(Note: this is not the nuts-and-bolts series preview for the upcoming series, Jeremy Koo's full preview is available here)
The A's upcoming home opponent Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays just completed their season series on a low note. The two teams' Sunday, May 15th contest turned ugly with a full out benches clearing brawl.
The bad blood between the Rangers and Blue Jays dates back to the 2015 ALDS where, in the deciding game 5 of the series, Jose Bautista hit a massive bomb that was exclaimed by a now-infamous batflip. (Video)
Obviously not happy about the home run and bat flip (which has since been discussed ad nauseum), the Rangers exacted revenge in the final game of the 2016 season series between the two teams, as recently imprisoned felon (for DUI with great bodily injury) - and former failed #1 overall pick - Matt Bush plunked Bautista high and very tight in the top of the 8th inning of their game.
This plunking represented a highly questionable move as it came in Bautista's final plate appearance of the season vs. the Rangers. While it can be argued whether Bautista's 2015 ALDS bat flip deserved on-field retaliation, it is safe to say that waiting until the final PA against Bautista of the season was a cowardly decision. If Bush acted outside of his organization's directions, his behavior, along with his LONG off field rap sheet should mean he is not on the team long. If he remains on the team, it is safe to say he was not acting outside of the organizational bounds. It is notable that the Rangers fans gave Bush a standing ovation when he came off the field.
Bautista - rightfully in my opinion - took exception to the plunking and the next play delivered a high slide into Rangers 2B Rougned Odor on a double play ball. The high slide is questionable as well. But clearly something that is not unlikely to happen when a pitcher with a rap sheet beans a guy in the last PA of the season for revenge over a prior season incident. Odor did not take kindly to the slide and delivered a monster right cross to Bautista's chin, sparking a legit MLB brawl.
Coincidentally, after this wild chain of weekend events, the Rangers come directly to Oakland!
The Rangers are going to be a team that is highly charged up on edge after the events of Sunday afternoon. This is a situation where the A's can showcase their level of mental toughness. Do you let a charged up, maybe a bit distracted, division rival come into your house and play with more energy and toughness? Or do you look to strike at a possibly disheveled opponent and win with tighter focus and the right amount of fire and poise to make the Rangers reel?
With the Baseball Gods likely not taking kindly to the wait-until-the-final-PA-of-the-season beaning of Bautista, and the MLB offices sure to come down hard at some point, the 2016 Athletics are primed for an opportunity to step up and prove their mettle in a key early-season division contest. The question is, how mentally tough are the 2016 Oakland Athletics? Tickets for a seat in Oakland to observe first-hand are available here.