BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The donnybrook at Globe Life Ballpark Sunday has been the talk of baseball for the past two days. On Tuesday, the MLB office came down with their rulings. 14 players and coaches received disciplinary penalties. For the Rangers, Rougned Odor received the harshest penalty – an eight game suspension and $5,000 fine, approximately 1% of his salary. Elvis Andrus was assessed a one game suspension. Matt Bush, Sam Dyson, Steve Buechele, A. J. Griffin and Robinson Chirinos were also fined, the latter two for going onto the field when they were on the disabled list.
For Toronto, Jose Bautista was assessed a one game suspension, as was first base coach Tim Leiper. Manager John Gibbons was handed a three game suspension. Leiper and Gibbons had been ejected from the game five innings earlier than the fracas, and were given suspensions for returning to the dugout and in Gibbons’ case, returning to the field during the eighth inning brawl. Jesse Chavez, who was the Jays’ pitcher in the bottom of the eighth inning after the brawl ended, received a three game suspension for hitting Prince Fielder. Fines were handed out to bench coach DeMarlo Hale, third baseman Josh Donaldson, and Kevin Pillar.
Andrus accepted his suspension and is sitting out Tuesday’s game in Oakland. Gibbons and Leiper do not have the right to appeal their suspensions as players do. Bautista and Odor appealed their suspensions and are eligible to play until their appeal can be heard and ruled upon. Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels said on an afternoon sports talk show that he expects Odor’s appeal to be heard in the next 10 days to two weeks.
The severity of Odor’s suspension compared with the other penalties is a clear indication of MLB’s distaste for actually landing the punch.
The general feeling around baseball is dislike for Bautista, who set the contention in motion with his arrogant bat flip after hitting a critical home run that proved to be the game winner in game five of the Rangers – Jays playoff series last fall. As distasteful as Odor’s altercation was, there are numerous players around baseball cheering him on.
Gibbons has called the Rangers gutless for waiting until the final game between the two teams in 2016 before retaliating, but it’s a rather self-serving comment. For sure, the Rangers wanted the retaliation to come in Arlington, not in front of a hostile Toronto crowd. That ruled out the first series between these two teams in early May. By waiting until the final game, Bautista was kept in suspense about when retaliation would come.
For sure, the Rangers wanted to send a message that transgressions such as Bautista’s do not go unnoticed. When Bush hit Bautista on Sunday, the Rangers had just taken a 7-6 lead in the game. The last thing a team wants to do in a tight game is put the tying run on base for free. The Rangers however, obviously felt it was more important to send the message than worry about the tying run.
The scoreboard was even when Bautista took first base. His arrogant bat flip was answered. Bautista however, chose not to let it end there. When the ground ball came, he clearly made the illegal slide that resulted in an ending inning double play and erased the tying run from being on base. Even then, Bautista could have diffused the situation by simply trotting to the dugout. He didn’t. He confronted Odor, and the rest is history.
The rhetoric about the brawl that ensued is almost laughable. Bautista had his fist clenched in preparation of trading fisticuffs, but said afterward that he was surprised by the punch that Odor landed. Huh? Why was your fist clenched Jose?
Virtually no one involved in Sunday’s altercation comes out looking good, but Odor unfortunately comes out looking especially bad. For sure, he plays hard with a bit of an edge. He’s certainly had to scrap to get the Majors, as he is undersized and not one of the more physically talented players on the field. His scrappiness has been a major contributor to his success. However, video has surfaced from a similar altercation five years ago when Odor was in the lower minors. That doesn’t help his image at all. It appears that a pattern is developing.
The Rangers will not be allowed to replace Odor on the roster when the suspension is served. One possibility is that the team makes a roster move on another player – most likely a bullpen pitcher – to make available a roster spot for Jurickson Profar to be called up to play second base in Odor’s absence. Profar was scheduled to start Tuesday at second base for AAA Round Rock after playing exclusively at shortstop so far this season.
It’s a messy affair, and there really isn’t much “right” on either side of the equation. Hopefully, the appeals will be heard soon and the suspensions served to put this behind both teams going forward.