Associated Press

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?

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.