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Rooting for a Rangers-Blue Jays playoff series

Fight on field turns simmering rivalry into boiling one
May 16, 2016

Rivalries are great, especially new ones, the kind that pop up over some intense play on the field.If you're of an age, you might remember Royals-Yankees in the late 1970s, when no matter what Kansas City tried, it just couldn't get past New York. Or the Braves and the Padres

Rivalries are great, especially new ones, the kind that pop up over some intense play on the field.
If you're of an age, you might remember Royals-Yankees in the late 1970s, when no matter what Kansas City tried, it just couldn't get past New York. Or the Braves and the Padres in the '80s. And the Cubs and Mets in the late '80s -- or really any time from 1969 forward.
You can bet that's what we've got with the Blue Jays and the Rangers for the foreseeable future after Sunday's extracurricular activities at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Many lines -- invisible ones and obvious ones -- were crossed by participants from both sides. The passion on the field between Toronto and Texas is what makes baseball its most compelling, but there's never a place for a player to pop an opponent in the face, as Rougned Odor did to Jose Bautista.
Odor deserves the long suspension he is certain to receive.
The fight between the teams was the real thing, and that's rare in baseball these days. These are two teams that really, really don't like each other.
So here's hoping that we'll see them on the same field again this year.
The next meeting between the Rangers and Blue Jays would have to be in October, as their regular-season series is over. But picture the buildup and drama if they meet again in the postseason, maybe even playing for a spot in the World Series.
While teams like the Orioles, Red Sox, Mariners, White Sox, Royals and others will have a say in that, there's a legitimate chance of a rematch in October. That would be so much fun.

The Rangers moved past the Mariners into the American League West lead with Sunday's victory, and the Blue Jays are about as dangerous as a 19-20 team can be. It's hard to imagine that a team featuring Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin isn't going to make a run at some point.
The Rangers wouldn't have the issues they do with the Blue Jays if they had been able to finish them off in the AL Division Series last fall. It was a great series for fans, except those who are invested in seeing the Rangers get back to the World Series after they let the 2011 championship get away from them at Busch Stadium.
Having traded for Cole Hamels, the Rangers got to the verge of the AL Championship Series last fall -- seemingly at one point set to play the Astros in a battle of Texas. But while the Royals came from 2-0 down to beat Houston, Texas' 2-0 lead over Toronto evaporated and Bautista sealed a remarkable comeback with the Rogers Centre home run that was followed by an unforgettable bat flip.
Bautista was celebrating when he flipped his bat after watching his home run off Sam Dyson sail out of the park. He wasn't trying to show up the Rangers, but he broke one of baseball's unwritten rules, and it had fans in Arlington booing Bautista all weekend.
You couldn't help but be waiting for trouble, and it arrived when the Rangers' Matt Bush hit Bautista with a pitch. That set the stage for Bautista's hard slide into Odor, who had dropped down as low as he could to make a relay to first base after taking a throw from Beltre. It was old-school baseball, and the umpiring crew quickly ruled that Bautista violated the new slide rule, making this an automatic double play.
Odor is a very talented 22-year-old. But he's rapidly building a reputation as an instigator.
Odor and the Astros' Hank Conger exchanged words during an at-bat last July after Odor Cadillac-ed around the bases on a homer, prompting a benches-clearing brawl at Minute Maid Park. He spiked the Angels' Johnny Giavotella with a dubious slide on the last weekend of the 2015 season, when the Rangers were working to hold off the Astros in a tight division race.
By popping Bautista, Odor is likely to be a target of Toronto fans for a long time, just as Bautista will remain on the radar for Texans.

A postseason rematch would be a lot of fun, especially if managers Jeff Banister and John Gibbons can make sure their guys keep the competition within the spirit of the game.
There's going to be a long list of fines and suspensions from Sunday's brawl, and it's a safe bet that each team is going to believe the other got off lightly while it was punished too heavily. That almost always happens.
Odor and Gibbons, the latter of whom came back onto the field after being ejected earlier in the game, figure to get hit hard. But what does Bautista deserve for his role?
Where do the teams go from here? Expect to hear talk from both the Blue Jays and Rangers about how they stood together on the field and will carry an increased level of energy forward.
The Blue Jays have been in need of a lift. They haven't been scoring runs like you'd expect, currently ranking tied for fifth in home runs and seventh in runs. Second baseman Devon Travis, who was a force when he was healthy last season, has begun a rehab assignment and could be close to providing a lift of his own.
The Rangers are anxiously awaiting Yu Darvish's comeback. He is throwing hard on his rehab after Tommy John surgery and could join Hamels to give Texas one of the best 1-2 combinations around.
Long term, both of these teams look built to last. They'll be keeping an eye out for each other in October, for sure, but first they've got to put their claims on postseason spots. You can't get there with bluster.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for