His injuries in 2016 not only cost him part of the season: they forced him to give up his role as Alpha Dog in the Blue Jays’ lineup. For a while, we almost forgot about him entirely. Obviously, he picked the absolute worst time to become a free agent. Unsigned as of this writing, he and the Blue Jays are delicately dancing around the idea of a one-year contract, though it’s not clear whether the Jays would be willing to pay him more than the qualifying offer value for him. The Orioles apparently refused to consider signing him because their fans didn’t like him, which is somewhat dumb: Baltimore fans would like him just fine if he were flipping bats for their O’s.
My theory on Bautista is that there is an enormous logical and cultural chasm between him and major league umpires. Jose believes that a strike is where the rule book says it is: he has spent many hours refining his ability to distinguish between balls and strikes. Forcing the pitcher to throw it where he can hit it is pretty much his defining skill. Umpires, on the other hand, believe that a pitch is a strike when they say it is: they spent years in the minor leagues taking abuse, eating bad food, and learning to become an authority on the field. This authority is all that an umpire has to protect himself and the fans from chaos. Who is right: Jose, or the umpires? They both are, and they both aren’t. It’s a chasm that can’t be bridged.