Alumni Opinion:   From the Bleachers

Australian Baseball Alumni is pleased to announce the addition of a regular opinion column to its online services.

 

Former elite dual sports athlete Justin Charles – currently a frequent guest on the SEN Baseball podcast – has agreed to provide regular articles on a range of baseball matters either arising from breaking news or based on general interest concerns for our sporting community.

 

From the Bleachers will be updated on this site as required – at least once a week - and it will be linked to our Facebook and Twitter services for comment and feedback.  The fundamental purpose of the service is to generate discussion of baseball issues:  opinions expressed are not necessarily those held by any person involved with Australian Baseball Alumni administration.

 

 

Justin Charles is well known to many in the community for his exploits as a professional in two sports – Australian Rules Football and baseball.

 

Making his football debut with Footscray Football Club in 1989, Charles – or JC, as he is more widely known - went on to play 36 games with the Bulldogs while retaining an abiding interest in baseball, which in turn led to his suiting up for Melbourne Monarchs in the Australian Baseball League and spending a year with the Florida Marlins organisation in the early nineties.

 

Taken in the AFL draft by Richmond in 1994, Justin Charles played 54 games with that football club – including an outstanding 1996, when he finished third in the Brownlow Medal, the prestigious award for best and fairest player in the league. Testing positive to an anabolic steroid in 1997, Charles was suspended for sixteen weeks and he was subsequently unable to make a lasting return to football because of chronic injury.

 

Nevertheless continuing his involvement in baseball, Justin Charles spent several of the ensuing years in Melbourne domestic competition – despite crippling injury - and he was granted a new lease of life after undergoing a revolutionary hip resurfacing treatment that enabled him to return to playing involvement.  

 

Since 2011 he has played club baseball for twelve months of each year and he has served as Club Coach at both Werribee Baseball Club and at the East Belmont Saints winter club in Victoria.

 

Justin Charles is a regular on the SEN Baseball Show podcast (taped on Saturday mornings) and on the Dandenong Baseball Association Radio Show (Friday evening live).

 

A physically imposing, knowledgeable, ever-positive and passionate person, Justin Charles has well and truly joined the ranks of Australian baseball lifers. We welcome JC on board as an Alumni member and contributor, whose first entry – on this week’s widely publicised MLB brawl between Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers – appears below.

 

 

Justin Charles

18 May 2016

 

Earlier this week, with the Blue Jays playing Texas, we saw all hell break loose in the final game of their three-game series.

 

A reckless slide by Jose Bautista and Rougned Odor, taking exception, punched Bautista right on the jaw.

 

Bautista had just been ‘dotted’ by a 96 mph fastball from Texas pitcher Matt Bush.

 

Let’s have a look at the sequence of events that led to eight players/coaches get tossed from the game.

 

It goes back to the playoffs in 2015.

 

1. After losing the first two games of the ALDS to Texas, Toronto fought back to win the next two games and level the series.

 

In the deciding Game Five with the score knotted at three runs apiece, Bautista hit a clutch 3-run home run that would be the decisive blow. In the emotion of the moment, Bautista paused, then flipped the bat in monumental fashion. Many baseball followers saw this ‘bat flip” as disrespectful to the opposition.  Show boating, as it were…the Texas Rangers didn’t like it too much either, apparently!

 

2. Fast forward to this week. With one game to go in their home and home series of games, in the top of the eighth, Bautista gets drilled by Matt Bush.

 

3. Still top eighth. Groundball hit to Beltre, who starts the 5-4-3 double play to Odor and Bautista slides with the intent to physically hurt Odor. By the new sliding rules, every aspect of Bautista’s slide was both reckless and dangerous.

 

4. Odor takes exception to the intentions of Bautista and after shoving him, Odor punches Bautista on the jaw, clean and crisp.

 

5.  Benches clear, five players/coaches get ejected.

 

6.  Bottom eighth, with Texas batting, Jesse Chavez plunks Prince Fielder in retaliation. Benches clear again. Chavez is ejected.

 

Here is my opinion on these occurrences.

 

The Jose Bautista bat flip. 

 

In what was an enthralling and fascinating contest between two evenly matched teams, both clubs gave their absolute all, and it got very willing. Emotions ran high.

 

Personally, I don’t like the bat flip. I know others will argue it’s great, but I actually don’t feel strongly either way. If you want to, do it. If you don’t, don’t. My preference is no bat flip. But on this occasion, I actually don’t think Bautista was out of line with his histrionics and bat flip. It might be a bit much if you take it in isolation. I feel it was completely in context, and I don’t think it was showing anybody up. (I’m no Bautista fan, by the way. Can take him or leave him).

 

Matt Bush plunking Bautista.

 

One of the most gutless and weak things I’ve ever seen in baseball. To wait till the last at bat of the last time you see each other is cowardice of the highest order. I’ve never agreed with intentionally throwing at a batter, though sometimes you need to protect and retaliate, I get that. But what Texas did, via Bush, was lame.

 

First of all, if you have a beef with someone, get it done in the first game of the series if you have any balls! Give the opposition a chance to square the ledger.

 

Secondly, why drill Bautista anyway? What’s the beef? Are you still pissed at him hitting the game winning homer and flipping the bat and hurting your feelings in the playoffs last year?

 

So not only are you cowards, but you’re childish as well!

 

Speaking of childish…the Bautista take out slide.

 

I can understand Bautista being upset and angry. But to slide into Odor like a maniac to try and hurt him just showed he was no better than the Texas idiots.

 

I really like the new sliding rules at second base and home. I’ve never agreed with taking out or roughing up the middle infielders to try to break up the double play or the catcher on a close play at the plate. As a player, I’ve only ever slid hard into the base, with the base being my object. As a 6’5”, 106 kg man running full tilt at the bag, that is enough of a distraction without barrelling the player. I feel the middle infielders are unprotected and it’s poor sportsmanship to go at the man.

 

I’ve left the physical contact on the football field where it belongs…IMO.

 

So back to Bautista’s slide. Irresponsible. Stupid. And worst of all, he met the coward’s act from Texas with a coward’s act himself! Bautista’s slide did not portray him the hero. Quite the opposite.  By all definitions, dangerous and illegal. I hope he gets fined and suspended for it.

 

 Odor punching Bautista.

 

Got to say, I really don’t like the way Odor plays. He is known to slide recklessly himself and play in an aggressive and antagonistic way. But... If Bautista (or anyone for that matter) slid like that at me……I’d punch him in the mouth also.

 

Don’t like Odor, but I don’t condemn him for smacking Bautista in the gob. Bautista can learn some valuable lessons there too:

 

*  Keep your cool. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

 

*  Keep your guard up, meat!

 

Chavez plunking Fielder.

 

Jesse Chavez and Prince Fielder were just the pawns in the mystical unwritten rules of baseball.  “You plunk one of ours, we plunk one of yours”.

 

Everything was handled nicely in this incident.

 

First, Jesse Chavez had to protect Bautista and ‘fly the flag’, not let Texas get away with hitting his team mates without consequence. He had to drill Fielder, even though he knew he would be ejected for doing so.

 

Secondly, Fielder knew it was coming and didn’t squeal.

 

Balance is restored.

 

EDITOR’S FOOTNOTE:

 

Penalties were handed down by Major League Baseball for the benches-clearing brawl between the Blue Jays and the Rangers. There were six suspensions and a total of fourteen players and staff who were fined.

 

Rangers infielder Rougned Odor copped an eight-game penalty, Jesse Chavez was suspended for three games for intentionally throwing at Prince Fielder, Bautista was suspended for one game and Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus was given a one-game penalty for throwing a punch.