TORONTO – Jose Bautista believes far too much is being made of his batter’s box interactions with umpires over balls and strikes and he doesn’t feel the men in black should take offence when players voice their displeasure over calls.
“When I see something out of line and that I think in my head looks out of place, I react,” the Toronto Blue Jays slugger told a small gathering of reporters Wednesday evening. “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 I am as a person, it’s a tougher pill to swallow for me sometimes.”
Bautista’s comments come after he had a couple of exchanges with home plate umpire Jeff Nelson during Tuesday’s 4-1 season-opening loss to the Cleveland Indians, flipping his bat toward the dugout and heading toward first on a 3-0 pitch that was called a strike, and later jawing at Nelson after getting wrung up in the fifth.
Before the game manager John Gibbons said the topic of barking with umpires was broached with Bautista during spring training, and in a recent interview first base coach Dwayne Murphy told sportsnet.ca he discussed the matter with the slugger, and other players, last season.
"Me and Jose talked about it quite a bit, you're going to just hurt yourself," said Murphy. "You've got to, not be friends with them, but you've got to understand these are the guys making the calls. We had meetings about it (as a team) because there were other guys, (Yunel) Escobar did it, there were other guys doing it. I told them, you guys are going to have problems if you keep doing this stuff."
For his part, Bautista insists he isn't trying to show up the umpires, just displaying his natural reaction to what happens on the field.
"I don't see anything wrong with playing with emotion," he said. "I'm a determined person, I have to rely on my eyes to dictate what I can and cannot do on the field. And if my eyes are telling me something and I see a different result, than 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 make anybody look bad by reacting.
"I am starting to feel annoyed a little bit about the fact that everybody is trying to point the finger at me, saying I'm reacting and that's something negative. 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."