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Following Bautista-Odor fight, Joe Torre says MLB needs more governing

Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre gestures as he speaks during a news conference at the general managers' meetings, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

LISTEN: Joe Torre, MLB Chief Baseball Officer

A day after Jose Bautista and Rougned Odor came to blows and caused the Rangers and Blue Jays benches to clear, the discussion about the unwritten rules of baseball raged on.

Major League Baseball has always leaned on players policing themselves and while that may continue, MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that the league must do more policing to avoid such situations.

“It’s tough right now because I think there’s so much sensitivity to getting hit or even getting thrown close to. I think we have to try to govern it,” Torre said. “Guys are going to get hit and there’s retaliation and stuff, but we concern ourselves with anything in the neck and head area. If anything ever happened without being aware or (the MLB) warning people … you’re gonna be penalized if you do something like that and somebody all of a sudden ends their career, we’d never forgive ourselves. What happened yesterday was ugly, there’s no question about it.”

Torre, the former Yankees manager who visited Chase Field Monday to help the Diamondbacks honor the late Joe Garagiola Sr., realizes there are complicated issues with any suggestion of rule changes.

That’s especially true for a sport that has a hallmark placed on tradition.

The case from Sunday afternoon, of course, has many complications when it comes to the rules in ink and the ones that are not.

The 2015 bat flip by Bautista, who is from the Dominican Republic, may have played a part in the tensions that boiled over against the Rangers on Sunday. The issue there, Torre said, is partially a cultural one.

“I think we have to understand there are different customs in different countries. Players are used to showing a little more emotion than we’re used to (in the United States),” he said.

A series of plunkings in the Rangers-Jays game Sunday — perhaps a reaction to Bautista’s infamous bat flip — raised the issue of retaliation.

Bautista reached base after being hit by a pitch, and his late slide into second broke the Chase Utley slide rule in its first year in the MLB rulebook. The play led to Odor landing a punch to the Blue Jay star’s face.

“It bothers me,” Torre said. “I understand there’s a passion in this game but, you know, if somebody ends their career by being in a middle of a scrum … it’s a waste of a career and possibly a life.

“Again, is it a total surprise? We like to give the clubs the benefit of the doubt. If we were on the edge of our seats this series going in, we would have had warnings going in before it started,” Torre added. “We want to give everybody the benefit of the doubt that they’re out there to win a ballgame and not get even. It was disappointing yesterday, there’s no question.”

HE SAID IT

“Somebody asked me inside about does this, coming here, does it give you any bad memories. I said, ‘We lost but it was still the most exciting World Series I’ve been a part of. It was unbelievable.’ There were so many things that happened. Of course, our losing two games here and then the three games, especially games four and five, in New York were crazy. It was like groundhog day.

“But we had a lead and they beat us. We didn’t lose, they beat us. That’s what happens.”

– Joe Torre on the 2001 World Series between his Yankees and the Diamondbacks

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