Blue Jays All-Star slugger Jose Bautista has long been viewed as a team leader in Toronto, in large part due to the misconception that a team’s most talented player automatically assumes captaincy. Arguments have mounted against Jose Bautista’s on-field attitude in the past, often in relation to his complaints with umpiring, but 2014 has birthed a matured version of Bautista.
Now more emotionally controlled on the field, Jose Bautista has worked in and out of the public eye with the team’s younger players, most visibly Drew Hutchison at several points during shaky starts. Bautista has organized team meetings through the Blue Jays struggles of late, and seems fully aware of his role as a veteran on the team.
Bautista’s leadership showed again recently as he addressed the state of the Blue Jays heading into the All-Star Break, and the trade speculation surrounding the team. As the National Post’s John Lott reported yesterday, Jose Bautista believes that any help would be welcome in the Blue Jays locker room, but his belief in the current squad remains strong.
I have always viewed Jose Bautista as an intelligent baseball mind, and he realizes that a deadline move by Alex Anthopoulos not only creates a better baseball team on the field, but sends a serious message to the Blue Jays roster and fans. “It shows a lot of commitment from [management] to us, to the fan base. A lot of times it has a psychological effects too that help out.” Bautista said on Sunday. “But we don’t feel like it’s a must,” he said, “and we certainly feel like we can compete and we can go after it just with the bodies we have here.”
Regardless of whether this is his true opinion, this is exactly the answer that Blue Jays fans should want to see from their All-Star. Jose Bautista remains diplomatic and loyal to both the front office and clubhouse, while still giving each a quick jab to the shoulder. If Bautista were to come out pleading for change in Toronto, and Alex Anthopoulos were unable to provide it, a rift would be caused between Bautista and the players in the locker room, who he seemingly deemed “not good enough” to succeed as a whole.
The Blue Jays 2-8 finish leading into the All-Star Break started as a slight stumble, but grew into a full fall through the patio door, breaking the screen and dropping dinner all over the back deck. However, the surging Orioles remain just 4.0 games ahead of the Blue Jays. If the Blue Jays are able to come out on top of their head-to-head matches with Baltimore, the journey to the top will become much easier. Later in his interview, Jose Bautista, quite boldly, stated his belief that the New York Yankees will struggle to stay involved in the AL East race, and suggested that it will come down to the Blue Jays and O’s.
With the likes of Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie, and Brandon Morrow returning throughout the remainder of the season, it is in no way a stretch to believe that the Toronto Blue Jays have a realistic and achievable shot at the AL East pennant. Doing everything the exact opposite of how they have over the past two weeks would be a great start, but the clean slate following the All-Star Break could be just what the Toronto Blue Jays need.
Do I think that Jose Bautista’s words are correct? No, I truly don’t given the current holes in the Blue Jays roster. However, Bautista’s choice of words showed great leadership, and his full commitment to winning this season. The fact that Bautista still left one foot on each side of the line does show his openness to a trade deadline addition, which, when you move political correctness, should hopefully act as another call to action for Alex Anthopoulos.