By Derek Reed
PSDC Texas Rangers Expert
The date was August 4, 1993. The Chicago White Sox vs the Texas Rangers. Robin Ventura at the plate. Nolan Ryan on the mound. Ventura takes a heater from the Ryan Express off the back of his right shoulder. He pauses for a second. Contemplates his next move. Then the 26-year old Ventura tosses his bat and helmet down and runs toward the mound. A mound occupied by the 46-year old legend and Texas icon. A headlock and several uppercuts later, and Ranger fans had a moment that is still talked about to this day.
That memory was one-of-a-kind. But, now it doesn’t stand alone.
Flash forward to Sunday afternoon. The Toronto Blue Jays vs the Texas Rangers. Jose Bautista at the plate. Matt Bush, making his second Major League appearance, on the mound. A 97-mph fastball glances off Bautista’s elbow and hits him in the ribs.
A hard slide and a straight right hand to the jaw later, and another moment in Texas Ranger history is born. And it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.
Jose Bautista is a talented player. He plays the game hard. He plays with intensity. But, he also comes across as a prima donna. A whiner. A selfish person. And after Sunday, all bark and no bite.
For Ranger fans, it all goes back to Game 5 of the ALDS last year and “The Bat Flip Heard ‘Round the World”. Bautista blasted a mammoth home run that basically ended the Rangers’ season. Instead of running around the bases and celebrating with his teammates at home plate, he chose a different path. Bautista stood at home plate and admired his work. Staring angrily at the ball as it left the playing field. That was followed by the bat flip of all bat flips, as he forcefully threw his bat in the direction of the Texas dugout.
The Rangers didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. But it wasn’t as if anybody was putting Bautista’s face on a wanted sign and getting out their pitch forks and torches. When the time came, he’d eat a fastball to the ribs and it’d be over. That time came Sunday. He ate a fastball to the ribs. But, it wasn’t over. At least not in Bautista’s mind.
Bautista should have let it go. Both teams were even, according to the unwritten rules of baseball. He showed up the Rangers. The Rangers retaliated. He even knew it would be coming. He said he’d take it when the time came and move on. He didn’t.
The next batter hit a ground ball to third base and Bautista took off from first. He didn’t slow down much when he got to second base, sliding hard into the legs of Rougned Odor. Now, have I seen dirtier slides? Yes. But was it still a dirty slide? Yes. And obviously, Odor agreed with me. They immediately got in each other’s face, and Odor kindly gave him a warning shove before sunglasses, helmets, and Blue Jays were flying everywhere.
Now, I don’t like to condone fighting. But, seeing Odor’s right hand connect with Bautista’s jaw brought joy to my heart and a smile to my face. He was banging on a door that he didn’t want answered. Odor answered it. At this point in time, it could not have happened to a more deserving person in the eye’s of Ranger fans.
But what about through the eyes of non-Ranger fans? What about through the eyes of people that actually cover the Toronto Blue Jays?
Greg Zaun, who played 16 years in the big leagues, now does the Sportsnet pre-game show for the Blue Jays and is a part time analyst on the Blue Jays Radio Network. He went off on the incident in an interview, but clearly did not defend Bautista or the team he covers for a living.
“All the Jays can say whatever they want about how it’s no big deal, about how it’s cool, wonderful, great. Keep flipping your bats. Well, guess what. You’re probably gonna take 97 in the ribcage. Had he just gone to first base and been quiet about it, and played the game and just slid into second base, none of this would have happened.
We’re getting ready to see a huge number of suspensions, a lot of lost days of service for this Blue Jays ball club. All over a bat flip. Take your dose, go to first base, and be done with it. I mean everybody did as they were supposed to do. Did you honestly think that Odor was gonna stand for someone trying to take him out at the knee caps and not do anything about it? Clearly he took offense, and I’m not mad at him. I mean, I would do the same thing.
You go in there, you get it. Don’t expect not to get punched. Don’t expect people to just take it laying down cause you’re Jose Bautista, and you think the bat flip was just fine, and you think it’s ok to just go charging into someone’s kneecaps. You have got to be accountable for what you do. Like I said, I support you. Go flip all the bats you want. Flip em every time you hit a homerun. Stare at the pitcher. Show him up. But don’t expect not to get drilled in the ear flap.”
Zaun also went on to squash the argument that some had when it came to the Rangers timing of the “intentional” plunking of Bautista, which happened to be his last at-bat against Texas this (regular) season. After the game Toronto manager John Gibbons said, “To me, it was gutless. The other 29 teams, they come at you right away, but to wait until the end, it just sort of tells you something.”
Zaun disagreed, saying, “It’s puzzling to me first and foremost that anybody would think that it was gutless to hit him when they did. The Jays still had another opportunity to retaliate. I guess everybody forgot that Chavez hit Prince Fielder. So what if it was Jose’s last at-bat. What do you need him to bat again for?”
Zaun wasn’t the only journalist north of the border to seemingly take a stance against the team he covers. Don Brennan of the Ottowa Sun blasted Bautista almost as hard as Odor did. Brennan says, “(Odor) gave Bautista exactly what the prima donna deserved.”
Brennan also accuses Bautista of being selfish saying, “Hey, I like “Joey Bats” the ball player. He’s one of the best in the game. But quite often, by his actions and by his words, it sure looks and sounds like Bautista is all about Bautista.”
Brennan wasn’t done. “When (Bautista) got to his feet, he walked toward Odor, his hands by his side, interested in only getting in his face, pretending to be a tough guy. Odor doesn’t pretend. When the two teams meet again next season, Bautista will likely be elsewhere, collecting a big salary on a contract that is too long to give a 36 year old.”
You expect to hear fans stand behind their teams in situations like this. I’m definitely behind Odor here. But it speaks volumes when members of the Toronto media are seemingly standing behind the Rangers. If even the people that follow and pull for Bautista side with the other guy, you know he had it coming.
In the end, did Bautista deserve to get clocked? Yes. Was it the right thing for Odor to do? Probably not. Did I enjoy it? You betcha. And judging from the response on the internet, other Ranger fans did too. From hilarious memes such as the “Odor Block” deodorant to the fan-made “Go Fund Me” campaigns to pay for Odor’s fine, the fans are unsurprisingly behind Rougey. There are even t-shirts being printed to commemorate the event. I am currently trying to decide between black or blue, which coincidentally are probably the colors of Jose’s jaw. Thanks Rougey! Don’t Mess With Texas!