With the young, exciting and ultra-talented Toronto Blue Jays once again igniting baseball fervour in Canada, fans can’t help but think back on the 2015 and '16 teams, the last group that captivated the nation with a similar brilliance and passion.
While those Jays teams - led by stars like Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista - ultimately failed to bring a championship back to Toronto, they did supply Canadians with a plethora of memorable moments, including a heated rivalry with the Texas Rangers.
One incident clearly burned into Blue Jays fans' memories was the fight between Bautista and Rangers infielder Rougned Odor in May 2016, with Odor landing a strong punch and inciting a benches-clearing brawl for the ages.
On the Talking Points podcast, former Jays manager John Gibbons was asked about what he remembers from the unforgettable series of events.
“Jose expected to get hit,” Gibbons told host Stu Stone. “He handled it like a lot of guys used to handle it. ‘Okay you hit me, but your middle infielder better watch out, if there’s a ground ball, I’m gonna tear him apart.’”
“Jose expected to get hit…”
Go behind the scenes with John Gibbons on that infamous day in 2016 when @JoeyBats19 slid into Rougned Odor.@stustone #BlueJays #TalkingPoints #NextLevel pic.twitter.com/O2iLPqoZ4G
— Bodog (@BodogCA) April 30, 2022
The rivalry between the teams traced back to Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS, when Bautista hit a three-run home run and promptly flipped his bat in celebration in front of a raucous Rogers Centre crowd en route to a series-clinching victory.
The Rangers were not quick to forget the loss and Bautista’s antics, enacting their idea of revenge the next season when he was purposely hit by a pitch in the teams’ last meeting of the 2016 season. His subsequent hard slide into second base ignited the now-infamous showdown.
“We knew it was coming,” Gibbons said. “We just couldn’t believe they waited until the seventh game, our last game of the year. But we got them later that year.”
The Jays went on to sweep the Rangers in the 2016 ALDS, eliminating them from the playoffs in consecutive seasons and getting the last laugh after a fierce two-year feud.
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