Hurt feelings at root of Blue Jays-Rangers brawl

Matt Bush decided that it was best to stay mum on his plunking of Jose Bautista.

They’re playing a kid’s game. Sports is the toy department of any newsroom, it’s true. None of this stuff actually matters. But they’ve got to grow up. Your feelings are hurt because someone hit a home run off of you and he celebrated hitting the biggest home run of his life in an elimination playoff game? How about not giving up the home run?

Grow up.

If you don’t like it when your opponent celebrates, do a better job so he doesn’t have the opportunity to celebrate.

Hurt feelings are what caused the entire brawl Sunday evening between the Blue Jays and Rangers in Texas, where actual people could have actually gotten badly hurt. No one gets hurt from a bat flip, unless they’re dumb enough to walk under the bat as it’s being flipped. But Matt Bush decided he was going to be a hero to his new team – he made his major-league debut Friday with the Rangers – and he drilled Jose Bautista to start the eighth inning with Texas up by one run. A fastball right in the ribs. There is no doubt it was intentional, none whatsoever. Bush’s own “no comment” after the game spoke volumes.

Bautista dropped his bat and went to first base. Then, Bautista’s emotions got the better of him, and his slide into second on Justin Smoak’s double-play ball was late and dirty. But on a scale of dirty, with zero being not dirty at all and Chase Utley being a 10, that was a one. Spikes down, he just slid hard through the bag. Rougned Odor got up looking for a fight – and actually fought.

You almost never see honest-to-goodness fights, with punches thrown, in baseball. Usually when there are brawls, it’s more of a “grab me, hold me back” little slap-fest while the aggressor is running the other way like in basketball.

Marcus Stroman on Twitter

But Odor first shoved Bautista in the chest with both hands, and then clocked him right in the jaw. And Bautista was certainly rocked. Before the Blue Jays slugger could gather himself, Adrian Beltre locked Bautista up and took him away from everything. As the brawl raged on the field, Odor stood at the absolute back of the pack, behind 30 or so of his teammates and coaches.

It was just nonsense, it was ridiculous, and I know there will be so many neanderthals and knuckle-draggers who loved it. They’ll say “this is what we watch sports for, this is what it’s all about.”

“Competition!” they’ll cry (and several did, to me on Twitter during Blue Jays Talk on Sunday evening).

But this can’t be what it’s all about. This is not what it should be about. It’s about the game, actually playing the game as opposed to “settling a score.” It’s not about the stupid “you hurt my feelings and now I’m going to beat you up” attitude. We’re not in Grade 4 – this is professional athletics.

Starting a street brawl is not the appropriate reaction to a hard slide that up until this year would have been perfectly legal. Dirty, but at the lower end of dirty. A hard slide, as opposed to a roll block or coming in spikes high or going at a guy’s knees. Or sliding over the base and spiking an infielder in the leg, which Odor did last season against the Angels’ Johnny Giavotella. This was just a hard slide through the bag. Bautista shouldn’t have done what he did. Odor shouldn’t have done what he did. Matt Bush shouldn’t have done what he did.

It all comes back to this insane need for retribution because Bautista flipped his bat seven months ago. Feelings were hurt. Allegedly grown men were “shown up.” But here’s the thing: If you don’t want someone to celebrate his successes, do your job better so that he doesn’t have any successes to celebrate – get him out.

But of course, make sure not to be too happy about it. We all know that could hurt somebody’s feelings and they might get mad and try to beat you up.

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