The Runner Sports

Foul Odor In WBC Bat-Flip Flap, But Alex Bregman Has A Point

The Texas Rangers’ second baseman Rougned Odor drove in the go-ahead run Monday (March 13) for Venezuela in a World Baseball Classic tiebreaker against Italy in a do-or-die contest.

While the box score only reflected an RBI single, Odor’s hit actually bounced off the top of the wall in left-center field. The oft-flamboyant Odor flipped his bat and jogged to first thinking he had hit a home run.

Rougie’s saving grace through all of this is that, ultimately, he scored an insurance run in the eventual 4-3 Venezuela victory over Italy.

Astros fans were upset at the outset. Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel had Odor in the starting lineup instead of Astros second baseman (and reigning AL batting champ) Jose Altuve for Monday night’s crucial WBC game.

Related: Altuve and Bregman Lead 8 Astros to WBC

The Lingering

Odor has irked the Astros and their fans since 2015, when he flipped his bat after a late-inning triple. Benches cleared during his next at-bat after then-catcher Hank Conger griped at Odor to get in the batter’s box a little less slowly.

The Rangers went 15-4 against the Astros last season on their way to the American League West crown, and 13-6 against them in 2015 as they overtook Houston, late, for the top west spot.

Tweet Emotion

Jeff Wilson, of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram picks up the action, in his March 14 article: “But the bat flip didn’t sit well with Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who has been riding the bench for Team USA. Bregman has 49 career games on his resume. Odor has 384.

“But that didn’t keep Bregman from tweeting, ‘Act like you’ve done it before.’ Don’t bother looking for the tweet, though. Bregman quickly deleted it, but not before the Houston Chronicle captured a screen grab:”

Alex Bregman tweeted about Rougned Odor's bat flip in the World Baseball Classic. Photo: Twitter

For some reason, Wilson brings up the disparity between Bregman’s 49 career games, and Odor’s whopping 384, apparently implying that Bregman has no right to question the actions of the wise, grizzled veteran, who is all of 55 days closer than Bregman to collecting Social Security.
In what may be apropos of nothing, the Chronicle also points out that Bregman’s Twitter avatar is a shot of him circling the bases after a homer against the Rangers, with Odor peering on in the distance.
On Tuesday afternoon, per the Chronicle, Bregman took to Twitter again to clarify that he had “zero problem with him (Odor), and zero problems with bat flips. Just don’t like that it could have hurt their chances of winning.”
And, then, hoping to put an end to what was becoming a pointless Twitter war with overzealous Ranger fans, Bregman wrote, “That’s it. People blowing this outta proportion. I think he is a great player and a gamer.”
Odor, in transit from Mexico to San Diego, according to the Star-Telegram, could not be reached for comment.
Smart Alecs….
Odor’s Rangers manager Jeff Banister, though, had a few thoughts:

“Was he in the other dugout?” Banister wondered, referring to Bregman. “The only people who should be concerned about that are the people involved in the game.”

Sounds good, Jeff, and I know you have to protect your boy, and toe the company line. I only hope there isn’t footage of you, at any time in your career, commenting on a player or game action in a stadium in which you weren’t present. To be anything close to credible, I mean.

Plus, I question the need for Bregman to have bought a ticket or flashed an all-access badge to retain the right to comment on the game, or any action therein. Anyone who sees game footage, from fans to ESPN talking heads have commented, or will comment, and not being present in the same stadium doesn’t negate or delegitimize their opinions.

….and Nit-Picking

C.J. Nitkowski, a former pitcher for both the Astros and Rangers, and now the new TV analyst for Rangers broadcasts (and clearly not an impartial reporter), took to Twitter to attempt to put Bregman in his place.

“Kid with 70 days in the big leagues subtweets Odor’s bat flip, and tells him to ‘act like you’ve done it before,'” Nitkowski wrote. “In a second cowardly act the tweet gets deleted. Twitter courage fades fast.”

Cheap shot from a 44-year-old man, happy to throw shade on a kid half his age. And, Nitkowski represents the Rangers in an official capacity.

Nitkowski isn’t new to Twitter controversy, clumsy communication, and picking on those much younger. Check his own April 2016 entry from his CJBaseball.com website, where he disparages a young fan seen in the stands looking at their phone. Ironically, his piece rails against the “Dangers of Social Media Overreactions.” Hmmm. Really, C.J.?

Nitkowski might be too young to remember Hall of Fame Houston Oilers legend Earl Campbell. Whether or not the “act like you’ve been there before” words ever crossed his lips, Earl was the king of scoring a touchdown—his first or his 74th—and acting like he’d been there before: He just dropped the ball. No dance, no shuffle (however “Icky”), no pulling a pen from the goalpost pad, and no running to the mid-field logo for a bow. Greatness can actually be accomplished without waving your arms and majestically (and symbolically) shouting, “Hey, LOOK AT ME!”

Smart Alex

Does Odor have the right to flip his bat? Of course. Does Bregman have the right to respond? Yep. And, from wherever he is, too, despite Banister’s call for Bregman’s omnipresence.

As for Odor, and one of baseball’s top “unwritten” rules,  a pro bat-flip piece can be seen here. I have no problem with players bat-flipping and fist-pumping. They’re not doing it in my face. But, if you’re a bat-flipping hitter or a fist-pumping pitcher, better be prepared to accept (from players on the same field as you)  the possible “fallout” of other players who object to your “look at me stuff.” They may be coming from the perspective of team-first humility, like Campbell, or the long-respected “me-last” play of Astro Hall-of-Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.

As Bregman stated, his beef had nothing to do with a piece of wood and its attendant flip. His concern is this: If you stand in the batter’s box, tossed bat or not, and longingly admire the fact that you hit a baseball (a talent for which you’re handsomely paid), and the ball fails to leave the park, you look ridiculous…standing on first base (as Odor was after this particular hit), when you could have been on second or beyond. AND, YOU COULD HAVE COST YOUR TEAM THE GAME! Astounding how Odor, Banister, and Nitkowski, for all their protection of the Ranger second baseman, don’t seem to be getting that.

One More Thing

Don’t get the rancor in the I-35 corridor feud between Houston and “South Oklahoma”? Here’s The Houston Chronicle’s primer on “Why Astros Fans Should Hate the Rangers.”
That should clear things up, except for the one remaining question: How did the Chronicle manage to only come up with fewer than 20 reasons?
Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

At TRS, you'll get full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and maybe a little rock'n'roll!
Brad Kyle