Today was the final episode of the season of the Fan 590′s Baseball Central– because it’s making way for hockey talk, since, y’know, NHL rookie camps are open, so we’d better talk about who’s going to end up as the top defence pairing for the Abbotsford Heat, right?– and as an outstanding send-off hosts Dirk Hayhurst and Sam Cosentino spoke to Jose Bautista.
I normally find player interviews pretty astonishingly boring– even, frankly, when it’s someone clever enough to not merely spew out steaming bowls of bland soup, media-trained-to-death– but Bautista today offered what seemed like a pretty honest assessment of the team dynamic that many feel hampered the Jays in 2013.
Of course, I’m surely being naive if I don’t suspect that this isn’t maybe exactly the kind of media-trained goo that I just railed against– it is too close to exactly what you’d think disillusioned fans certain of their armchair assessments want to hear– but it’s worth taking a look at nonetheless.
Asked about leadership and what, if anything, needs to be changed with respect to how the Jays conduct themselves, Bautista said this:
At times we to be a little more vocal among ourselves, with some of the stuff that’s been going on in games, and to get on each other a little bit. Not necessarily to discipline each other, but to kind of make sure that we’re on the same page as a team, and we’re all pulling the same rope, the intensity level is there, and we’re all looking to have that outlook as a team that we’ve got to play together as a group.
I think at times we kind of just let things go by for a week or two where– maybe you need to just hit a ground ball to get a runner over, maybe you need to focus a little bit more, because a guy’s a little wild, and take a couple pitches, you know? And that doesn’t have to come from the coaching staff– as players and Major Leaguers we’ve got to do that ourselves. But at times we were a little bit reckless, I guess, when it comes to playing as a unit, and not necessarily– and I’m not saying we were playing selfishly, but it looked like we were all trying to do everything and come through for the team as individuals instead of playing with a better group effort.
I mean, it’s pretty easy to have figured all that out after the fact– and, frankly, as you might expect, I’m not really sure I believe it really matters a whole lot. But it’s at least nice to hear him identify and speak assuredly about what a lot of people thought were some pretty clear problems with the club this year. To have the most important on-field representative of the team demonstrate that he doesn’t have his head up his ass, even if he’s just telling folks what they want to hear, seems to me to be in no way negative.
The conversation continued, as Hayhurst asked if maybe the fact that it was such a veteran-laden club created an environment where players didn’t want to discipline themselves too harshly.
We’re all teammates and we can’t feel bad if another teammate says something to us. And that goes– I put myself number one on that list. If I have Brett Lawrie or J.P. Arencibia or Melky Cabrera say something to me– that I should have maybe run a little harder after I hit that pop-up, and they know I’m frustrated– I can’t feel bad if they tell me. That’s the nature of the game. We’re all out there as a team so we’ve got to stay on each other to make sure we’re focused and we don’t deter from the goal, which is winning the most games that we can.
So… everybody good, then?
Well, he tried.
He also said exactly the right things when he was inex-fucking-plicably asked about the wholly media-created speculation that he might be a player the Jays are looking to move this winter– because, y’know, some kind of laughably absurd dream scenario is going to come along, in which a club loses its mind and wants to trade a front line starter and then some for a 33-year-old slugger, with declining trends in wOBA and ISO, who has only played in 210 of his club’s last 324 games.
“I feel committed and grateful to this organization, and this is where I want to be,” said amid his reply to the question. ”I still feel that the core of our club is going to be intact, and we still have that ability to compete and be in the playoffs.”
Call me crazy, but me too. Uh… I think.