For quite a number of weeks, Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail and the Fan 590 has been going on like a broken record about the possibility of the Jays dealing Jose Bautista this winter. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say that he necessarily thinks the club should do it, but he’s certainly willing to provoke the conversation, and in implying that doing so maybe shouldn’t be quite as tough a move to swallow as most of us would think.
This morning he found an ally on the subject, chatting on his Fan 590 program with Jays radio voice Jerry Howarth, and leading the club’s most recognizable broadcaster into openly questioning what he saw from the club’s ostensible leader this season. And nearly as interesting as that, Blair did so by telling us about conversations he had with teammates who were similarly less than enamoured with the right fielder’s attitude.
Here’s the idiot-empowering exchange, which occurred in the first segment of the ten o’clock hour of Blair’s show:
Blair: I got the sense from talking to a couple of players in the last two weeks that they’d kind of had enough. I didn’t have anybody say the guy’s an ass or anything like that, but I had a couple players tell me it got to be a distraction. One player in particular said– you know what, it got to be a distraction, I’m just going to leave it at that.
Howarth: Here’s what I saw: that, where the leadership went from being positive to being negative. And then that negative attitude– especially with umpires, and his continual complaining, and giving up at-bats. And one time, with a runner at first base and one out, hitting a fly ball to right field, and he turned and walked back to the third base dugout. What is going on here?? Here’s what happened: Jose Reyes, a good kid, a four-time All-Star, he started to complain about the umpiring because of who? Jose Bautista. When Bautista wasn’t there, the last month-and-a-half, that allowed Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion to emerge as leaders. That’s what you want in 2014. And if Bautista can give you something– a piece that you don’t have right now– do it, because the other leaders are in place, and all they need is that opening to take and run with it, and I can see them doing that.
You know what else happened when Bautista wasn’t there for the last month and a half? The club lost the production of a player who, by league- and park-adjusted wRC+, hit about exactly as well as Giancarlo Stanton, Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, and other elite hitters among the top 20 or 30 in baseball this year.
Hey, but he sure pissed off those umpires, right? Which, you know, really impacted how they did their jobs while he was in the game, and led to him only having the tenth best walk rate among qualified hitters in all of baseball, and just missing out– by a tenth of a percentage point– on topping his career low strikeout rate, set last year.
The pissing off of the umpires really impacted Reyes, too! Last year in Miami, before Bautista set him down the path toward evil with his negative leadership, Reyes put up a .287/.347/.433 line, and this year it was .296/.353/.427. CURSE YOU, BAUTISTA!!!
In all seriousness, though, giving up at-bats– which Bautista appeared to maybe do at least once, but hardly any more than that– is fairly inexcusable. Yet… all of this is who Bautista has always been. This isn’t a new development at all– we’ve talked about it for years, and the notion that his leadership, with regard to the complaining, suddenly became different is patently false. And where is the evidence of this supposed influence anyhow? Brett Lawrie, who so many in years past breathlessly worried about falling under the influence of Bautista, played much more in control this season, from what I saw. The lone ejection for Jose Reyes came after grumpy ol’ Bautista’s final game of the year.
The comments from teammates will certainly not stop people from overblowing this stuff, but I think those with the tendency to do so should consider that some would perceive the complete opposite of what Howarth is saying: that Bautista is passionate and hates losing, while Reyes jokes around after losses and is therefore not leadership material.
I don’t think either side is right, frankly, but that’s entirely because I just don’t give a shit about this stuff or think that it at all matters. And if you really want to try to draw some tenuous connection between Bautista’s perceived leadership qualities and the on-the-field failings of this club, good luck with that.
It’s not like the Jays didn’t know exactly what Bautista was all about when they chose to build their entire thing around his contract, what’s left of his peak years, and his personality in the clubhouse. It’s not like Roy Halladay wasn’t a loss-hating distant automaton, supposedly, and yet still is revered (perhaps wishfully, by fans) as a leader. It’s not like Dave Stieb and Jack Morris weren’t prickly fucks, yet still a couple of the most respected players on the best Jays teams ever. I dunno, it’s almost like people have their own personalities and it’s kind of ridiculous the way we assume players on a team will magically, over time, adopt the persona of their supposed leader. And even if they did, whatever is supposedly so detrimental to winning about how Bautista operates is still pretty unclear, no matter how many people think his complaints about umpiring are some kind of smoking gun.
Because, y’know, this:
Miggy tossed tonight. Heard he complains about balls and strikes more than any player in the league
— LaVelle E. Neal III (@LaVelleNeal) September 10, 2013
That would be the great Miguel Cabrera who Twins beat writer LaVelle E. Neal III is referring to. So… yeah, can we maybe just stop having to have this damn conversation every few months?