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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #15: The Jose Bautista-Rougned Odor Fight

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Most baseball fights are pretty lame. They’re more shouting matches than fights these days anyway. Rarely is true violence done. Rarely are real punches thrown, let alone landed. We had a pretty good one back in May, though. At least by today’s standards. And we got a pretty good picture out of it too.

The roots of the fight grew out of last year’s ALDS between the Blue Jays and Rangers, which was highlighted by Jose Bautista‘s famous bat toss following his famous three-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 5. The Rangers didn’t much care for that toss, and they no doubt stewed about it all winter.

On May 15 the clubs met again. In the eighth inning, Rangers pitcher Matt Bush hit Bautista with a fastball that sent Bautista to first base and earned both teams a warning. Later in the inning, against pitcher Jake Diekman, Justin Smoak hit an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. Bautista slid late into Rougned Odor. Odor was not happy about it, so he took a few swings at Bautista. One of the punches hit Bautista square in the jaw, sending the outfielder’s sunglasses flying off of his face, as captured in that photo above. Both benches emptied and chaos ensued. The next inning, Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Chavez drilled Prince Fielder with a first-pitch fastball. The benches emptied again but peace was quickly restored.

Fourteen players and coaches were either fined, suspended, or both as a result of fracas, led by Odor’s eight-game suspension for throwing that haymaker.

The aftermath of it all was kind of dumb. Jose Bautista claimed, as the losers of all fights do, that if he wanted to he could’ve hurt Odor but he held back. He also claimed that Odor was looking for a fight that day long before the slide. For his part, Odor later admitted that he respected Bautista and that maybe he shouldn’t have punched him. To the extent he had any real contrition, though, it seemed to be more about the fact that he got suspended than the fact that he thew the punch. The dumbest reactions, of course, belonged to the media. They dumbest reactions ALWAYS belong to the media.

But hey, it was all far more entertaining than guys just sort of yelling at each other, right?

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. lays out to make a great catch in deep right-center field

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Cubs center fielder Albert Almora, Jr. robbed Giants first baseman Brandon Belt of at least a double in the top of the first inning of Monday’s game at Wrigley Field. Almora completely left his feet to catch the ball before landing just shy of the warning track.

The Giants took the early lead two batters prior to Belt’s at-bat as Joe Panik hit a solo home run to center field.

Anibal Sanchez accepts optional assignment to Triple-A

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The Tigers announced on Monday that pitcher Anibal Sanchez has accepted an optional assignment to Triple-A Toledo. Pitcher Warwick Saupold was recalled from Toledo to take Sanchez’s roster spot.

Sanchez, 33, continued to struggle this season pitching out of the bullpen. He gave up 26 runs (21 earned) on 34 hits and nine walks with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings. Nine of those 34 hits were home runs. Sanchez finished the 2015 season with a 4.99 ERA and last season with a 5.87 ERA, so he’s had a rough go of it in recent years.

The decision to go to Triple-A was Sanchez’s, Anthony Fenech of the Free Press reports. Sanchez wants to be stretched out as a starting pitcher again.