of a dinky ass HBP to a guy like Prince Fielder, who’s so diesel that he laughed when you hit him. Bad look for the Rangers waiting until the end. That being said, I think it’s safe to say that baseball fans will be rooting for these two teams to meet again in October.