Let's talk for a bit about how unqualified I am to do this. Coming up with a proper suspension feels like something we should all be able to do, but it's a complicated alchemy. There's precedent to consider. There's the subjective grading of bodily harm, the arbitrary parsing of intent. There's the MLBPA watching over your shoulder, and there's the court of public opinion.
If Major League Baseball releases a list of suspensions and everyone says, in unison, "These are appropriate and fair," you run. You get out of here and find someone else who hasn't been abducted yet.
Let's talk for a bit about how unqualified I am to write about baseball in general, but, well, whoops, out of time, so we'll just grade the suspensions of the big Rangers and Blue Jays fight. Jose Bautista made a naughty slide. Rougned Odor used his hands instead of using his words. Coaches got mad. Kevin Pillar acted like a freak. Elvis Andrus got suspended for touching Adrian Beltre's head, I think. It's time to give a letter grade to all of the suspensions in Sunday's fight, starting with ...
Jose Bautista - 1 game suspension (C+)
That mention of precedence up there? Doesn't apply. This is the first time a slide like that was illegal and reviewable for punishment. By law, I'm required to include my favorite Hal McRae GIF for people who haven't seen it:
Did I write "favorite Hal McRae GIF" singular? Sorry, should have been plural.
Baseball! And that's how it used to be. McRae's punishment for those plays was 25 or 26 different pats on the butt when he went back to the dugout. Bautista's slide wasn't even illegal last year, so some people might argue that he shouldn't be suspended at all.
Here's the ambiguity. You have to divine intent, even if it's impossible to do perfectly. Here are two different thoughts that Bautista might have had after being plunked in the last at-bat in the series. You tell me which is more likely.
"I am angry about that pitch, but there's no time for that now! It's a one-run game, and I need to break up the double play on a grounder. Remember, Jose: If you get carried away, the runner to first can be called out, as well."
"I'm gonna mess that second baseman up."
You know the answer. Come on. You knowwwwwww the answer, Blue Jays fans. The easiest you can be on Bautista is that he just wanted to "shake Odor up" or "make him aware of his presence," not intentionally hurt him. But if that's the case, it's analogous to throwing a cinder block off a second-story balcony and expecting it to shatter right in front of the target, real loud-like. Maybe the plan works, and maybe it creates great bodily harm.
It's not quite throwing a punch, no. The punishment should have been worse than a one-game suspension, though, considering the intent was to use a large human body traveling at a high rate of speed to send a message of anger and disapproval. That rarely ends well.
Rougned Odor - 8-game suspension (C-)
It should have been 30 games. Hear me out before leaving a comment. And, okay, you're already leaving a comment. But I don't really think Odor should have been suspended for 30 games. Punches have been thrown in baseball since the fist was invented, and suspensions don't get much bigger than Odor's, which is just under five percent of the season.
But if MLB handed down a 30-game suspension, here's what would have happened:
- The Internet would have caught fire. Talk radio and yelly-sitdown-talk TV would have caught fire. Everyone would be talking about this draconian suspension.
- The MLBPA would have filed an appeal that read, "No." in 89-point font.
- MLB would have been forced to reduce the suspension to eight games or so, either because of arbitration or pressure.
- The seed of "Jeez, baseball takes this seriously" would have been planted in the brain of at least one player who would have taken a swing at another player in the future.
There's no way to prove that last one. And maybe it wouldn't have made a difference at all. But MLB could have used the MLBPA's powers as a buffer that would have allowed them to posture with a bigger suspension. It would have made a statement.
Although I'm pretty sure MLB.com's traffic numbers over the last few days are quite healthy, so maybe preventing punches entirely isn't something they're interested in just yet.
Jesse Chavez - Three-game suspension (B)
It seems silly compared to Matt Bush's fine -- they're the same thing, ethically speaking -- but where there was about a 90 percent chance of staring, glowering and chirping with Bush's pitch, there was about a 90 percent chance of the benches emptying with Chavez's pitch. When the benches are empty, Darryl Strawberries can look for Armandos Benitez. The potential for mayhem is much higher.
At the same time, it's tinder that wouldn't exist if Bush didn't start spraying around the lighter fluid. But that's a topic better discussed under his grade.
Elvis Andrus - One-game suspension (D+)
Was this a punch?
Kind of, not really?
A better question is, "Was this the punch of someone who wanted to fight, or was it the punch of someone reacting to a large, bearded man running at him and screaming 'GRRRAAAAAAHHHH?'" It looks like a push from someone preparing to defend himself as he takes inventory on the situation. Pillar came in like there was a Bad Brains concert at second base, and Andrus kind of had to figure out what was going on.
If Andrus pursued Pillar into the pile afterward? Yeah, maybe reevaluate that initial shove and fist-cock. As is, I don't see anything out of place.
John Gibbons, three-game suspension (A)
Can't return to the field after an ejection. Them's the rules.
Matt Bush, fine (F)
Did he throw at a player intentionally, or didn't he? The fine suggests he did. But if he threw at a player intentionally, isn't the suspension usually at least a game? I get the difference between a game and what Chavez got after benches were warned, but a fine seems like a great way to satisfy nobody.
Either he plunked a dude on purpose, or he didn't. If he did, it's at least a game.
The Rangers fan who started the "U.S.A." chant at 6:00 in this video, no suspension (F)
Look at me right in the eyes: Life. Time. Ban. And he should lose his home. Unless it was supposed to be ironic, in which case, well done.
Sam Dyson - fine (INC)
He ended up with a cut on his cheek after being at the bottom of the pile, but I couldn't see what was going on down there, and presumably the folks in charge of these suspensions "talked" to people. He was scrapping with this Michael Rapaport-looking dude ...
... who is apparently bullpen catcher Jason Phillips. My Moneyball suggestion would be to draft 6'8 dudes built like Sandor Clegane and mold them into bullpen catchers who could also pop skulls like pimples. I'm talking deterrence, not violence.
Justin Smoak - no suspension (F)
Swinging at that pitch on a 2-0 count should get at least three games. Without that swing, none of this happens.
Did he think it was an 0-2 count? What was that swing? Maybe the worst 2-0 swing of the year, and it led to a teammate getting hit in the face.
A.J. Griffin, Robinson Chirinos - fine (A)
Can't leave the bench if you're on the DL, them's the rules. And, really, if you're in the middle of a scrum, maybe you're a big faker and you're not really hurt. That's what I'd think if I were a manager.
Man, I'd be an awful manager.
Steve Buchele - fine (INC)
It looks like he's in the middle of the second wave of pushing, but I couldn't see anything that was more egregious than anything else. One of the umps must have heard something inflammatory.
Kevin Pillar - fine (D-)
Look, I'd be ticked at Odor, too. And Pillar went after the right guy, so I'm not thinking he was a total loose cannon, just swinging like he didn't give a damn. It was a reasonable unreasonable response.
He was the wildest cat at the catfight, though, and if he's not restrained, it gets ugly. At least a game, especially if Andrus got one for keeping Pillar the hell away from him.
Josh Donaldson - fine (B)
Same thing as Pillar, except he just went for the viking tackle. That's probably okay, considering. I'm pretty sure Pillar didn't throw any punches because he was being restrained and twisted around.
DeMarlo Hale - fine (C)
DeMarlo Hale: I'm the manager now.
DeMarlo Hale: I'm the manager!
DeMarlo Hale: [prances around]
DeMarlo Hale: "King of the castle! King of the castle!"
DeMarlo Hale: [takes selfie in dugout]
DeMarlo Hale: [posts to Instagram]
DeMarlo Hale: OKAY FELLAS LET'S HEAR SOME CHATTER OUT THERE.
DeMarlo Hale: [is fined after HBP]
DeMarlo Hale: Wait, I use that money to buy things, do you know what bench coaches make, hold on, wait, this isn't right.
Not a horrible round of suspensions, considering that they're all usually bad, but there are some head-scratchers. Pillar getting a fine and Andrus getting a game are the weirdest, but maybe there was something in the MLB video that showed more?
Which is to say we don't have all of the information. That's not going to stop us from pretending we do, though. It's our right.
Wait, no, 10 games for Smoak.