That sure was crazy yesterday wasn't it? Incase you missed it, I'll include the highlight package below for you to catch up.
Got it? Good.
Of course, this all supposedly trails back to the events that transpired last October when Jose Bautista flipped his bat during the biggest moment of his career, launching what would become a game-winning and series-winning home run over the left-field fence.
There was much being made going into this series, the last the two teams would meet in the regular season, about if or when retribution would be paid on Bautista for the supposedly egregious act. Turns out it was paid late in the final game of the final series which manager John Gibbons called, "gutless" postgame. Regardless of Jose getting hit, his later slide and Rougned Odor's punch that connected hard to Bautista's face, what this all boils down to is "old school baseball."
It's, "the code." For those of you who didn't play the game, it's pretty simple. It almost falls directly as an eye for an eye format where baseball players 'police' themselves for on-the-field acts. Typically when one a wrong is committed against your team, you send your pitcher out and you throw at the opposition team's hitter to let them know, "hey, we aren't going to stand for that."
And I get it. In fact, as a mediocre left-handed pitcher playing Canadian College Baseball, I've done it. But that doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it intelligent, especially at this level. Additionally, there is a lot being made that Matt Bush "made the decision" himself to plunk Bautista on the left elbow to start this whole melee.
Maybe that is true, but then again, maybe it isn't. If this is about feelings being hurt by the flip, why would Bush do this? He wasn't even a member of the organization when Bautista hit the home run, so how exactly would his feelings be hurt? More likely the Rangers talked amongst one another about paying retribution on Bautista prior to the series. Even if that conversation didn't happen, the fact remains that he didn't do this on his own. Whether he was told or not, Bush acted in response to this unwritten code that, for better or worse, put him on the good side of his teammates for, 'standing up for what was right.'
This code is ridiculous. It makes the game of baseball tired. "It's tired because you can't express yourself," Bryce Harper said to Tim Keown of ESPN the Magazine. It's this idea of making baseball great again through allowing players to express themselves through bat-flips and fist pumps. Not stifling that by hitting each other on the rare occasion that it seeps out.
That's what Bautista was doing last October. He was expressing what was the biggest moment of his entire career. The biggest moment that would be in nearly any professional baseball player's career. And what did the Rangers do? They held a grudge for over six months and waited to get back at the Blue Jays all because of some code.
To me, there's a more effective way to handle the situation; when an opponent decides to flip his bat on you, when the pitcher goes fist-pumping off the mound starring at your bench. You beat him. If you don't like what the opponent is doing--and their actions aren't causing you physical harm--then don't allow them to do it. If Sam Dyson strikes out Bautista last year, does the bat-flip ever happen? No. You, as the opponent in any sport, are directly in control of preventing your opponent from being able to celebrate. To throw a baseball at a person because you aren't able to beat them is weak. It's childish at best.
Once you starting taking retribution into your own hands, that's when the game turns sour. That's when things spiral out of control where each side is throwing back at one another and the beautiful game of baseball becomes a side story as it was today.
There are a ton of people who will take to social media and portray Odor and the Rangers as the enemy and they're not wrong to do so. No doubt Odor should have handled the manner in traditional baseball-bench clearing format and bear hugged it out, instead of unleashing what was probably one of the most successful right-hand punches in baseball history. But Jose Bautista isn't innocent either with his illegal hard slide. Nor is Jesse Chavez who continued with the code by plunking Prince Fielder with the first pitch in the following inning.
This isn't to say there's something wrong with a rivalry in sports. Rivalries make you want to leave work early to turn the TV on. But a rivalry about the game, where the quarry is about who is beating one another is far more captivating. In many cases, it's generational.
At the end of the day, this is just sports. It's just a form of entertainment for viewers to watch on their couches. But it's also an example for our society. It's an example for how our children are supposed to act. Do we really want to pass along the lesson to our kids that when someone wrongs you, your job is to wrong them back?
I don't think so. Baseball doesn't need to be this way to exist in the same way that hockey didn't need their players policing themselves with fighting to exist. There's more to the game than throwing the ball as hard as you can into an opponent's ribs for something that happened six months ago.
If you can't see that, I'm sure the next UFC event is right around the corner.