Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys in the Rougned Odor-Jose Bautista fight?

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Baseball fights are notoriously lame. This one was . . . not. Say what you will about the ethics and advisability of gettin’ chippy on a baseball field, but there’s no doubt that Rougned Odor and Jose Bautista throwing down yesterday afternoon was a different thing than we’re used to seeing. We covered it all here, here, here and here, but here are some additional observations I have about it all.

Rougned Odor, Jose Bautista and Matt Bush all played a part in this big mess. There was a bad pitch, a bad slide and a punch thrown that never should’ve been and everyone contributed to this silliness. There was last night and certainly still will be today, however, an effort by columnists, pundits, radio hosts and fans to portray who among them was worse. Resist that urge and ignore people with hot takes about who was so very wrong and who was so very right.

For one thing, a huge amount of it will be people from Texas or with with Rangers sympathies saying one thing and people from Toronto or with Blue Jays sympathies saying another. They’ll all act like they’re being objective and they’re all lying, to themselves as well as everyone else. The fanboy crap — even from some professionals who like to claim they’re above that — started immediately after the punch was thrown and isn’t going to stop for some time. Calcaterra’s First Rule of Sports Opinion is that one’s opinion on any sports controversy can invariably be determined by one’s rooting interest in the participants of the controversy. It’s no different here. If you’re a Rangers or a Blue Jays fan, save it. You’re blinded by the laundry.

More broadly than that: everyone — Bush, Bautista, Odor and some side participants — was kind of wrong and it took all of their wrongness to create this. We’re so conditioned to create heroes, villains and martyrs when it comes to sports stories, but it’s rarely appropriate. That’s the stuff of fiction, not real life. As one of my favorite fictional characters once said after being told he was one of the good guys, “There aren’t any GOOD guys. You realize that, don’t you? I mean: there aren’t EVIL guys, and INNOCENT guys. It’s just – it’s just… It’s just a bunch of guys.” That goes for this too, no matter how objective Jays fans and Rangers fans claim they’re being here. It’s a thing that happened in which no one really cloaked themselves in glory, so don’t pretend it was something otherwise.

With all of that out of the way:

  • Throwing at a guy like Matt Bush did to piss Jose Bautista off, sliding dirty like Bautista did to piss Rougned Odor off and then throwing haymakers like Odor did — and like Bautista was prepared to — are all bad things that should not be encouraged and should be punished. We don’t want that to happen and we certainly don’t want more of that in baseball because, while thankfully no one was hurt here, someone could’ve been at any point of that sequence.
  • All of that said — and in light of the fact that no one got hurt — I don’t think it’s inconsistent to admit that . . . holy crap, that was all kind of entertaining. I said that on Twitter and a bunch of people said I was being a hypocrite based on what I’ve written about violent acts in the game before, but I’m not buyin’ it. There are a lot of things that are bad and dangerous and which you shouldn’t do but let’s not pretend that, in the moment, when you do them, there is fun to be had. One can enjoy this whole spectacle given its particular circumstances without wanting it to be repeated.
  • Odor’s suspension should be interesting. Historically, you’ve never seen more than, say, 8-10 games for on-field incidents. That includes some pretty notorious fights. Odor’s impulse and act was no different than what a lot of players have done before, but I feel like he’s going to get a bigger suspension simply because his punch was captured perfectly in videos and photos and spread so quickly and virally. In the space of an hour it was all around the world on multiple social media platforms and memes and t-shirts and everything else. As I’ve written many times, baseball is an entertainment like movies or music or TV in ways that it doesn’t often admit, and it proceeds in ways like entertainment companies do in many cases. Part of that is its concern with image and PR. Bryce Harper probably wouldn’t have gotten a suspension for his F-bomb if it wasn’t so clearly captured on video and spread so quickly on social media. I bet the same goes for Odor’s punch. I bet he gets hit with a much longer suspension, at least at first, than someone might’ve gotten for it ten years ago. Punished for his effectiveness and some good photography, less so than for his actual act.
  • Bautista dropping the “play the game the right way” bomb after the game last night is one of the more hilarious things I’ve heard in a long time. A guy is gonna say what he needs to say to get through a postgame interview, but for him to not acknowledge that just about every anti-Bautista sentiment since last October’s bat flip wasn’t grounded in some variation of “that’s not playing the game the right way” is high comedy and a painful lack of self-awareness. Jose Bautista is now gonna police purpose pitches? OK. Maybe Carlos Gomez can hand out fines for excessive on-field exuberance and Bryce Harper be the head master of baseball’s new Institute for the Personality Restraint.

I guess that’s all I got right now. If you need me, I’ll be trying to track down Goose Gossage. I’m sort of worried about him. He’s somehow gotta reconcile the fact that a policing purpose pitch came from a guy who literally had been in the league 48 hours and not some wise veteran, an old-school, hardnosed slide came from a guy he said was destroying the game and the best punch in it all came from a skinny little infielder who people say doesn’t play the game the right way. He and some of the other old schoolers are gonna need some help wrapping their heads around it all.

 

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mariners 4, White Sox 3: Mike Zunino doubled and scored and later he homered to give the M’s the lead for good and Nelson Cruz had three hits and knocked a couple in. Felix Hernandez allowed three over six and that beat James Shields who allowed four over six. That’s just math.

Astros 5, Angels 2: Justin Verlander is now 9-0 as a Houston Astro. He’s 13-1 if you count the playoffs. Either way, he continues to enjoy the hell out of wearing the orange and blue. Er, the other orange and blue. Here he allowed two runs on four hits over seven innings, striking out nine, to go to 4-0 on the year. Albert Pujols did hit a homer off of him, notching his 2,994th career hit, but Jose Altuve and Jake Marisnick went deep for Houston and Alex Bregman hit a three-run double.

Rockies 5, Padres 2: A day after getting shut out in Coors Field, San Diego went six innings without scoring a run off of Rockies starter Jon Gray, who struck out eleven Padres. I’m assuming the list of teams who have been shut out in back-to-back games in Denver is short, but at least the Padres didn’t join that one, later scratching out a couple against the San Diego pen. David Dahl and Tony Wolters each drove in a pair for Colorado.

Nationals 15, Giants 2: With the run support Max Scherzer got he didn’t need to strike out ten and allow only two runs over six innings, but he did. With the fine pitching Scherzer gave the Nats they didn’t need to score two touchdowns and a two-point conversion, but they did. Matt Adams singled and doubled in runs and hit a three-run homer. Andrew Stephenson doubled in runs on two separate occasion and took a bases-loaded walks. Trea Turner got five hits. The Nats had scored just eight runs in the four-game losing streak this victory ended. Here, 14 of their 15 runs were scored with two men out. That’s clutch, or something.

Tigers 13, Pirates 10; Pirates 8, Tigers 3: The Pirates and Tigers have been cursed this year, getting rained out *guesses* seventeen times, so they played two yesterday. Neither starter gave their managers four innings in the first one which you know Ron Gardenhire and Clint Hurdle TOTALLY loved on a doubleheader day. Nicholas Castellanos had four hits, including a homer, and drove in four and teammate Miguel Cabrera had four hits as well in the first-game victory, while Frankie Cervelli knocked in six in a losing cause. In the nightcap, Jose Osuna, who was called up specifically to be the 26-man in the twinbill, hit a three-run homer. He was then sent back to Indianapolis immediately following the game. They should’ve had David Attenborough narrate his day in the same way he’d narrate the weird and sad one-day lifespan of some rando insect on “Planet Earth,” with the homer being like that shining moment the bug got to mate before his head got eaten off or whatever.

Yankees 7, Twins 4: The Yankees won despite another bad start from Sonny Gray, who allowed three runs on six hits in four and two-thirds. Didi Gregorius homered for the fourth game in a row and singled in a run to remain white-hot, Tyler Austin had a three-run shot and Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each hit a sac fly. The Twins have lost six straight.

Braves 5, Reds 4: The big news was the debut of Ronald Acuña. He went 1-for-5, flying out on the first two pitches he saw, striking out twice but notching his first hit as a big leaguer on an eighth inning single, after which he’d score the tying run on a Kurt Suzuki single. The Braves, who had an early lead in this one that they let slip away, ended up winning it on a Johan Camargo double in the ninth which scored Ozzie Albies. Camargo drove in two on the night. The Braves bullpen — which has not been getting the job done of late — got the job done, tossing four shutout innings.

Indians 4, Cubs 1: Trevor Bauer allowed one run over six and two-thirds and struck out eight while Brandon Guyer, Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion each went deep for Cleveland. Bad news for Cleveland, though, as Andrew Miller had to leave the game with a tight left hamstring. We’ll update later today when it’s know how long he’ll be out.

Rays 8, Orioles 4: Due to the rain on Tuesday the Rays had to wait an extra day to see their old friend Alex Cobb but it was worth the wait as they tagged him for five runs on ten hits. Joey Wendle had three hits and two RBI for the Rays and Adeiny Hechavarria homered. The highlight of the game, though, was the appearance of Rays reliever Johnny Venters, following a six-year absence from the bigs due to not one, but FOUR major elbow operations, including three Tommy John surgeries. At this point his comeback is a success even if his elbow literally falls off of his arm in his next outing. You know all of those motivational posters that say “DETERMINATION” and “PERSISTENCE” and have, like, a photo of salmon leaping up a waterfall or a beaver building a damn? They should be replaced with Venters simply lifting up a pen or something with his left arm. That he actually threw four pitches in a major league baseball game is amazing.

Phillies 5, Diamondbacks 3: Jake Arrieta outpitched Zack Greinke, allowing three — one earned — over seven innings despite not having his best stuff. Aaron Altherr hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth. It was the first time the Phillies beat the Diamondbacks at home in their last nine meetings.

Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 3: Mookie Betts hit a solo homer in the first inning to put the Bosox on the board and hit a two-run homer in the seventh to bring the Bosox back from behind. I like to say Bosox. Bosox, Bosox, Bosox.

Marlins 8, Dodgers 6: Clayton Kershaw walked six dudes in five innings. That doesn’t happen every day. Heck, it doesn’t happen in three or four days for him, as he hadn’t walked a man in his previous 26 innings and had not walked six in a game since he was a rookie back in 2010. We all have a bad day sometimes, I guess. Marlins starter Trevor Richards, meanwhile, struck out 10 and pitched one-hit ball over 4.2 scoreless innings, leaving due to the pitch count and thus not qualifying for the win. Richards is an independent ball product, by the way, who spent part of last year as a substitute teacher. J.T. Realmuto homered twice and Miguel Rojas went deep for the Fish.

Rangers 4, Athletics 2: Four Rangers relievers combining for four and a third innings of no-hit, scoreless ball to help Texas end the A’s four-game winning streak. Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit a go-ahead single in the fifth for the Rangers. He is the only Isiah to ever play major league ball, by the way. You can look it up.

Cardinals 9, Mets 1Jedd Gyorko hit a two-run homer and Marcell Ozuna hit a bases-loaded single to cap a three-run third inning that put St. Louis up for good. The Cards have won 9 of 11. Ozuna was only 1-for-4 and has been in a horrendous slump, but maybe this breaks him out of it.

Brewers 6, Royals 2Jhoulys Chacin was efficient, in part because the Royals were swinging at everything. He allowed two runs while pitching into the sixth and the bullpen pitched three and a third shutout innings, running their scoreless streak to 28. In turn, the Brewers ran their winning streak to eight. It’s shaping up to be a pretty sweet pennant race between the Brewers and the Cards in the NL Central this year. If you assume, as you should, that the Cubs will step it up too, it could be the most fun division in baseball in 2018.