Jays' Jose Bautista addresses emotional outbursts with umpires
Suggested he's getting a bad rap
The curtain has just been raised on the baseball season and already Jays slugger Jose Bautista has plenty to say on the subject of umpires.
Words like mediocrity are hardly likely to endear him to the umpiring fraternity.
Bautista turned some heads in the third inning of the season-opener against Cleveland on Tuesday night when, on a three-ball count, he dropped his bat after the pitch and started out of the batting box on his way to first, only to have to return as umpire Jeff Nelson called a strike.
Bautista was subsequently called out on strikes in the fifth inning.
Asked about it the next day, Bautista said he reacts to umpires because he plays with emotion.
"When I see something out of line and that I think in my head looks out of place, I react," Bautista said. "I'm not sitting there turning around yelling at them all the time, a lot of times I just react and get back in the box and try to battle.
"Sometimes I have trouble more than other players dealing with my production being affected by somebody else's mediocrity. It's just the way that I am as a person, it's a tougher pill to swallow for me sometimes."
But he didn't stop there.
Asked if he was paying for past reactions, Bautista said he's not a robot and cannot control his emotions all the time. He asked reporters to judge it case by case.
"Is that professional, just because one guy reacts more than the other — that every time it's a close pitch, it's a strike? Or are you going to go by the parameters defined by major league baseball what's a strike or what's a ball. I'll let you decide what's right and what's wrong on that one."
Asked about his slugger's behaviour at the plate, manager John Gibbons said he spoke briefly to Bautista on the issue during the spring.
"That's his reputation," Gibbons said prior to Wednesday's game against Cleveland. "But he thrives on that. He's a very intense guy.
"What happens if it happens too often, I don't want to say they're out to get you but I mean it can cause some problems. It hasn't been an issue yet. But he's intense. He thrives off a lot of that stuff. But I don't think that'll be a problem."
He said he had talked to Bautista because the issue came up from reporters during spring training. But he acknowledged he had heard it from other sources.
"I've heard that from people in the organization. That was a topic of conversation, and I saw it in a couple games," Gibbons said.
The manager said Bautista responded well to their conversation.
"He said, 'That's fine. I get it," Gibbons recalled.
The Jays outfielder said he had no evidence he was being singled out. But he suggested he is getting a bad rap.
"I am starting to feel annoyed a little bit about the fact that everybody is kind of trying to point the finger at me, saying I'm reacting and that's something negative," he said. "Everybody is human, everybody makes mistakes, and I do it sometimes and a lot of times they do it too. Everybody seems to be fine with that. It's something I'm going to have to deal with and every player deals with all year long.
"Sometimes you wish some aspects of the game were up to par with the others and you have to be realistic at times, sometimes it's tough to deal with."
Bautista said he just wants the right call to be made. And defended his right to react.
"I don't see anything wrong with playing with emotion," he said. "And I'm a determined person and I think I have to rely on my eyes to dictate what I can do and cannot do on the field.
"And if my eyes are telling me something and I see a different result, then I react. It's normal, I don't mean any disrespect by it, I'm not trying to make anybody look bad. And I don't think I'm making anybody look bad by reacting."
The issue of Toronto players reacting to umpires made headlines last season when third baseman Brett Lawrie was suspended for four games and fined when, while arguing a strikes call, he bounced his helmet off the turf and hit the umpire.