Column: The old brawl game
The top sports stories in another Weekend That Was:
5. The NHL Western Conference finals begin Sunday night with the St. Louis Blues taking a 2-1 win at home in the opener against the San Jose Sharks.
4. Matt Kenseth passes Kyle Larson down the stretch and takes the checkered flag at the NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover International Speedway in Delaware.
3. The Toronto Raptors drub the Miami Heat, 116-89, at home on Sunday in Game 7 to make the NBA Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history. They go to Cleveland tonight for Game 1.
2. Lines are crossed during the late innings of Sunday’s Toronto-Texas baseball game at The Ballpark in Arlington as Toronto’s Jose Bautista is hit by Matt Bush in the ribs with a 98 mph pitch, then slides hard into second base to break up a double play – only for Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor to take a full-fledged punch into Bautista’s face and start a major melee.
1. Jason Day struggles on Saturday, but holds the lead to win The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach from wire to wire. He is the first No. 1 player in the world to win the TPC since Tiger Woods three years ago.
Our topic of discussion: 2. The Basebrawl at the Ballpark.
Lessons were learned on Sunday afternoon in the Arlington heat and the heat of a game. To review, you have to go to last year’s American League Divisional Series between the teams, an even series through four games culminating with a heated Game 5 at the Rogers Centre. With the game tied at 3-3 in the sixth, Jose Bautista launched one of the most memorable home runs in postseason history, a three-run shot to left field punctuated by a bat flip that has been replayed over and over and over and over again.
The Jays went advanced to the AL Championship Series. And the Rangers were left with the memory of that home run ... and that bat flip.
Sunday’s game was the seventh and final regular-season game the teams played this year. The only way they’d see one another is in the postseason.
So with the game still on the line at 7-6, Bush, just brought back up by the Rangers, plunked Bautista in what they figured was the last time they’d see him in the season. Got him good in the ribs, too. Bautista was a little hot under the collar, but took his base. That brought up former Ranger Justin Smoak, who hit a slow-rolling grounder to third baseman Adrian Beltre, who fired to Rougned Odor to force out Bautista. But on the plate, Bautista came in a tad bit late, though wasn’t penalized for it as Odor’s throw went nowhere near first base, allowing Smoak to advance.
Odor took offense to the hard slide and pushed Bautista. That should’ve been it ... except hot-headed Odor delivered a right hook to Bautista’s face. Then all heck broke loose and by the end of the game, eight players, coaches and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons were all given early showers.
When Bush plunked Bautista to begin that inning, that should have been the end of things. Period. We’re even now.
But Odor stepped over that line. Not only did he come awfully close to hitting Bautista in the head with the baseball on the throw to first trying to complete the double play, he got his feelings hurt when it didn’t peg his helmet, the ball went astray from the target and Bautista came in hard on him. Throwing a punch to someone’s face is the ultimate form of disrespect. The incident from last fall should’ve been over after Bush had done his job of plunking Bautista.
The Rangers were in the wrong. Then they took offense after one of their top sluggers, Prince Fielder, was nailed with a pitch by the Blue Jays in the bottom of the inning. The benches cleared again, but Fielder just stood on the base and laughed at the over-reaction.
OK, I get the fact that the Rangers can’t stand the Blue Jays and further, I understand their dislike for Bautista. He does get under the skins of the Rangers with the exclamation point being that bat flip last fall. But if you really truly want to do something, how about getting him out when you had the opportunity last year?
They say that if the players police themselves on the field, it settles matters. But when you can’t properly handle that aspect of the game, you get what happened with Odor.
He deserves to be suspended for at least a week. He has a history of going after others as a minor league tape showed him doing from a few years earlier.
If he’s not suspended a week, then Major League Baseball has a major problem. Anger and emotion do take over sports, but there’s nowhere in the game for what Odor did. Other than the slide into him being a little later than normal, but not abnormally bad, he had no right to do what he did.
Rougned Odor should pay in a major way.
Major League Baseball, the ball’s in your glove now.
Mark Blumenthal is a writer for the Palatka Daily News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @diabolicalmarky.