Picture: Minneapolis Star-Tribune
The Toronto Blue Jays remain the bad boys of baseball - loud, emotional, passionate and really not giving a damn what you think of them.
Jose Bautista, the face of the Blue Jays organization, has a hearing Thursday morning at the Major League Baseball offices to explain himself and avert a suspension for actions and comments in their recent brawl against the Texas Rangers. He skipped the team bus late Tuesday night to convey the sentiments of the entire frustrated team to USA TODAY Sports.
“There’s no reason why people should hate us because we play with emotion,’’ Bautista said in the quiet of the visiting Yankee Stadium clubhouse after their latest loss, dropping the Blue Jays into last place in the AL East. “We have a lot of personalities that wear their emotions on our sleeve. That’s our style. We like it. We embrace it. “And we’re not going to shy away from it. We don’t go around telling people how to act or do their job, so why should people try to do that to us? We’re not going to change who we are.’’
“We don’t lie. We’re real,’’ Bautista said. “We’re straight up and honest about everything in here. A lot of clubhouses are not like that. People put up fronts. People lie. People cover their stuff up. We don’t do that. There’s no phoniness in here, but there’s a lot of people in the league not like that.
“So I think sometimes people have trouble believing the fact that we’re honest and straight up. I think they get confused. They think we’re phonies, like the rest.’’
You don’t like Bautista’s bat flip? Then don’t let him hit the Blue Jays’ most dramatic home run since Joe Carter’s World Series’ clinching walk-off in 1993, with his Game 6 Division Series homer against the Texas Rangers.
“It was 22 years of bottled emotion into one building, I don’t see what the big deal was,’’ Bautista said. “I see bat flips every single day on a Tuesday night in Kansas City or San Diego. I didn’t plan it, and didn’t try to humiliate or offend anybody by it, but obviously losers always get offended.’’
The Rangers, of course, showed their displeasure over it seven months later when pitcher Matt Bush drilled Bautista in the ribs last week, Bautista responded with a hard slide into Rougned Odor at second base, and Odor came out swinging, leading to the brawl that resulted in Odor’s eight-game suspension and Bautista’s one-day suspension.
“I was playing baseball that day,’’ Bautista said. “I don’t know if everyone was.’’
You don’t like reigning MVP Josh Donaldson’s style? You better keep your thoughts to yourself, as the Minnesota Twins discovered last weekend when he homered, and glared at Twins bench coach Joe Vavra, still livid that he yelled at him a day earlier for not hustling to first base.
“I’m not going to go out there to make sure the opponents like what I’m doing,’’ said Donaldson, who hates the new sanitized rules in baseball. “I go about my business in a certain way, and as long as the people in my clubhouse appreciate what I do, ultimately that’s all that matters.
“I can’t control what people necessarily think of me, nor do I care, but I will stand my ground. I’ve shown that. It’s that everything is being taken out of the game, the old-school way, where I can’t play the way I was taught.’’
And if you simply just don’t like the Blue Jays? Well, their comeuppance may be at hand. The defending AL East champs entered Wednesday night’s game with a 22-25 record, already seven games out of first place behind the Boston Red Sox.
“We have a passionate bunch, maybe the most passionate bunch I’ve ever been around,’’ said R.A. Dickey, the Blue Jays’ 41-year-old knuckleballer who's helped the rotation lead the AL in opponent batting average (.234) and OPS (.672). “The only problem with passion is that it can work the other way, too. So when you’re not performing well consistently, you carry a lot of weight.
“I love how passionate we are, but sometimes we can be really hard on ourselves, and that causes another type of momentum that’s not as healthy. We’re kind of in the middle of that now. When you’re on a downward trend like we have been on, you have to find ways to arrest it. That’s what we’re looking for.’’
The Blue Jays, who in 2015 led the majors with 891 runs - 127 more than the runner-up Yankees - and outscored opponents by 221 runs, have disappeared offensively. They have the third-worst offense in the AL, and are averaging 3.96 runs per game compared to 5.50 a year ago.
“That’s been the mystery,’’ Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We know we got a good hitting team, but then again, last year might have been an aberration, too.
“To score more than 100 runs than the next-best team, sometimes it’s just one of those years, man. You can’t explain it. You don’t even try.’’
The frustration has been unbearable at times, with Gibbons already ejected four times, suspended three games, and fined $10,000. In the last nine games, Gibbons has lasted only nine innings in three of them. Even his wife, Julie, teased him on Monday’s off-day in New York, making sure he wasn’t going to get ejected watching a softball game in Central Park.
“Do I feel like the world is against us?’’ Gibbons said. “I can’t say that. There’s no doubt we’ve got some emotional guys with big personalities. We’ve got guys who have been very good players, but they’ve also been known to chap some opponents the wrong way. A few guys aren’t received well outside our team, but when you’re on your team, you love them.
“I think we’ve kind of embodied the whole Toronto mantra,’’ ace Marcus Stroman said, “that it’s Toronto against the world in all sports. We just have a lot of personalities and guys who aren’t scared to let their emotions show onto the field. That’s us. We identify with that. It’s who we are.
“We’re not scared. We’re not worried. We know what we’re capable of. We’re just going to keep being ourselves. Hopefully the tide will turn shortly for us.”
Like it, or hate it, the Jays aren’t changing.