Much Ado About Harumphing

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays

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.


Comments (45)

  1. lol….and what’s the club “monitoring” the situation for? What possible avenues does it have available to it to curb this? Besides a conversation that goes something like

    “Uh, hey, Jose, would you mind, uh, if it’s not too much trouble, cutting back on the outbursts? ……..pardon? Fuck me?…..ok, understood. Carry on sir”

    Of course, this is assuming he’ll be Bautista like. If he slumps badly or just flat out sucks, this is the kind of stuff that becomes more of a problem, rightly or wrongly.

    But if he’s producing at regular Bautista level? As long as he’s not punching the ump in the solar plexus, there’s nothing the team can do except be happy he’s on our side.

  2. I think with the number of talented veterans on the team this year, they can police themselves

    • Bautista needs to maintain his plate discipline and that will go along way to curbing this potential issue

  3. Really? This shit again? It sounds like some in the media are bored in the middle of yet another overlong, tedious ST and needed something to write about.

    I remember some were attributing his early season struggles to his supposed “anger issues” last season. Maybe that’s next up.

  4. “Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?”

  5. “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-shrinking strike zone.”

    I think you meant to say it was ever-expanding, unless he was pitching.

    But I think if Bautista just shuts his mouth and maybe even show a little respect for the umps, maybe the numbers will do the talking, and he’ll get the superstar respect.

  6. People used to get on vernon wells all the time because it looked like he didnt give a shit. When an ump would fuck up or he hit one of his 10 million infield pop ups he would have an “oh well” look on his face. Now, with bautista its the opposite. He is too passionate and whines too much. Got to say, although I think bautista goes overboard sometimes with his complaining and comes across as a douchebag, i’d rather have 25 bautistas’ on the roster than 25 wells’ performance notwithstanding.

  7. Has there actually been any work done on the topic of different strike zones for different players? I have read that Yankee pitchers get favorable calls (i.e. Rivera) but that their hitters don’t. I have read about catchers who are better pitch framers (i.e. Jose Mollina) but I haven’t seen anything on the ‘superstar strike zone’. Has this ever been quantified and, if so, has it been shown that Bautista is being treated in some way unfairly?

  8. Perhaps based on nothing other than my own observations and selective memory, but there also tend to be a lot less hand-wringing among certain folks when Lawrie acts like a petulant little twat than when Bautista does. I wonder why that is…

    • that’s because Lawrie is Gritty, and plays the game the right way.
      bautista is a fiery

    • You have it backwards. Being younger and unproven and having almost assaulted an ump, Lawrie took way more heat. Here and in other cities.

      • I don’t think he does. Lawrie gets a pass on pretty much everything. While Bautista has ridiculous stories like these written about him as well as some fans believing that he has “attitude issues” because he reacts the same way most stars do to borderline calls.

      • ASSAULTED AN UMP!? are you talking about when he through his helmet at the ground away from the ump and it took a bad bounce and grazed the shin of the ump? You are right, he should be in JAIL!

        I agree he is overaggressive and annoying at times.

  9. Who cares?

    Joey Votto on Team Canada!!!!!

  10. I love Jose, he’s my favorite player on the team and he seems like a solid pro from his interviews and everything you hear about him, but I have to think if I were an umpire and I had someone acting out as he is prone to over a call that, in my mind was correct or at the very least, honest, I’d be ticked off, possibly to the point where I’d call borderline stuff against him just to get back at him (brett lawrie and the helmet toss incident, anyone?).

    Ontop of the off-chance that a sensitive umpire actually does react to Jose’s antics, it is absolutely obnoxious to a lot of people, particularly non-jays fans I talk to about it, and while it’s not a particularly bad thing to be unpopular with the baseball world, i’d still be very pleased to see him turn over a new leaf and accept that he needs to change how he is perceived.

  11. Very odd. When I was watching the game yesterday, my wife (who is totally disinterested and wasn’t on twitter) said that Bautista put on weight. Maybe his shirt was a bit big?

  12. Is he really complaining about spring training calls?

  13. Meh could care less

  14. My wife said the same thing “He’s kinda pudgy for a baseball player ins’t he?….”

    It was cold, maybe he was wearing multiple layers causing his normal unifirm to appear tighter creating the illusion that it was tight, therefore causing the twitterverse, Michale’s wife and my wife to question his weight….

    I’d like to see Hayhurst write about this, although it would probably end up leading to a excerpt from his upcoming book or his unwavered support of ball players and the stresses they are under.

    • mine too – she thought he looked juiced up this year though, rather than fat

      • Well, he probably didn’t have as time to get in his normal off season work due to his injury/rehab.

        Or, he bulked up an extra bit before the season. I remember him saying in the past that there isn’t enough time to workout and keep the muscle on once the season starts, and that he finishes the season 10-15 lbs lighter and weaker than when he started.

    • Have your wife take a look at Joey Bats in the ESPN ‘body’ issue last year.

      But be careful, she may never want you to take your shirt off again. Either that or she may want you to start working out.

      Neither are particularly good options.

    • I keep telling my wife that I’m not getting fatter, I’m just wearing more clothes because it’s so damn cold.

  15. This time of year is when baseball writers tend to run out of actual things to say – and submit this kind of bullshit non-story pap to justify their presence in Florida to their employer.

  16. ain’t that the truth.
    I love baseball, started palying when I was 8, gave it up at 26 due to a bum arm, but still play softball at 60 and even I cannot fathom 6 fukin weeks of exhibition baseball. Neither can the writers so they dream up all kinds of stuff to try to keep people interested. C’mon Cleveland and are we meeting at Oprah bob’s or just going to the fukin game?

  17. Weird. Another top level athlete with anger issues… particularly when he is not doing well. This is news? Lets just bask in his awesomeness, shall we?

  18. Then we pump those profits back into the, uh, profit cycle to generate even more profits. And I know what you’re gonna say. Profits? Yes, Stan you’re soaking in them.

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