Rangers out of line in brawl with Blue Jays

If you want to keep a scorecard of the bad blood between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers and where everything fits into the nebulous world of the baseball code, it goes something like this:

Jose Bautista: Excessive bat flip and stare-down after mammoth, series-turning home run off Sam Dyson in last year's playoffs. Code ruling: Violation! At least under the old-school version of "Play the game the right way." Of course, you have to ignore that it came in a huge moment, gave the Blue Jays the lead in front of a jazzed-up home crowd that hadn't seen the Blue Jays win a playoff series in 22 years and went absolutely bonkers, and that the ball was crushed all the way to Manitoba. The code says baseball players must play without emotion, less you show up the other team.

Matt Bush: Appears to throw intentionally at Bautista, hitting him in the elbow and ribs with a 96-mph fastball. Code ruling: Violation! Wait ... why would this be a violation, wouldn't this be the Rangers simply exacting retaliation on Bautista, which is fair game under the code? Maybe at first glance. But the Blue Jays seemed upset at the timing of Bush's inside fastball in that it came in Bautista's final at-bat in the final meeting between the teams this season. Bautista called it "cowardly." Josh Donaldson called it "the easy way out." Jays manager John Gibbons said it was "gutless."

I'm siding with the Blue Jays here. If you're still upset with Bautista, you have to get back at him right away, not the seventh time if you've played each other since the home run. Also, the Rangers apparently had a guy pitching his second major league game, who just reached the majors at the age of 30 after a winding, troubled road to get there, do their dirty work. A guy who wasn't even in the organization last October.

Bautista: Hard slide into second base. Code ruling: Fair play. The slide was hard and a little late and past the bag (and Justin Smoak, the batter, was ruled out on interference by Bautista), but right over the bag and he didn't slide spikes up or do anything that indicated an intent to cause injury. And considering what just happened, second baseman Rougned Odor should have been expecting a hard slide, especially since the Rangers were up only a run at the time.

Odor: Drops down on the relay throw and tries to take off Bautista's head. And then punches Bautista in the jaw with a quick right hand. Code ruling: Violation! Some will say Odor's throw was within the guidelines of the code, because you're taught to drop down on a relay throw to make the player slide. It seemed, however, that Odor had intentions of trying to hurt Bautista. Why? You have a game to win. You should be more concerned with completing the double play than trying to exact even more revenge for something that happened in October. Plus, Bautista was already sliding, and he wasn't out of the basepath. If Odor's throw was within the code, then the code is stupid and broken and even more illogical than it already is.

It was a great punch, though.

Bottom line: The Rangers were out of line. I'm trying to find a way to defend any of their actions. I guess there's this:

Pillar did go a little crazy there, I'll agree with that, but it seems as if the Rangers are grasping at straws to defend the whole melee. Maybe the pitch just got away from Bush (although it was the first pitch of the plate appearance), or maybe he threw at Bautista on his own. Adrian Beltre said after the game that the pitch got away from Bush and "and they took it the wrong way." Except ... when he got hit, Bautista went to first base. That's not when the brawl happened. Manager Jeff Banister chalked it all up to emotions getting out of hand.

I guess that's what Banister is supposed to say. To his credit, at least he was out there trying to break up the brawl.

Bottom line: If part of the code is learning how to lose -- you know, for the kids -- and showing character in defeat, then the Rangers haven't learned to lose with grace. Bautista's home run and flip occurred in October. Get over it.

One more note on the code. There was an interesting exchange I saw on Twitter between C.J. Nitkowski, the former pitcher and current analyst for Fox, and the writer Joe Sheehan. Nitkowski tweeted this:

Joe argued that "nerds" had nothing to do with the new slide rules. I guess I fail to understand Nitkowski's point, although that's what players and former players say all the time. Let the players handle it. Is he saying fights are OK? Because that's what happens when you do let the players police themselves, you get stupid stuff like this, ending up in stupid fights that could have ended in with multiple injuries. Baseball is stupid sometimes.

And all because of a bat flip.