ARLINGTON, Texas – The root of the animosity the Texas Rangers feel toward the Toronto Blue Jays runs deeper than Jose Bautista’s epic bat flip in Game 5 of the American League Division Series last year.
"Ah, there’s a lot of things. We cannot say it on camera. That’s going to stay with us as a team," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said Wednesday ahead of the opener in this post-season’s highly anticipated rematch. "But it happened, man. We didn’t like it. We showed him that we didn’t like it. That’s how you do it in baseball, and everything happened after that. It’s a man’s sport, and it’s going to happen. When a team doesn’t like something they see, they’re going to stick together as a team, and do whatever is better for the team, and at that moment, that’s what it was.
"We had no hard feelings about it. Just turn the page and move on."
On that last part, there was lots of agreement in the Rangers clubhouse before their workout, especially from Rougned Odor, who stuck very closely to a very, very bland script.
The second baseman whose punch to Bautista’s jaw triggered a wild brawl between the clubs May 15 described the ALDS with the Blue Jays as "just a series," and noted "we’re just trying to do our best and try to play how we’ve been playing."
Lingering bad blood?
"That’s over already, we’re just trying to win this series and win how we play."
Did he watch the Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 in 11 innings in Tuesday’s wild-card game, hoping for one opponent over the other?
"I was just watching the game, I don’t care who was winning. We’re ready to play against I don’t care (which) team. Now it’s Toronto. We’re ready."
What will it be like crossing paths with Bautista at second base?
"Nothing. That’s the game."
Any contact with him since the brawl?
Any extra edge facing the Blue Jays, given the history?
"I think it’s a normal series. We’re just going to try to do the same thing that we do with every team, try to play our game and try to win the series."
Meanwhile reliever Sam Dyson, who gave up Bautista’s seventh-inning homer and whose anger over the bat flip led to a pair of bench clearings in last fall’s Game 5, didn’t even offer bland platitudes.
"Questions pertaining to this year would be great," he grumbled.
He wasn’t much interested in answering those, either.
Still, it’s wise not to get too caught up in the compelling narrative.
Remember all the bad blood between the Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals during the regular season last year? None of that bubbled up during the American League Championship Series because the stakes are too high for nonsense at this point, a point classy Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre stressed.
"This is the playoffs. Do you know how difficult it is to get where we’re at right now?" he asked. "We have our minds on getting to the World Series and win it. We don’t have our minds on trying to fight somebody or thinking about what happened three months ago. That’s not what we’re thinking about. We’re thinking about trying to find a way how to get to the next step and find a way to win 11 ballgames in the next month or so. That’s our mindset."
The history between the teams will hang in the backdrop, however, and whichever club emerges victorious is certainly going savour it all the more.
"It’s really sweet facing a redemption this year, and (a chance to) beat those guys," said Andrus. "We know it’s going to be a hard series, they’re a really good team, but we’re ready for this series."