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The Bat Flip Heard Round I-45

How a World Baseball Classic bat flip and a twitter response ignited the first shots of the 2017 Battle for the Silver Boot

Rougned Odor, second baseman for the rival AL West Texas Rangers, drove in a go ahead run for his native Venezuela against Italy earlier this week in the World Baseball Classic. Upon hitting the ball, Odor flipped his bat in celebration and this did not sit well with Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman (Currently playing for Team USA) who almost immediately tweeted: “Act like you’ve done it before.” Just as quickly as Bregman hit send, the tweet was deleted.

While Odor himself has had no comment on Bregman’s tweet, it initiated a few comments from Ranger’s personalities. When asked about the tweet, Rangers Manager Jeff Banister replied, “Was he in the other dugout? The only people who should be concerned about that are the people involved in the game.”

Former Major League pitcher turned broadcaster C.J. Nitkowski took to twitter in response to Bregman’s tweet as well: “Kid with 70 days in the big leagues subtweets Odor’s bat flip & and tells him to ‘act like you’ve done it before,” and “In a second cowardly act the tweet gets deleted. Twitter courage fades fast.”

Nitkowski’s comments sent some Astro fans to the defense of Bregman including our own Issa Cook who responded:

“Breg has played baseball all his life. So basically you say he shouldn’t tweet this due to seniority. Same mindset the Rangers need to get rid of,” Cook wrote, “They both are professional baseball players at the highest level, both at the top of their craft.”

Nitkowski replied, “Don’t tell Venezuelan star players how to play baseball in the WBC, especially as an American rookie. Never your place.”

Astros second baseman and Bregman’s teammate Jose Altuve, who also happens to be Odor’s countryman and WBC teammate has had nothing to say on the subject and more than likely it will stay that way as he is not one for getting involved in much controversy.

Bregman did go back to twitter to clear up any misconceptions, “People blowing this outta proportion. I think he is a great player and a gamer.”

No matter the response, it seems that Bregman is not a fan of showboating at the professional level, and it should not matter if he has played in the MLB for 70 days or 7,000 days. Bregman has earned his way into any conversation that concerns the game. Baseball is baseball, there are purists and there are those that are wrong.

Odor has had his share of problems with players and bat flips in the past; In 2015 Odor flipped his bat after a triple against the Astros and then caused the benches to clear during his next at bat when Astros catcher Hank Conger took issue with Odor taking his time to get into the batter’s box. In 2016 a hard slide into second base by Blue Jay’s Jose Bautista resulted in Odor punching him in the face, which came after Bautista had hit a monster home run against the Rangers in 2015 and finished  it off with a bat flip that people still talk about today.

As irrelevant as tweets should be taken, this particular one should be a small catalyst into a great rivalry amongst the Rangers and Astros during the 2017 season with managers, players, broadcasters and fans all getting involved.

The Astros are looking for a spark

It is no secret that the Rangers have absolutely owned the Astros during their brief time together in the AL West. In fact, the Astros have only managed 10 wins against the Rangers out of 38 tries the last two seasons.

It has seemed that no matter what the Astros have been able to put together, the Rangers have had their number. This year it should be different, this year fans should see a real rivalry (one that means much more than some fans want to believe exists between the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys). The Astros are entering 2017 with a heavily upgraded lineup featuring veteran leadership that should help to put them over the top. The offensive additions of Josh Reddick, Nori Aoki, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann along with a full season of Bregman should provide a much needed boost to the club in their quest to reign supreme in the American League.

Most media pundits agree that the AL West will be a tightly contested race between the Astros, Rangers and Seattle Mariners. More often than not, the experts predict the Astros to come out on top. The one weakness many experts believe could hold the Astros back is their starting rotation. Some are unsure if Dallas Keuchel will bounce back to his 2015 form, regardless as to whether or not he was pitching through an injury last season as it has been reported. Many do not trust Lance McCullers to stay healthy no matter how much they like him as a pitcher. After Keuchel and McCullers, some believe the Astros rotation is littered with C+ talent and pay no attention to the young arms like Joe Musgrove, Chris Devenski, or Francis Martes. There are others that believe the Astros need to trade some young talent for established pitchers such as the Tampa Bay Rays Chris Archer or the Chicago White Sox Jose Quintana to truly solidify them as a contender, but at the moment the Astros seem satisfied with the rotation they have assembled.  All of these concerns will either be debunked or addressed during the season.

Perhaps Bregman sending out the bat flip tweet was an example of his youthful ignorance, maybe he is absolutely right in what he said about Odor’s showboating, maybe deep down he was doing his small part to get this rivalry fired up for the season, or maybe he just wants to punch Odor in the face…one thing is for certain: If the Astros are to live up to the prediction made in the  June 30, 2014 issue of Sports Illustrated featuring George Springer on the cover that stated “YOUR 2017 WORLD SERIES CHAMPS,” then that road starts and ends with the Rangers. It is plain and simple; the Astros must win more games against the back-to-back AL West champions than they have the last two seasons.

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