NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Jose Bautista probably has been Enemy No. 1 at Camden Yards for the past few years, but now that David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are retired, there’s no question that the former Toronto Blue Jays superstar right fielder is in a class by himself when it comes to vitriol from Orioles fans.
And that definitely has played a part in the Orioles’ lack of interest in Bautista, a free-agent this winter, despite the Orioles’ need for a right fielder, according to the man who makes those decisions.
“Well, Jose Bautista’s agent has been knocking on the Orioles door for a while and I told him, ‘Look, our fans don’t really like Jose Bautista. And they don’t,” said Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette. “Not to mention he has a qualifying offer attached to him. I just made a comment in that we weren’t going to be pursuing their client. It’s true. The guy’s a villain in Baltimore.”
When asked, in a tongue-in-cheek fashion whether Duquette would sign the villain if his price dropped, Duquette quipped: “I’ll have to check with the fans.”
Duquette offered the sentiment about the fans and Bautista a few times in the past 24 hours, and reiterated it again when he met with the local media Wednesday afternoon.
Bautista, who actually debuted with the Orioles as a Rule 5 pick in 2004 but lasted just 16 games before being waived, became one of baseball’s best players after joining the Blue Jays.
In that time, he also became one of the most despised in the sport, due to his frequent histrionics including exaggerated bat flips and constant grousing about ball-and-strike calls. A couple times over the years he has jawed with Orioles’ reliever Darren O’Day. And Bautista irked the entire Orioles’ squad in April 2015, when he slowly trotted the bases on a home run off Jason Garcia a few pitches after the exceptionally wild rookie threw behind Bautista. Several Orioles, including team leader, Adam Jones, barked at Bautista during that game, saying Bautista knew the wild pitch wasn’t intentional and inferring that Bautista doesn’t respect the game.
When asked if Duquette thought about the current Orioles’ reaction to such a signing, he replied: “We have a good rivalry with several teams in the division. We have a very spirited rivalry with the Jays, which I think is good. Once in a while, people’s emotions get the best of them and, as a leader on the team, the leader’s the focal point.
“This is a tough division. American League East is tough. You’ve got those two behemoths in the North and you’ve got a whole country a little bit further north. And you play these teams what, 18 times, 19 times during the season? In addition to that, we play them another four or five (times) in spring training. So, we’re in the same neighborhood with these people 24, 25 times a year and it’s very competitive. So, these things are going to happen. It’s a pretty wide number of fans that don’t like this guy.”
Duquette was jokingly asked whether he took a poll to determine fans’ distaste for Bautista.
“I’ve just been watching the games.”