Whether you love or hate how the Texas Rangers dealt with Jose Bautista, there’s no denying the drama was – and has been – good for baseball.
“I think it was great for baseball because it shows America how much people in this sport actually care,” MLB analyst Greg Amsinger said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “It’s such a marathon and guys nowadays are friends with each other. They cross the lines before the game. You see David Ortiz giving the opposition hugs (and former teammates Ben Zobrist and Fernando Rodney laughing with each other after the final out of a one-run game). So many people are like, ‘Do these games even matter in baseball?’ To see the passion, to see the disdain, to see a soap-opera history between those two teams, to see that intensity between them – I loved it. I loved it.”
Bautista, of course, flipped his bat following a series-clinching homer against the Rangers last postseason. The Rangers finally retaliated in the seventh and final meeting between the two teams this season, plunking Bautista in his final at-bat.
Bautista could have let it go. Instead, he slid hard into Rougned Odor, who immediately turned second base into a boxing ring.
“Look, at the end of the day, if you play shortstop or second base in the big leagues, and anybody’s coming in and you know they’re sliding late because they’re angry, you immediately remember Chase Utley ending rhe season of Ruben Tejada,” Amsinger said. “You immediately think about that. Rougned Odor is becoming a star in this game, so who cares if Jose Bautista got hit by a pitch? Yeah, I don’t blame him for pushing him. I don’t blame him. It was supposed to be done.”
Amsinger loved the “mental game” the Rangers played with Baustisa, waiting until the final meeting between the two teams to hit him and then having Matt Bush do the honors.
“He didn’t consider charging the mound against Matt Bush,” Amsinger said of Bautista. “Do you know why? Because Matt Bush just got out of three years of prison. So Bautista didn’t want to mess with that guy.”
The Rangers, Amsinger explained, “had to wear that bat flip” all offseason, and Rangers manager Jeff Banister, “an old-school cowboy” probably pondered long and hard about how he would get back at Bautista.
“The obvious is to hit him the first game,” Amsinger said. “Well, why? Why is there etiquette? Why do we have to pay our resects to Jose Bautista? He’s the one that shoved the home run in our face. Why? Why is there etiquette for that guy? Why not let him think about it every time he grabs a bat and faces the Rangers? He struggled against the Rangers. I don’t know if it’s entirely because of that, but he knew at one point they were going to hit him. They did it the last time they faced him in a one-run game. I’m telling you: It was Banister’s master plan – and it worked. Odor is a freak for someone that’s 5-9.”