You might not agree with the way that he got himself tossed in a crucial game Sunday against the Rays, or his continued insistence that it was an unjust ejection (though Shi Davidi of Sportsnet has a piece that sure makes it seem like he’s right). You may not have liked the way he essentially threw teammates at the bottom of the roster under the bus when he griped about the fact that the Blue Jays were unable to make any moves at the July 31st trade deadline, while teams around them in the race did what they could to make additions. Perhaps you think that all of this stuff — rather than an athlete daring to actually answer questions honestly and not through his P.R. training — should be kept behind closed doors — that Jose Bautista should just shut up and play.
But you can’t deny that the Jays slugger speaks for a lot of people when he vents his frustrations the way he has lately, and I suspect that we got a little closer to the nut of what this is all about in a quote from him today, as passed along by the Toronto Star’s Richard Griffin:
When Bautista was asked whether #bluejays ownership dedicated to winning: “I don’t have enough information to answer that question.”
— Richard Griffin (@RGriffinStar) August 25, 2014
OK, so maybe the comment isn’t entirely devoid of the P.R. filter, but his non-denial denial about thinking this way really tells us all we need. And as conflicted as we might be about the fact that he’s saying it, the fact that Bautista is the club’s best player, most marketable player, and a player with a immensely team-friendly contract, means that he can engage in this kind of talk and not have to worry about the consequences. He’s too valuable to the club and the company, and he knows it.
Or maybe he’s simply at the point where he doesn’t care if saying such things brings down petty consequences from an ownership dumbly willing to cut off its nose to spite its face, but I suspect there’s a deeper frustration at work as he says the things that Alex Anthopoulos, Paul Beeston, and essentially no other member of the organization (save the much quieter Edwin Encarnacion) can say for themselves without fear of burning bridges. Some fans and media will get bent out of shape about Jose being a prima donna and regurgitate a bunch of hockey jargon about leadership and whatever else the can find to spin a narrative that paints him in the light they want to paint him in, but I love it. At least somebody is saying it.
Rogers, of course, isn’t the only problem with this organization or the only reason they were left paralysed at the trade deadline. We all know that in the past two years Alex Anthopoulos has traded away many of the better chips not found on his club’s big league roster — crucial pieces when it comes making deadline moves, unless a club is able to take on lots of money without concern about it hampering them in the future *COUGH* — but that really only just exacerbated a problem that goes back as far as J.P Ricciardi’s terrible drafting. Ricciardi’s failures left the Jays upper minors bereft of talent, and AA’s immediate switch to focus on far-away high school players with big upsides has yet to close the gap.
If the aim was to build a pipeline and take the extreme long view, that all made sense, but somewhere along the line Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion got great, Rogers agreed to put up a tonne of money, and the equation for Anthopoulos changed. But then, almost as quickly as it had begun, the money stopped flowing and the Jays found themselves in a position where they could neither fill in gaps with cash, nor could they trade a Nicolino because they still had a Syndergaard and Sanchez, and then trade a Syndergaard because they still had a Stroman and Hutchison.
The young talent that was wanted by other clubs was needed by this one, not only for this year, but — and this is where Rogers really comes into it — because they are under team control for so long, and so cheaply, and the front office seems rightly terrified of giving away such valuable pieces when it has been so clearly demonstrated to them that “Can we please have just a little bit more investment here, just to make entirely certain that the whole thing doesn’t go down the tubes?” is an unreasonable question to ask.
Anthopoulos appears to have been left to his own devices this season — he’s been given a budget, and the Ervin Santana mess suggests that the onus was on him to get creative if he wanted to add salary (i.e. increases to payroll were non-negotiable) and that’s certainly how he’s operated throughout the year. I’d suggest that the shift seems odd from a GM who spoke so often in his first few years about preserving his flexibility, but it doesn’t seem odd at all when you look who resides upstairs.
Maybe Anthopoulos went wide-eyed into the dramatic payroll increase of November and Decemeber 2012 and thought the deals in front of him were too good to pass up, even if it meant destroying what was left of his flexibility both monetarily and with respect to his ability to make trades (though the latter might be a stretch, given that with Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, and the then-hope for a bounceback from Ricky Romero, he may simply have been overconfident in his starting depth). But it isn’t outlandish at all to think the other thing: that Rogers tied the hands of its own organization in a cynical attempt to save as many pennies as could be saved once it became clear that the much ballyhooed roster Anthopoulos had bought for himself wasn’t working out.
That doesn’t sound like an organization dedicated to winning to me, but is that really the way that it is?
I don’t have enough information to answer that question. Neither does Jose. And so why the fuck shouldn’t he say it?