Blue Jays: Even Bautista knows it was too much

May 17, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) and Atlanta Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki (24) react along with home plate umpire Brian O'Nora (7) after Bautista hit a home run during the eighth inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) and Atlanta Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki (24) react along with home plate umpire Brian O'Nora (7) after Bautista hit a home run during the eighth inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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With the Blue Jays down by 4 runs in their impending 3rd straight loss to the Atlanta Braves, Jose Bautista hit a solo home run, followed by a bat flip, upsetting several Braves’ players and baseball fans in the process.

Let me start by saying that I regularly defend Jose Bautista. I have friends who root for several other MLB teams, and “Joey Bats” is one of the most disliked players the Jays have ever had, as far as I can tell. That’s always been fine by me, because well, he’s on our team and he’s been a great player for a long time.

But every once in awhile he says or does something that I can’t really defend. His reported contract demands in the spring of 2016 being the first that jumps to my mind as an instance where even I had to admit, “I don’t know what he’s thinking”.

As he’s struggled to start the 2017 season, I’ve been defending him on a regular basis as well, and I still believe he’ll ultimately put up Bautista-like numbers by the time the season is over. He’s still got a lot of talent, and I’ve seen enough signs to believe he’s not washed up as a player.

But what I won’t defend is what happened in the 8th inning on Wednesday night. In case you missed it, Bautista hit a solo shot against Braves’ reliever Eric O’Flaherty, closing the Braves’ lead to 4. Instead of trotting around the bases quietly, the slugger decided to admire his blast for a moment, before flipping his bat and taking off for first.

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On first way he got an earful from Jace Peterson at first base, and another message from Kurt Suzuki when he arrived at the plate. When he passed Peterson, it appeared as though Bautista may stop for a moment, but the momentary hitch was just that as he carried on. By the time he reached the plate, it appeared (to me anyway) that even Bautista knew he had screwed up.

Met with more words from Suzuki at the plate, Bautista didn’t back down, but he didn’t puff out his chest either. This wasn’t the body language of a man who was ready to defend his honour, but rather a guy who knew he had made a bad choice, and wanted the moment to pass.

The benches cleared as Bautista and Suzuki chatted at the plate, but the Blue Jays’ slugger was quick to dismiss the dust up, saying he “wasn’t trying to show anybody up”, and again sounding like someone who wanted the whole thing to go away in his post-game interview with Sportsnet.

"“I talked to Kurt at the plate, and I’m not making a big deal out of it. I think everything should be fine. I understand why they would be upset in that situation, and I just you know, told them how I felt. And basically just let him know that I wasn’t trying to show up anybody, and hopefully it’s in the past."

When pressed further about the issue, he didn’t shy away from what happened, and defended it to a certain extent. But this wasn’t the Bautista fire that we’re used to, whether he made a relevant point or not.

"“I think it’s part of the game, I think it’s just emotions. Sometimes it’s fitting in the game, sometimes it’s not. But just like, you know, people celebrate after defensive plays and big strikeouts, I think it’s part of the game. I think we’re all getting used to it, more often than not, and just sometimes our competitive juices come out in the wrong moment. We have to deal with it between the lines like men, and I feel like I did that, and hopefully that’s enough”."

The problem isn’t the bat flip, it’s the situation in which he chose to do it this time. As much as he’s disliked for the signature 2015 playoff bat flip, I’ll defend his right to celebrate in a moment of that magnitude. It was a franchise changing moment, and probably the biggest hit of his career.

https://twitter.com/FOXSportsBraves/status/865041167943057409

But what’s the point in doing it in a situation like Wednesday night? The home run closed the Jays’ deficit to 4, they were on route to their 3rd consecutive loss to the Braves, and Bautista himself has had a forgetful start to the season.

Some will argue that the 6 time All-Star was trying to rally the troops, letting out some frustration, or likely a variety of other excuses for the behaviour. I’m saying it was a moment that Bautista needs to be more self-aware and realize that if anything, the Braves are laughing at him.

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This doesn’t change my view of the player, as I’ll always cheer for him and appreciate what he’s done in Toronto, especially as long as he dons a Blue Jays’ uniform. But I won’t make excuses for what I saw on Wednesday night. I’ll call that bush league right along with damn near everyone else.

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