Bautista having bad days is the one from Dirk Hayhurst at Sportsnet. Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail has another, titled Bautista’s temper a concern for Jays’ manager Gibbons. Over in the Toronto Sun, Ken Fidlin writes Blue Jays monitoring Bautista’s plate passion.
Yes, Jose Bautista’s too-demonstrative seething when calls don’t go his way has been something of a topic of conversation here during the early part of the Grapefruit League season– to the point where you can be forgiven for assuming, based on the mini cavalcade of reports, and despite the fact that in all of them lengths are taken to downplay it, that it’s even actually a genuine problem facing the club.
You’d be wrong, of course. But you could be forgiven– though it’s probably going to have to be for the last damn time, since it’s not exactly like it’s new to have Bautista’s on-field body language become a media issue in lieu of there being anything else to talk about.
That isn’t to fault the writers who have broached the subject as part of their daily content-churning grind. I mean, finding stuff to talk about during Spring Training is difficult at the best of times, and this year obvious, compelling storylines are especially scant. Plus, when Gibbers starts talking about it on the record, there’s a pretty strong obligation to write about it, whether you think the issue is real or not.
But we’ve heard this stuff before, and what did it amount to, exactly?
Shit, I wrote about it in early May of last year, when Bautista was just starting to show signs of coming around. I pointed out that it appeared as though Jose wasn’t benefiting from as many “superstar calls” as you might expect, and wondered if his attitude– in terms of his body language and some of the comments he was making to reporters– maybe wasn’t helping him. “Let’s just hope that, once the bat comes around, this whole cock of the walk, dickhead act lightens up a bit,” I wrote at the time, to much derision from those who can’t fathom their sacred cows not possibly being entirely infallible. “Not just so it maybe softens the umpires’ stance on not giving him borderline calls, but because it sure as shit isn’t very likable– at least when he’s not producing.”
I stand by the fact that, as much as I understand competitive fire and myself have an unblemished record of Bonnerworth Park tennis matches that made the old folks at the lawn bowling club across the street dizzy with shouts of frustrated profanity, I don’t particularly like it when Bautista comes off like that. But hoo boy, did whatever concerns anybody might have had about Bautista’s season being submarined by vindictive umpires evaporate in a fucking hurry.
After the first game of the Twins series that I refer to in the piece, Bautista’s 2012 OPS sunk to .655– save for three instances in April, his absolute low ebb for the season. From the next game– a two home run effort at Target Field– until he succumbed to a mid-July wrist injury in Yankee Stadium, his OPS was a just slightly stunning 1.021, with 22 home runs in 58 games. So… I think he was pretty OK.
You could argue, I suppose, that perhaps at some point around this time the umpires decided collectively that he’d paid his penance and stopped punishing him with an ever-expanding strike zone. A simpler explanation, though, would seem to take us much closer to the truth: Jose got his timing straight, and that the umpires are maybe better equipped to understand the human nature of ultra-competitiveness than we tend to give them credit for.
Dirk Hayhurst, to his credit, seems to always be thinking just a little bit differently than everybody else, and as far as I’m concerned hits the nail on the head on this one. ”The attitude is not such a big deal for the older players, but younger ones will see a superstar having a tantrum and take that as a sign that it’s okay to imitate,” he explains, not bothering to point out precisely which young player it might benefit. *COUGH*
“Bautista has too many microscopes focused on him to put out the crybaby vibe,” he adds. “Not that he is, but if he slumps to start the year like he did last year coupled with some bad body language, expect unnecessary drama.”
Emphasis on unnecessary, I think.
And for what it’s worth, during my brief time in Dunedin last week, and the even more brief time I observed Bautista, he seemed about as good a teammate as you could ask for– upbeat and affable, with plenty of time for the media members looking to speak with him one-on-one (also: not fat– and I have no idea where that stuff was coming from on Twitter yesterday). This sample size of data is woefully small, of course, but there was no hint of a guy who’d pose a problem for the club– and I don’t think that’s what any of the pieces written on the subject are trying to get at anyway. I can see how the reader-hooking titles and the sheer volume of them– relatively small as it is, even– could be misinterpreted as suggesting otherwise, but it’s important to remember just how little there really is to talk about right now, and how easy it is for these crumbs to get blown out of proportion.