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How MLB missed the mark in Blue Jays-Rangers punishments

Without having specific explanations for each of the suspensions doled out to the Blue Jays and Rangers following their Sunday brawl, these are some of the questions that linger about a few puzzling decisions:

1. Why was Matt Bush not suspended or exonerated entirely?

His fastball into the ribs of Jose Bautista kicked off the whole series of events, and while the umpires on the field did not interpret his actions as egregious in real time -- because they didn’t throw him out of the game -- Major League Baseball apparently did. With the benefit of reviewing Bush’s pitch with replay over two days of deliberations, MLB fined Bush.

But in this case, you can’t have it both ways. Either Bush threw at Bautista with intent or he didn’t.

If MLB determined that he didn’t, then he shouldn’t get any penalty for hitting Bautista any more than any of the hundreds of other pitchers who will inadvertently hit a batter with a pitch in 2016.

On the other hand, if MLB officials determined that Bush threw at Bautista on purpose -- if he had any level of culpability -- he should be subject to at least the same level of suspension that Jesse Chavez got.

To give Bush merely a fine is a cop-out, a search for a middle ground that really doesn’t exist, perhaps out of respect for the umpires' handling of Bush's actions on the field. There's no reason why that should be a concern any more than any other replay review is: The umpires are at a disadvantage because they have to make their decisions immediately, without the benefit of time and second and third and fourth looks.

(And by the way: I haven’t spoken to a single player or team official who believes Bush’s fastball was an innocent mistake.)

2. Why was Elvis Andrus suspended for a game when Kevin Pillar and Josh Donaldson were not?

You can see 15 seconds into this replay of the brawl that after Rougned Odor and Bautista squared off, Andrus turned and threw a punch that missed, so it’s not really a surprise that he was sanctioned. But if a primary question is about who escalated the brawl and who did not, then Pillar and Donaldson, like Andrus, were in supporting roles, both of them flying into the mix, aiming for Odor; Pillar went in with arms flailing, and Donaldson took Odor to the ground.

The difference between what Andrus did and what Pillar and Donaldson did might come down to a literal definition of what a punch is, a really slippery slope; what if Pillar had made contact with his windmilling hands?

(In his comments Tuesday, Pillar left no doubt about his intent: “In the heat of the moment, you’ve got to do what you think is right. You’ve got to go out there and defend yourself and defend your teammates. And just given the circumstances, I felt like [Odor] was owed one, and I was going to go out there to get him.”)

It might be better to stick with the question of who acted aggressively and who tried to defuse the situation.

3. How did Bautista get just one game?

He really did nothing out of bounds through his slide into second base, which was clearly aimed to send a message but not to injure, as Bautista said. He didn’t sweep the leg -- to borrow a phrase from "The Karate Kid" -- as he went into Odor, and didn’t go into a roll block. Bautista was angry that Bush hit him with a fastball and wanted the Rangers to know it.

But Bautista also had the opportunity, after his slide through second base, to pop up and run off the field to the visitors dugout on the third-base side. He didn’t do this. Rather, he turned, glared at Odor and moved toward him, a choice that was a domino in setting off the brawl -- much like a hitter moving toward a pitcher after being drilled at the plate. If Bautista gets up and runs off the field, it would’ve been over.

Maybe Bautista got some forgiveness because he got drilled. Maybe it was because he chose to slide with intensity, and not intent to injure.

Or maybe this is a case of simple mercy, because Bautista will pay a price for this incident indefinitely: A replay of Odor punching the Jays slugger flush on the jaw will be shown on video boards for decades to come.

Odor will appeal his suspension.

A Rangers minor league affiliate created a drink named after his punch.

Bob Elliott thinks the Odor suspension of eight games was too lenient.

Bautista got a pass from David Price, as Steve Buckley writes. Red Sox coach Brian Butterfield knows Bautista and talked about what happened.

Bautista showed he can take a punch, writes Hal McCoy.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons can’t win for losing, writes Rosie DiManno.

Meanwhile: The Jays have been getting beat up on the field.