In what could have been a contentious affair between the Blue Jays and Braves, the “old school” rules of baseball were at play and things were handled professionally, especially by the Blue Jays.
Wednesday won’t go down as the highlight of the Blue Jays’ season, but thanks to the actions of the club and several players, it’ll likely be a day that’s forgotten sooner than later.
To recap, Jose Bautista flipped another bat (at a questionable time), Braves’ franchise player Freddie Freeman was hit by an Aaron Loup fastball, breaking his wrist, and Kevin Pillar was caught on camera hurling insults at Jason Motte, and using some language that he shouldn’t have.
Add it all up, and the potential existed for a blood bath between the two clubs in the last of their 4 games against each other this week. There were several Braves’ players to make comments in the media, and the Blue Jays (and Jose Bautista in particular) haven’t been known to back down from controversy either.
The situation with Pillar was less about any issue between the clubs, and more about setting a better example as a professional. The centre fielder started Thursday by addressing the situation and making a statement to more succinctly apologize, and own the mistake. Count me among those impressed with his statement, and willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that it was a situation he can learn from, and not a character defining moment.
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The Blue Jays also handled things properly in my estimation as well, suspending Pillar for 2 games and sending the message to baseball fans everywhere that homophobia doesn’t belong on the field. Regardless of how you feel about “freedom of speech”, or things like this being “part of the game”, it’s the right thing for the club to do for the good of their image, and Pillar’s. Again, I believe that the 28 year old is a good person, as evidenced by the countless accounts of his character, but it’s also important to own it as well, and I believe this action accomplishes that.
The professionalism displayed by Pillar and the Blue Jays should go a long way in helping people move beyond the incident.
As far as Bautista is concerned, it was one of the worst kept secrets in the park that he would be on the receiving end of a retaliatory plunking. The Braves didn’t waste any time with Julio Teheran throwing the first pitch inside which nearly hit him, and not missing the mark the second time, sending Bautista to first base.
To Teheran’s credit, if he was asked to throw at Bautista (he almost certainly was), then he handled it as well as he could be expected. He kept the ball down, hit him in a meaty part of the body, and didn’t waste any time playing games. The message was sent immediately and it didn’t escalate beyond the first inning.
The other key factor was how the Bautista handled being thrown at, seemingly understanding that it was coming, and willing to accept the “punishment” for his bat flip the night earlier, and likely some retribution for Freeman as well. He didn’t react when the first pitch came inside and nearly hit him, and he wore the second pitch without hesitation.
Bravo, Mr. Bautista.
Wearing that pitch and calmly walking to first base allowed both teams to move on from the whole thing. The Braves were understandably upset about how the night before played out, losing their best hitter to injury, and being on the receiving end of Bautista’s latest bat flip. Whether you’re for or against the whole “celebrating thing” in baseball, it’s a consistent issue in the MLB, and it wasn’t surprising the Orioles didn’t appreciate the flip, especially with heightened tensions in Wednesday’s game.
This is where the “old school” baseball guys will nod in satisfaction, having just witnessed their weathered rule book in action. The Braves felt the need to retaliate, and Bautista respected that and wore the fastball without further issue. Had he reacted, there’s no telling where the game would have gone from there, but thankfully he and the Blue Jays were consummate professionals.