Some games just beg to be broken down inning-by-inning, moment-by-moment, and this was one of them.
Let me start with a disclaimer:
Yes, I am a Blue Jays fan. Yes, I thought the bat flip was awesome. Yes, I am sworn to defend Jose Bautista.
However, I don’t hate bat flips in general, even if they come against my team. I hate the home run they represent instead. I hate the loss when we’re beat. Not how the guy who beat us reacts. You’re supposed to be happy when you win. I couldn’t hate someone just for celebrating because they did well.
What I hate is violence. Nobody should ever be punched in the face for any reason, especially over something as petty, in the grand scheme of things, as a baseball game. I disagree wholeheartedly with Gregg Zaun saying that anything and everything should be solved with pitches to the gut or punches to the face. If my team started it, I’d be saying the same thing. (However I can’t give an example of that because my team has yet to ‘start it’ by throwing the first punch.)
To set the scene:
I was at work during this game, and recorded it at home. We have a couple TVs in the restaurant where I work, and usually they’re tuned to the Food Network, but today the kitchen staff wanted to watch the Raptors’ Game 7 so they were tuned to a sports channel. When the Raps game was over, it was playing some kind of highlights show. At one point, I looked up and all I could see was a sea of red and blue jerseys, and someone holding Jose Bautista back. I thought ‘ooooh snap, something happened’ but had no idea what it was.
Then, when my shift was over, I checked my phone and I’d received this text:
“What happens when a baseball player punches someone in the face?”
Well, obviously I’m rushing home to watch it now!
Not a whole lot happened in this inning.
Ditto this one. Although the Jays did score a run, so that’s nice. But then they left two baserunners, which was less nice.
Wait, did Tim Leiper just get ejected?? I think Leiper just got ejected! For what, I have no clue, but he was pretty angry. It takes a lot to get Leiper angry – even last year when Yordano Ventura was yelling at him in the ALCS he just made a ‘zip your lips’ motion and smiled. I like Leiper. I think he might have been frustrated because the umps didn’t call a balk when they should have.
And now Gibby is gone, in the bottom of the inning? For arguing strike calls? Oh my. This game is weird already and nobody’s been punched in the face yet. (Also the Rangers scored a run.)
Two runners on for the Blue Jays, nobody out, neither scores. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Bautista and Pillar executed a nice double-steal. That was fun. It’s also the second successful stolen base Pillar has had in this game alone. But alas, even though Edwin Encarnacion walked to load the bases with one out, nobody scored. Except for the Rangers, and now it’s 2-1 Texas.
At last! Runs! A hit, an error, two force-outs, a bunt, a walk and a Jose Bautista bases-clearing double later, the Jays sent nine hitters to the plate and four of them scored. Edwin also got hit by a pitch, which he didn’t seem too happy about. Odor bobbled a ball… But there was a bird on the ground nearby that maybe distracted/startled him. Was that bird a blue jay?
Here’s a depressing fact: the Blue Jays have yet to win a game all season in which they’ve given up four or more runs. So when the fourth Rangers run scored (even though the Jays were leading 6-4 at the time) I thought to myself ‘Oh crap, we’re gonna lose this one, aren’t we?’. Yeah, then Ian Desmond hit a 3-run bomb making it 7-6 Rangers. Thanks for answering my question, Ian.
Oh look, Bautista is hit by a pitch. No one in the immediate vicinity is surprised. The only thing that surprised me was who threw the pitch (Matt Bush, making only his second big-league appearance) and when it happened (in the 8th in a one-run game). Apparently the Rangers would risk putting the tying run on base, with no outs, just for the sake of revenge. Priorities. Actually, I’m surprised they didn’t do it in the blowout 12-2 game in Toronto – unless they wanted to do it on their home turf where they knew they’d be applauded for it.
Since I already knew a fight happened, I can’t believe it wasn’t right then and there. Instead, Bautista took the high road by taking his base and not charging the mound. Good for you, Jose. Then Edwin flew out, Smoak hit into what probably would have been a double play and… here we go. The punch itself wasn’t shown at first on the TV because the camera was tracking over to first, but you could see everyone change directions and run towards second (and then they replayed it from several angles). I already disliked Rougned Odor for being a general pain in the butt in the ALDS, and then trying to start a fight with Josh Donaldson. I’m glad he gave me a concrete reason to hate him.
Obviously there are serious implications of a fight – unsportsmanlike conduct, the possibility for injury, and all that. They’re confusing, ugly, and I don’t like them on principle. But after the fact, when everything has cooled off and you know no one is hurt, if you go back and look at the minute details, there are nonsensical things that just look funny. So let’s talk about some of those.
Has Kevin Pillar completely lost his mind?! The way he came speeding like a bullet out into the fray was… interesting to watch. His fighting style, if it can be called that, was unique. He tried to take on four Rangers at once but just ducked and spun and I don’t think he actually hit anyone. Reminded me of my strategy when I played Wii Sports (remember Wii Sports?) boxing: just flail your arms around and hope you make contact with something. But perhaps the weirdest part of his fighting was how abruptly he stopped. Troy Tulowitzki touched him on the shoulder and he went from doing his best impression of a feral badger back to being Kevin Pillar, rational human.
The Tulos of the world are the people I respect the most in a fight – those who attempt to calm down their teammates and de-escalate the situation. I have tons of respect for Adrian Beltre, who managed to separate Bautista from the rest of the scrum and prevent him from coming to further harm (or from attacking anyone). I also had yet another flashback to ALDS Game 5 when Ryan Goins had to hold Tulo back after Sam Dyson patted him on the rear – Goins yet again had to restrain someone but this time it was Bautista. There was a shot of an umpire coming over to them and you could read Goins’ lips very clearly as he said ‘I’ve got him’ repeatedly.
Gibby went back out on the field, he’ll get in trouble for that… Jeff Bannister started going after players, that’s a no-no. Shame on you, Bannister. And who’s that guy, the Jays’ bullpen catcher who Marco Estrada was holding back at one point? I know who Alex Andreopoulos is, and that’s not him. Someone said his last name was Philips, and you could see him at one point clawing at Sam Dyson. Marco basically had to get between the two of them. Edwin Encarnacion was also pretty fired up, which is rare for him – but he and Bautista are so tight that it makes sense he’d come to the aid of his friend.
At one point Roberto Osuna and Nomar Mazara were shown on the edge of the fray kind of bumping into each other and then patting one another on the back and nodding, like they had a mutual understanding. I like that no one seems to have a beef with Osuna – he actually calmed down Odor at one point in the series in Toronto when Odor looked ready to pick a fight with Josh Donaldson.
Speaking of Donaldson, I was a little surprised he was ejected and Pillar wasn’t. Both of them reached the field at about the same time, and both seemed hellbent on hurting someone (although it seemed like neither were successful). I would have completely understood if both were ejected, or neither were ejected. One over the other doesn’t make much sense.
Oh great, the fans have started up that ‘U-S-A’ chant. How very original. The ironic thing here is, Odor isn’t even American, he’s from Venezuela. If they meant their States-based team is better than a team of Canadians, they’re wrong on that count too, because Bautista is, of course, Dominican. Were they cheering for the American-born Josh Donaldson and Kevin Pillar? Nationalism without context is weird.
So… now in the bottom of the inning, Jesse Chavez hit Prince Fielder with the first pitch of the bottom 8th (which Sportsnet missed completely, because they just HAD to get that commercial in there) and the benches have cleared once again. Russell Martin bouncing along the first base line was entertaining, because he was both preventing Fielder from going after Chavez, and yelling into the Rangers’ dugout. Kinda counter-productive there, Russ.
I’m perfectly fine with Chavez being ejected, even if there hadn’t been a previously-established warning: his pitch to Fielder was clearly intentional. I almost wonder if the Jays left him in just to throw that one pitch, so that Girodo or Osuna didn’t do it and risk ejection or suspension themselves. The funny part about this is that Demarlo Hale (bench coach/acting manager at the time) was also ejected, so… who takes over as manager now?!
Blah blah, Blue Jays lose. I knew this was coming as soon as the Rangers scored their fourth run of the game (even though the Jays were up 6-4 at that time). That’s a trend that needs to end ASAP.
If I never have to hear Gregg Zaun say the phrase ‘pound of flesh’ again in my life, it’ll still be too soon. I should have expected it, but it’s still annoying to hear him talk about how fights in baseball are great. Especially when he nitpicks certain aspects of the fight but praises others. Fights are wrong, period. It’s not a good way to do ‘teambuilding’ and it’s not ‘the right way to play’. If it were acceptable, players wouldn’t get punished for it. Stop encouraging fights that do absolutely nothing to help the team win and only risk ejection/suspension/long-term injury. Don’t praise Matt Bush for hitting Bautista with a pitch. He has no history with him, and I’m pretty sure those stupid ‘unwritten rules’ you’re so fond of dictate that only a veteran pitcher can deliver that ‘message’, not a 30-year-old ex-con in his second MLB game. STOP SAYING ‘POUND OF FLESH’!
Bautista’s post-game scrum was the most prototypical Jose Bautista thing I could imagine. Referring to the plunking as ‘cowardly’, and calmly assuring reporters that Odor’s punch never would have landed if he didn’t have the element of surprise is the calm and aloof stuff we’ve come to expect from him.
I completely see Donaldson’s point about rushing out to defend Bautista because that’s ‘his guy‘. The protectiveness among teammates is kind of inspiring. I do, however, wish there was a way to stick up for someone without fists being used. Donaldson also raised a point about the slide not even being ‘that bad’. It was ruled an interference double play (and therefore a ‘dirty’ slide) under the new Chase Utley rule, but I doubt the slide was even 20% of the reason for the punch. That play has been called numerous times this year, with numerous teams, and this is the only one that resulted in a brawl. Odor wanted an excuse to attack Bautista, and he got it.
A little drama or rivalry makes baseball more interesting. I don’t mind it when guys yell at each other: that’s a productive way to get the anger out without anyone getting hurt. When it turns into a fistfight, then I’ve got a problem with it. There are many players I don’t like – Sam Dyson. Darren O’Day. Basically any Kansas City Royal. But I would never want any of them to be physically attacked, especially not by someone in a Blue Jays uniform. Nobody should ever punch anyone else in the face. I don’t care who you are, what team you’re on, or why you’re punching them. Don’t do it.
Retaliation is a stupid, perpetual cycle. If the Chavez hit-by-pitch was retaliation for the punch, which was in retaliation for Bautista’s slide, which was in retaliation for him being hit by a pitch, which was retaliation for the bat flip… Where does it end? Will the Rangers retaliate next year for Chavez hitting Fielder, when it’s possible Bautista and/or Chavez won’t be Blue Jays anymore? Did I miss an incident in there?
I’ll admit that Bautista’s slide did seem unnecessarily aggressive, but the punch was far worse. One is a questionable way to play baseball, the other is straight-up assault.
Gregg Zaun needs to stop saying ‘pound of flesh’.
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