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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?

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Report: Some MLB teams using outside labs for COVID-19 testing

MLB COVID-19 testing
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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.

The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.

In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.

The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.

We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.