It was more than an hour after the celebrations had finally subsided before Jose Bautista finally made himself available to the few remaining reporters who were hanging around in the clubhouse to speak to the Toronto Blue Jays slugger.
And when he finally stepped into the media scrum, Bautista chirped pleasantly -- “First time” -- as in “First time in the media spotlight” which was as telling a comment that he’s made yet on a poor start to a season that you know is just ripping him apart inside.
It’s ironic that the main reason reporters wanted to speak with him -- the athlete who has been the game’s most dominant power hitter by a wide margin the past two seasons -- is because he hit a home run in Toronto’s dramatic 8-7 victory over the Texas Rangers Tuesday night.
One stinking home run.
It’s something that he did 43 times last year and 54 times the year before that, to lead all of Major League Baseball.
Brett Lawrie provided the ultimate heroics, leading off the ninth with a walk-off home run blast off Texas reliever Mike Adams that helped save a lot of face for a bullpen that was once again saddled with a blown save.
“Fail or succeed I just like being put in a situation where I can help my teammates out,” Lawrie said. “It worked out for me tonight.”
But it was Bautista’s solo blast back in the four-run Toronto third, that helped cut Texas lead from 5-0 to 5-4, that was perhaps most telling.
Bautista has been struggling offensively all season, and came into the game batting just .181 with only three home runs to his credit.
All over Toronto, media and baseball fans alike were already wondering -- just one month into the season -- what’s wrong with the right fielder.
And the comments were stinging to the point that earlier in the day Bautista posted via his Twitter account a rather barbed comment.
— Jose Bautista(@JoeyBats19) May 1, 2012
“I have no regrets about tweeting that,” Bautista said after he gained a measure of redemption with his home run. “It was what it was and that’s it. I said what I had to say.”
Although he’s set the bar so incredibly high past two years, Bautista still gets frustrated when he doesn’t measure up to his own standards.
“It’s not about that kind of level,” he said. “I mean, again, the season’s not over. I’m not expecting to hit 47 home runs when we have 25 games played. But I do know what I’m capable of doing. And when I don’t do it I hold myself accountable and it frustrates me.”
Bautista said he obviously feels he’s much more capable with the bat than he’s shown so far this season.
“I think so,” he said dryly, looking at his questioner directly. “I think any major leaguer that wants to have an everyday job has to be better than .180. So it’s not just me. I’m not good by anybody’s standards right now.”
Earlier in the day, Toronto manager John Farrell suggested that Bautista was perhaps pressing a bit too much during his at-bats.
Bautista was asked about that.
“That’s hard to say,” he said. “I’m always trying to do good. If by that it means that I’m pressing then I guess I always press.
“When the results are not there I get frustrated. I play with a lot of emotion and I’m not afraid to show it every now and then. That’s just the way things go, when the game is not going well you’re going to notice sometimes. I don’t have any shame in that. That’s the way I play. Playing with emotion is what drives me. I’m going to have to play like that the rest of my career.”