Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor has been handed an eight-game suspension by Major League Baseball for landing a textbook right hook to Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista's jaw. Odor will appeal, and his suspension could be reduced, but he'll miss at least a handful of games whenever a final decision is reached.
Odor's punch was the culmination of a simmering feud between the Rangers and the Blue Jays that began last October. Late in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, after a controversial call allowed Odor to score the go ahead run for the Rangers and provoked a shower of aluminum beer bottles being tossed from the upper levels of the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Bautista hit a three-run home run that effectively clinched the series for the Blue Jays.
After hitting the homer, Bautista flipped his bat in a rather extravagant manner. Those who thought baseball should be more fun thought it was awesome. Those who believe baseball should have unwritten, still-enforced silly rules about decorum were outraged over the flip.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister was among the outraged, so it wasn't a surprise when Bautista ended up getting nailed in the ribs with a Matt Bush pitch during what was going to be his last time at bat during the Blue Jays last scheduled game in Arlington this season. Players getting nailed for celebrating has long, storied history in baseball, however stupid it is, so it's hard to imagine Bautista was surprised.
Nevertheless, after Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson hit a would-be double play ball to Elvis Andrus, Bautista went right for Odor's knees as he went for second base. Bautista's slide was the kind of dirty play that can end a player's career, and Odor did not handle having his anterior cruciate ligament targeted lightly.
After throwing wildly to first base, he squared up to Bautista and shoved him. When Bautista loaded up to throw a punch, Odor was quicker, landing one of the best punches in the recorded history of baseball fights. Bautista was staggered and eventually restrained as both benches cleared.
There wasn't any way Odor wasn't going to get suspended, but eight games, compared with recent punishments doled out by MLB's discipline office, seems excessive.
Take last April's brawl between the White Sox and Royals. The Royals' Lorenzo Cain and Edinson Volquez both threw punches. Outfielder Cain was suspended for two games and starting pitcher Volquez was suspended for five games — effectively one start.
In 2013, the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig threw a punch in a fight with the Diamondbacks' Eric Hinske. He wasn't suspended. Hinske, who threw a punch that initially appeared to make contact with Puig, saw an initial five game suspension reduced to single game. The list goes on and on. Players throw punches — or even charge the mound to go after a pitcher as the Red Sox's David Ortiz did in 2011 — and they get a three- or four-game suspension, max.
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Odor is being singled out for harsher punishment because his punch landed. Even though he had the same intent as Puig, Ortiz or Cain, he's going to be on the bench for more than a week because he knows how to throw a right hand.
Update 4:15 p.m.: Bautista got one game. One.