Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
It would have been nice if, instead of dumping on a blogger (for an incident I don’t even remember), Peter Gammon’s had cited the big, mainstream reporter who had to ask the question in his feature on Jose Bautista that ran on Thursday at Gammons Daily.
It would have been nice if I could read anything but a suggestion that Bautista isn’t going to be a Blue Jay after this season — which… OK, if you’ve listened to our latest Birds All Day podcast you know that I don’t believe it either, BUT I DON’T WANT HIM TO THINK THAT — into the remark that it’s “unfortunate” that Mark Shapiro and Bautista are only just now getting to work together, because of their mutual belief in “new age conditioning”.
It certainly would have been nice if he didn’t shoehorn in a reference to noted serial murderer Ted Cruz, either.
But otherwise it was a pretty great and fascinating read, revealing a few tidbits about the free-agent-to-be that are worth examining. To wit:
Bautista believes that his extravagant reported contract demands were leaked to the media by “the Rogers ownership” in order to make him look greedy.
He recently went back to the University of South Florida to get his BA in business, and “understands the game’s business, how the owners’ revenues have grown at an astoundingly higher rate than players’ salaries in the 20 years since The Strike of 1994-95, and how big market, big local media teams like the Jays, Yankees and Red Sox can hide those revenues from the Central Fund and revenue-sharing with the equivalent of Swiss bank accounts.”
He does indeed want his next contract to run for six years — something he doesn’t expect to be a problem, despite his currently being 35, because of the way he conditions himself. “His winter routine is a 5 am wakeup call, and body maintenance that includes flexibility, eyesight work, nutrition, yoga and complex weight work,” Gammons explains. “Every month or two, through the season, he has his blood drawn to make sure all maximum levels are maintained, and balanced.”
It’s… a lot to unpack. So let’s unpack it!
It’s hard to imagine Bautista is wrong about where that information came from — though the fact that it’s specified that he thinks it was from ownership is rather delicious.
I’ll never be in the habit of suggesting that reporters (respectable ones, at least) pull wild reports out of their asses just for attention (which is something a lot of people, sadly, do seem to believe), so I have no doubt that what Rick Westhead heard was from someone who’d heard something. And the business-focussed guy with presumably a tonne of connections in that sphere who is “conveniently” with the rival TV network and doesn’t appear, at least as far as I’ve seen from his work, have much of a relationship to the Jays’ front office or their day-to-day operations? It’s unfair to say that he’s functioning sometimes as a mouthpiece for little Eddie Rogers, but I don’t think it’s at all unfair to wonder if that’s where this stuff — Westhead’s Bautista greed-scoop and his one about the club preferring Zack Greinke to David Price anyway — is coming from.
Jose obviously does, and by saying so to Gammons, he continues to, very smartly on his part, frame the battle for the public imagination as being one between him and ownership. Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro can only do what the budget lets them, he understands. It’s just that the budget isn’t what it should be, given how ultra-valuable the club is as a brand cornerstone and TV property.
He’s not wrong on that front, either.
I mean, here’s a thought I had the other day: I wouldn’t even get upset if the Jays curbed their spending just under the luxury tax threshold. I bet a whole lot of fans wouldn’t, either. Maybe that’s easy to say now, when it’s just a fantasy. Maybe ownership would worry about fans getting that inch and then braying for another mile. But you have a natural budget ceiling right there that can be used as a reasonably understandable pretext for not spending more — as opposed to the completely artificial and bullshit one that’s now in place. Yeah, it’s a lot of money, especially considering the Canadian dollar and the fact that this club ran just a $70-million payroll as recently as 2011, but it would be enormous for the team and far more defensible than what they currently do.
Hey, but at least with the current way Bautista will make for a fun villain in Yankee pinstripes, amiright?
Of course, Bautista will only be a Yankee if they believe that he’s the guy to break the mould when it comes to the aging curve. And he might be!
Granted, I wrote on Twitter earlier that it’s “stupid” for Bautista to believe that he’s the “special little snowflake” who singularly will defy aging — an especially bold position to take when looking at Brendan Kennedy’s latest for the Toronto Star, in which he found more than a dozen players with comparable numbers to Bautista’s from age 29 to 34, and showed us just how grim the next phase of many of their careers looked like. But maybe not?
Thing is, by age thirty seven — just year two of Bautista’s next deal — the comparables averaged only around 100 games per season, for example. But there are a lot of caveats to be had here.
Bautista is certainly a better athlete than a lot of these guys. He has less wear and tear, having batted just 934 times over four seasons from age 20 to 23 as he bounced around and was Rule Five’d. And as he discusses with Gammons, the way he prepares, eats, and takes care of himself is on a completely other level.
Still, to see Brendan’s great charts gives you a sense, of just how much attention Jose feels he needs to give to this didn’t already, of what an uphill battle it will be.
Guys like Carlos Delgado and Jeff Bagwell being done at age 37? Average WAR dropping below 3.0 by age 38? Then take Barry Bonds out of the mix and see where that average goes!
That’s not to say that Bautista can’t defy age for longer than most — he certainly has a lot of tools and knowledge at his disposal that guys from even the more recent past didn’t. It’s just… the majority of the guys Brendan lists were playing 140 games or more at Bautista’s age — the average for age 34 was 141 and it went up at age 35 before declining. Someone looking at those guys at that point probably wouldn’t have screamed that their physical decline was imminent either. But aging has this thing where it tends to happen to everybody, all the time, constantly.
In other words, “Yeah, but for me, when you talk about aging, you’ve got to throw the aging curve out,” is a little rich, even for Bautista. Even if you can to an extent!
I certainly see why he’s playing all that stuff up, obviously. But it’s real, real easy to point to your health as a reason to give you a shit-tonne of money when you’re coming off a couple of relatively healthy seasons (as opposed to the previous two), and when we still haven’t seen what age 35 will bring. In that situation it’s probably also real easy to avert your eyes from the fragile superstar shortstop — and walking advertisement for the notion that no matter how well you prepare or how hard you work, your body sometimes just doesn’t cooperate — just a few spots down the Blue Jays’ batting order.
And while I don’t at all think Bautista is wired in such a way for it to be a concern, there’s got to be at least a little part of a potential employer that wonders if the level of dedication stays just as unwavering once all that money is locked in and guaranteed.
None of that is to say that Rogers shouldn’t just bump payroll to a shade under the luxury tax and fuckin’ sign him already. It’s just… well… here we are.
And here’s where we’ll probably stay until he winds up in pinstripes next winter. Fingers still crossed for the Arizona variety, at least.