Trouble in the Blue Jays Clubhouse?

“Fans in Toronto have an unhealthy history of building up their sport stars, praising them intensely during their peak, and then turning on them when disappointment over the seemingly inevitable failure to deliver a championship reaches a crescendo. When things go bad, they tend to eat their own. At the beginning of May 2013, Jose Bautista seemed headed for the same treatment that had chewed up some of the city’s other recent athletic icons – Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells, Mats Sundin, and Chris Bosh.”

That quote, taken from Great Expectations by Shi Davidi and John Lott, gives a perfect description of what has taken place with Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista over the past year. Bautista has not lacked in his individual performance, as when healthy, he is still one of the best players in baseball, but the failure of the Blue Jays in 2013 led the media in Toronto to create a narrative regarding Bautista’s clubhouse leadership. Because the majority of Blue Jays fans are fair-weather fans that will take whatever they read or hear as gospel — even if it is from the likes of Damien Cox, Rosie Dimanno, or Bob McCown, media personnel that are known for being, for a lack of a better term, horrible – this narrative has stuck, without concrete evidence that it is true or not.  Any online medium these Torontonians can voice their opinion on features countless comments demanding that Major League Baseball’s ISO leader since 2010 be traded, just because his presence in the clubhouse is not what you want from one of your team leaders according to some media members.

So, when some rumors started to surface a couple of weeks ago that gave more details into the Bautista “fiasco”, even going as far as to say Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos had a trade lined up with the Brewers that would send the power hitting right fielder to Milwaukee last December, I decided I really wanted to do some digging and find out the truth in this whole Bautista case. Is he such a bad clubhouse presence that, as Bob McCown said on Prime Time Sports before the holiday season, John Gibbons believes “he is a major problem in the room”? Or is the whole thing a story that has simply been blown out of proportion by some members of the Toronto media.

In order to not cause any harm to anybody that gave me information, their names will remain anonymous, but I had the privilege of talking to a few players (current teammates, former teammates, prospects) as well as others in the industry with regards to the Jose Bautista situation.

Through talking to people I found mixed opinions on him. Both prospects I talked to who had the privilege of playing with Jose on a number of opportunities said he was “great in the clubhouse, and was very personable. One even said he treated the entire team to a steak dinner after one of his rehab games. This response wasn’t a surprise (if you assume Bautista is in fact detrimental to the clubhouse), as both players only had limited experience with him. As well, it’s entirely possible that as different players in a different setting, the prospects were given different treatment from Bautista than how he’s been rumored to act in the Blue Jays clubhouse.

One player, who had significant time in the Majors this season, opted not to comment on his leadership skills because he didn’t feel like he saw enough of him to judge. This player did say though that in their limited time together, he was very good to him.

Another major league source got a different impression entirely. One problem about Bautista that was brought up this past year was Jose’s constant and incessant arguing with umpires, something that many fans believed cost the Blue Jays in the eyes of the umps. According to this source, it wasn’t just the fans that believed this, as many Blue Jay players share this opinion as well.

“Many guys believe he complains so much to the umpires that the Jays get shafted on balls and strike calls and many don’t like him for this reason.”

Although his bickering might be justified, it appears as if some of Jose’s teammates do not appreciate the negative effects it has on their performance.

In 2013 (as well as in years past), the Blue Jays have had a strong Latin contingent on their roster. An industry source with direct knowledge of the goings on in the Blue Jays clubhouse said that Jose acted as a leader strictly for his Latino brethren, but when it came to all the other players on the roster, he couldn’t care less.

One veteran player, gone from the team now, even went as far to tell Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos that his team would never win if it featured a Latin clique like the one present over the past couple of years.

This clubhouse divide led by Bautista could stretch farther than just the Blue Jays clubhouse. One player, who was involved in an on field accident with an opposing Latino this past season that resulted in an injury for the other player, was shunned by his Latino Blue Jays teammates for many days after the play. The entire Dominican contingent would not talk to him for days because of this incident.

Toronto fans are hungry, and because of this, they’ll jump on any player if given an excuse to. The media conjured up this story about Bautista in 2013, but until now, I wasn’t sure whether I believed it, or even if I cared enough about the effects of the clubhouse on performance to believe it. But, after talking with so many players and sources, I am definitely leaning toward believing that Jose is not an angel in the clubhouse. Now I did mention some guys who thought he was very nice, so I don’t want to make any definitive conclusion. Do I want him traded even if it means the Blue Jays are on the losing side of the trade? NO! But, as one player who played with Bautista as he rose to stardom told me, “it wouldn’t be the first time money and fame got to a players head and caused their personality to change drastically.”

Slider picture courtesy of james_in_to via Flickr.

About Gideon Turk

Gideon grew up in Thornhill, Ontario, and became a Jays fan at age 8. He is currently a Freshman majoring in biology at Yeshiva University in Washington Heights, NY.

31 comments

  1. I just finished reading Phil Jackson’s newest book “Eleven Rings” and what you mention here Gideon happening in Blue Jay land pales in comparison to the crap Shaq and Koby did to each other and they still won championships. Let’s not jump to conclusions here…just sayin.

  2. Well, you hit the nail right smack on the head if you ask me. BUT. And a big BUT. It sure as heck isn’t the first time this division has happened to the club. I can remember that happening in the hat hay of the 90’s as well. Names withheld. Take that to the bank. BUT. BUT.

    There is time and need for the situation to be addressed. Last years WBC had a lot of negative aspects to it. A lot of that resulted in the “I’m from the Domenican hear me roar” psychology as well. (Had to look up the spelling of psychology)

    Mark Del la Rosa will be missed.

    Personally, I think that along the way it may very well be it is a LOT of a tougher road for the Spanish guys than the American guys, so when the Spanish side gets to the top there is a certain level of “I needed to be better than all the Americans, just to be considered”. So the self righteousness comes right along as many of the Spanish guys come from very very humble beginnings.

    Given that the media frenzy needs something to talk about and Cox isn’t even worth considering, most of the time when he is on McCown I shut it off. I can’t stand an ass kisser. But given the media attention maybe there will be more love in the room. Maybe the players will realize that we here in Toronto really don’t care where you come from, and kinda think of everybody like people.

      1. Yes, I saw the show ion him last season, but if you look Jose’s background is the exception to the rule. What I am trying to point out is that the guys from the States usually come from Big Bucks, it is expensive raising a kid in any highly competitive sport in North America. Whereas, in Latin America they find the raw talent of the young lads playing for the hopes and dreams and build them up. The more affluent Latin Americans are spending most of their time in school. As was the issue for Jose and his parents ideas about his future. Baseball was considered to be more of a lower class past time. So, therefore, the upbringing, the background, the ideals and work ethics are polar opposites. Most of, (not all of) the American born players are College educated in some way shape or form.

  3. Awesome behind the scenes look here Gideon. I personally don’t see how Jose’s constant battling with the umpires could make any team mate happy. Definitely interesting to hear what the thoughts are on the Latin click scenario. I thought it was cool at first, but definitely can see how it could easily turn ridiculous. Let’s hope it’s addressed and we can talk about player contributions rather than clubhouse drama this season!

  4. Talk about a lot of innuendo, wink, wink, I know something you don’t. If this writer thinks he is going to have a future in reporting, he had better learn to write. We are supposed to believe that numerous players have fessed up to Gideon Turk (whoever he is), about the “real” goings on in the TO clubhouse. Sure thing. Maybe I could get a job too. I know so and so’s cousin, who is married to the maid that works for …..

    1. Well I also know that a person writing stuff about sports has to protect his integrity and the trust of the people supplying him the information. You can ask Scott Burnside about that one. If the writer named names he would never get a quote from anyone ever again. He went far enough out on a limb to write this article.

      1. I fully understand protecting sources. But I find it strange that in the disaster of last year, not one credible writer was able to get any of these so called quotes. There were plenty of writers out there willing to throw dirt on the corpse but no one had any of this insider info. I don’t believe it.

        1. Well, if you watched it was pretty evident, you are free to believe what you want obviously, but I myself was afraid of the split from what I saw.

          Do you think we are in the running for Tanaka? Maybe the Moo Man was brought in to catch for him?

          1. There are always splits in every club house. Doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad thing.
            I would love it, but last reports are there are teams already willing to go 7 years and 140 million. Just can’t see the Jays spending that much on an unknown.

        2. Sources are the key to any kind of inside info we get. Gideon has his. I have a couple. We don’t give the names because what we post does get read by many people. Some of those people are reps of the Blue Jays. Sometimes we’re written off… sometimes not so much. I still haven’t written about my story with Bautista despite the coaching changes and the fact some of the players are no longer on the team. Why? Because there was a reason the players didn’t want to be photographed either… You never know what ends up where. Just ask Josh Hamilton. Drew Bledsoe. John Lackey. The list goes on. Revealing sources or exposing players is journalistic suicide and the only time it’s done is when it’s a 50-50 split of opinion… like Game of Shadows. In our case, we’re 1.) Lucky to have such sources so willing to communicate with us, 2.) Trying to break into the industry, which requires sources. 3.) By having sources and because we’re independent of the club, we can say some things mainstream beat writers cannot.

          So before we go writing Gideon off because he’s 17 or because he’s in high school, or whichever the reason… and even I don’t fully agree with this article… he may be giving people some key info. If he’s not, so what? Many people sound like they’re writing him off already anyway. He took a chance.

          1. Firstly, I have no way of knowing whether Gideon is 17 or 70, the article still smacks of self serving innuendo. Breaking into journalism will never be achieved by trying to write an article, full of gossipy, unproven allegations. There is absolutely nothing wrong with someone’s blog with their OPINIONS, but don’t pass it off as fact. To even compare anything written in this article to a book written by Fainaru-Wada/Williams is beyond the pale. They spent thousands of hours researching this articulate, well written book.
            Are these so called “sources” credible, or are they unhappy club house workers. When did they hear all this insider info. How is it that Gideon was the only reporter to not only have access to this info, but the only one to write about it. These are all questions that anyone reading this article will be asking themselves.

          2. Yes, but prior to Fainaru-Wada and Williams confirming sources, there were NUMEROUS unnamed sources. Even Canseco named some, but not all. Everybody wrote him off and then POOF… Game of Shadows. Maybe you’re right, but there’s no proof on your end that he’s full of shit either. It’s just as much of an assumption as the one you think Gideon is making. All I’m saying is give the story a chance to develop before you write it off. You should read everything with a grain of salt anyway. He may have info… like I do… that I promised all those players listed above, that I wouldn’t talk about. People run into players in funny places and sometimes you get lucky like I did. If you want to hear the story, @JayOnJays and we can exchange e-mails. All I ask is that you don’t publish it. I don’t have clubhouse access, but I know a good bit of info that took place from 2011. Got a friend that lives in Tampa and a signed hat to verify it.

          3. He doesnt have access to players and sources that the pros don’t, and no one else is saying this stuff.
            He pulls it out of his ass

  5. Money and fame, huh? Don’t forget that Bautista’s personality rubbed some the wrong way in Pittsburgh too. It’s one of the reasons why the Pirates let him go and why the Jays fell into one of the best players in their franchise history.

    1. I’m sure it didn’t help that the guy could barely bat his weight in Pittsburgh. He’d show signs of his talent, but they be in 2 week spurts followed by a month to 2 months of famine at the dish

  6. I look back to a game vs the Astros in late July 2013. We were having a big inning, Edwin Encarnacion hit one home run in the inning already. Jose comes to the plate with the bases loaded and hits a horrible pop up that doesn’t get out of the infield. EE comes up after him and hits his second home run of the inning, a grand slam.
    I notice as the team is going wild as EE comes back to the dug out from his home run trot. Jose Reyes is jumping all over, the team energized. In the back ground you see Jose sitting on the bench no smile, no high five or anything as EE walks by. I found this odd as Bautista is supposed to be a leader on this team? I think he is a leader when he is doing well, and a cry baby the rest of the time.
    Look at his strike, ball arguments with the umpires. If Jose was a .300 hitter maybe he would get a few more balls on close pitches? As a career .254 he won’t get that respect. Or maybe if he just acted like a pro and shut up he would get a break?
    But I know for sure as a fan, his umpire arguments just look childish most of the times. I don’t know what the bench thinks?
    Jays need him at his best to compete. He has to keep his head on straight. He is not the only player on the team.

  7. I cant see a high school senior having too many legitimate sources in MLB….just sayin.
    I personally know people mid-level in the front office, and I don’t get this kind of info from them, and we’re close.

  8. I’ve met the guy. I’m not saying that we’re the best of friends, but we talked extensively about all sorts of things. Maybe a lot has changed in the clubhouse since 2011, but John McDonald, Janssen, Snider, and Romero were all there to hang out with him… so something tells me he’s not just a leader for Latin players. I believe that to be false

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