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How long will Rougned Odor be suspended for punching Jose Bautista?

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A look at how the league has historically handled major brawls, and how long Odor may be suspended for.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Twitter was abuzz Sunday as fans on both sides of the border argued about the fallout from the Jose Bautista-Rougned Odor brawl in Arlington. If you haven't seen it yet, here it is:

While I won't dive into my personal feelings on the incident in this space, I thought it would be useful to try to predict the length of the suspension Odor will receive from Major League Baseball in the coming days. Theories from fans on Twitter have the ban lasting anywhere from three to 30 games, with a couple (Jays' fans, no doubt) even suggesting that the infielder be banned for the rest of the season.

To do this, I re-watched fourteen notable brawls from the last 20 years and tried to piece together which actions have caused the league to hand out more severe suspensions than others. The tape revealed three factors that appear to lead to longer suspensions:

1) Did the player instigate the brawl, or cause it to seriously escalate?

2) Did the player's actions take place within a scrum, or outside of it?

3) Did the player's punch land, or did he miss? In other words, did the player do damage?

★ ★ ★

If the answer to all three of these questions is yes, the player is probably looking at a significant suspension of 7-10 games. Out of the fourteen brawls I reviewed, only six players who were not pitchers who intentionally threw at a batter (Carlos Quentin, Johnny Cueto, Nyjer Morgan, Coco Crisp, Michael Barrett and Pedro Martinez) received suspensions of seven or more games. Here's why:

1) Did the player instigate the brawl, or cause it to seriously escalate?

In almost every case, the league punishes players who instigate the brawl or cause it to seriously escalate. Mound-chargers like Quentin (8 games for tackling Zack Greinke in 2013), Morgan (8 games for charging and punching Chris Volstad in 2010), Crisp (7 games for charging and swinging at James Shields in 2008) and Martinez (8 games for charging Mike Williams in 1996) all received long bans. Barrett, who received a 10-game suspension after sucker-punching A.J. Pierzynski after a home-plate collision in 2006, and Cueto, who got a 7-game ban for kicking Chris Carpenter and Jason LaRue in a 2010 fight that had been largely diffused, were punished for severely escalating their respective situations.

History shows that players who jumped into brawls late and simply participated in the in-scrum madness have received lesser punishments. A recent example of this is the Royals-White Sox brawl from last season, in which Yordano Ventura received seven games for instigating by chirping at Adam Eaton but Lorenzo Cain (2 games), Edinson Volquez (5 games/1 start), Chris Sale (5 games/1 start) and Jeff Samardzija (5 games/1 start) received lesser punishments despite their involvement.

In Odor's case, he obviously escalated tensions between the Rangers and Jays by throwing the first punch and will likely be punished accordingly. Though some may argue that Bautista's slide (and/or bat flip from last October) were the beginning of the brawl, Odor's decision to throw the punch is the breaking point here.

2) Did the player's actions take place within the scrum, or outside of it?

Obviously, it's much harder for investigators to see exactly what is going on at the bottom of a pile of 50 angry men than say, Barrett and Pierzynski going one-on-one at home plate, so guys who single themselves out get...well, singled out for extra punishment. Mound-chargers take on a similar role due to the visibility of their actions, as did Cueto (being up against the fence away from the center of the brawl).

Odor's punch was in the middle of a one-on-one confrontation with Bautista, before any scrum could develop. This battle, similar to the one between Barrett and Pierzynski, will likely lead to harsher punishment.

3) Did the player's punch land, or did he miss? In other words, did the player do damage?

The last factor is the most interesting, as Major League Baseball puts serious weight on whether or not the player's punches (or other acts of force) actually landed in the course of a brawl. It seems crazy to think the league punishes for damage instead of intent, but a look back at recent suspensions reveals that it is, in fact, an important factor.

In my unscientific re-watching of recent brawls, I counted 16 players who threw legitimate punches, kicks and shoulder charges. Out of that group, the players who missed were punished much less severely:

  • 2015: Lorenzo Cain and Edinson Volquez (Royals) clearly throw punches in a brawl against the White Sox, but miss. Cain receives a 2-game suspension and Volquez gets a 5-game ban (1 start).
  • 2013: Yasiel Puig (Dodgers) throws punches in a brawl against the Diamondbacks but misses, and does not receive a suspension as a result. Eric Hinske (Diamondbacks) is ruled to have connected in his attempt to punch Puig, and receives a 5-game suspension. This is later reduced to a 1-game ban.
  • 2012: Steve Clevenger (Cubs) fails to connect on a punch thrown in a fight against the Nationals. He receives a 1-game suspension.
  • 2011: David Ortiz (Red Sox) charges the mound against Kevin Gregg (Orioles), and both players throw punches that miss. Both players received 4-game suspensions that were reduced to 3-game bans on appeal.
  • 2008: Coco Crisp (Red Sox) charges the mound against Rick Porcello (Tigers), and Shields throws a wild punch that Crisp dodges. Crisp retaliates with an attempt of his own, but also misses, before tackling Shields. Crisp receives a 7-game suspension for charging the mound and tackling Shields, who only got 6 games (barely more than 1 start) despite throwing a punch.
The league has even admitted that connecting on a punch will cause a player to have a longer suspension, as reported by FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal in a 2013 article about the Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl. According to the league, Hinske received a 5-game ban for connecting on his punch while Puig's miss meant he would not be suspended:

According to a source, however, Hinske hit Puig first.

The video, when slowed down, shows Puig’s head snapping back at least two or three times, as if he was hit by a punch, the source said.

Puig was ejected for being an "instigator" in the brawl, the umpires said. But he did not make contact with Hinske, Puig's punch getting blocked by another Dodger after his arm started forward, the source said.

This bizarre rationale means that a player's ability to dodge a punch in the middle of a large brawl plays a large role in the aggressor's eventual punishment from the league. In Odor's case, the right hook to Bautista's jaw landed unlike any punch we've seen in a long time on a baseball field.

★ ★ ★

The verdict: It appears as though Odor is in for a very significant suspension, likely for around 10-12 games due to his role as an instigator in plain view who landed his punch (and landed it very hard). The most comparable incident is the one involving Barrett, whose one-on-one incident with Pierzynski and hard punch earned a 10-game ban a decade ago.

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to see Odor get a suspension of more than 10 games considering the league's increased recent focus on condemning violence by harshly suspending players involved in domestic violence incidents. While the Odor-Bautista bout obviously did not take place in the context of a home, many argue that assault is assault no matter the location. Major League Baseball took a strong stance in response to domestic incidents involving Aroldis Chapman (who was suspended for 30 games) and Jose Reyes (who received a 51-game ban), and might look to extend its no-tolerance for violence policy to on-field incidents in assessing Odor's punishment.

The expectation here is that Odor, Bautista and Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson will all be suspended in the coming days. Matt Bush (Rangers), Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays) and Jesse Chavez (Blue Jays) will likely receive punishment as well, though it is unclear if any of those players will be suspended. If precedent holds, Odor will miss a significant amount of time while everyone else gets much less severe punishments.