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Waltzing across the Texas Rangers

by Cliff Boutilier
Waltzing across the Texas Rangers

If you're not already aware, the best emerging rivalry in the wide world of sports is one between a pair of major league baseball clubs: the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers play in suburban Arlington, just outside Dallas. The Blue Jays actually play in downtown Toronto.

In their 45‑year history the Texas Rangers have appeared in two World Series and lost both. In their 40‑year history the Toronto Blue Jays have appeared in two World Series and won both.

Perhaps the Texas Rangers are mad at the Toronto Blue Jays because the Texas Rangers, and how can I be polite here and not cause an international incident ‑ because the Texas Rangers are such losers.

That's part of the equation. The other part of the equation is a bat flip. Yes, a bat flip.

You see, last October, seven months ago, when the Jays beat the Rangers in a deciding play‑off game, their right‑fielder, Jose Bautista slammed a Sam Dyson 1‑1 pitch 442‑ft. downtown to secure the win. He then gave his bat a good ol' toss.

That dreadful act, the Bautista bat flip - after his three‑run homer of a lifetime - upset the mighty Rangers. Mightily.

Besides losing pitcher Dyson, the bat toss likely upset Rangers first‑year manager Jeff Banister the most. It was this career minor‑leaguer, whose major league career consisted of one (1) pinch‑hit plate appearance, who decided to pitch to Bautista with two‑out in the seventh and second base open.

But that's baseball, as they say.

The Texas Rangers squandered a two game series lead and blew the third and deciding game. Choking, I believe, is what it's called in the sports vernacular.

Then came the Winter of Discontent in Rangerland, for their players, their genius manager, their front office, their ownership, their fans, and the local sports hacks. Oh, all the sad puppy dog eyes in Rangerland. It was a blue, blue, Blue Jay Christmas for the Texas Rangers.

So, seven months later, in this new season, in their last match‑up of the regular season, just hours before the Jays were to catch a plane to leave the Dallas area (a place once called "Nut Country" by one very late U.S. President) Jose Bautista, Public Enemy No. 1, comes to bat one last time.

This time Rangers manager, the aforementioned Mr. Banister, curiously has 30‑year‑old "rookie" Matt Bush on the mound rather than his usual eighth inning set‑up man.

Bush, who the Toronto Blue Jays had the good sense to discard seven years ago, is lately out of U.S. federal prison for driving his Dodge Durango over the head of a 72‑year‑old motorcyclist.

No matter.

Bush drills Public Enemy No. 1 with a first pitch fastball to the hip and Bautista takes his base. No fuss, no bother.

On the subsequent play, a Justin Smoak grounder, Bautista slides hard - but not Cobb‑like viciously - into Rangers second baseman Rougend Odor. Affectionately called "Rougie" by the local luvin' sports hacks.

In any event, Public Enemy No. 1 pops up from his illegal slide and "Rougie" pops Bautista a good one in the jaw. Both dugouts empty, the bullpens empty and a mass of baseball humanity spills onto the field.

"Rougie", who played a shitty game five back when the Texas Rangers choked last year, immediately runs for cover behind his Texas teammates, but not before Jays Kevin Pillar and reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson take a very good run at "Rougie." Tough guy, this Rougend Odor.

Meantime, the hometown Texas crowd goes wild, all 40,000 of them. That's a lot of stretchy pants and beer bellies.

Unaware ‑ perhaps it's a question of literacy, I don't know, ‑ but totally unaware that the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club is primarily comprised of Americans, the locals, all 40,000 of them, begin screaming, "USA! USA!"

Ironically back in 1974 when the Texas Rangers had a real manager by the name of Billy Martin, they also had Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins of Chatham, Ont. Few Americans would know where that's located. Canadian "Fergie" finished the '74 season with 25-wins, 6-shutouts and 29-complete games, still club records is Texas.

Ah! Texas! Guns, God and Wal‑Mart. Mass shootings and death row. You don't mess with Texas. No sir, Texas is one of a kind. And thank God for small mercies, eh?

As the dust settled in the Lone Star State, the Texas talking heads and the Rangers beat writers went to work.

Messrs. Barry Horn, Kevin Sherrington and Evan Grant, a 400‑lb. blob of giddy empty‑headedness, all of the Dallas Morning News, could not stop wetting themselves over "the punch".

Rangers TV colour guy, Tom Grieve, 109, a former Rangers general manager, who never won a damn thing in his 10‑years as GM, goes on the record to declare, rather boldly, that Jose Bautista will be remembered in Texas as "that guy who got his brains beat out".

Well, maybe, poor old, angry Tom Grieve is exactly right.

After all, they do know a little something about brain matter soiling the streets in the "Big D", don't they?

Yes'm, so much to be loud and proud about in Dallas, Texas.

Jesus H. Christ, not only could the Dallas locals not protect their own President, they couldn't even protect the lone assassin. Nut country incompetence at its finest. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Yes, Texas, you've given the world much over the years.

From the death of Kennedy to the political birth of former Rangers minority owner, George W. Bush, and all which continues to follow "Dubya" to this day. Plus the Texas State Fair and Chili Con Carne.

Maybe Texas, it's high time you took a bit of a breather and stopped giving the world things. Just take a little break, stop giving, and shut the foook up for awhile.

Learn to relax, enjoy life, lean back, rub that big belly, scratch that fat ass, and throw them cowboy boots up on the corner of the desk for a spell.

That's it, nice and easy now, just chill a bit. Rest that big, tall Stetson down over your eyes, and don't get so easily excited or offended by the small things in life like a little bat flip. Why, that's nothing to flip out about?

Then again, everything is so much bigger in Texas, I guess, including hurt feelings.

If only, thinking back to the bottom of that seventh inning in October, if only Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus  knew how to field a baseball? If only Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland knew how to throw a baseball?

If only Rougend 'Boom‑Boom' Odor knew how to play his position on a Josh Donaldson bloop pop‑up?

If only....

cliff@frankmagazine.ca

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