NEW YORK – The Blue Jays are not well liked across Major League Baseball. The loud style of play that endears the team to its fans comes across as obnoxious and pretentious to opposing clubs, and has resulted in plenty of dust ups over the Bautista years of this franchise. Rivalries have spawned with the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, and Kansas City Royals for these reasons, and although this has meant that games with these clubs are always must watch TV, it also has resulted in many dangerous situations.
That isn’t unique in baseball, of course. If you have been paying attention recently, you have heard about the current feud exploding between the aforementioned Orioles and the Boston Red Sox over a hard, but unintentional slide from Manny Machado, and the retaliation pitches that have stemmed from that play. On Tuesday night, after being targeted by Chris Sale, Machado went on an expletive filled rant to the media about how pitchers are allowed almost free reign when it comes to throwing at batters, and how he has lost all respect he had for the Boston Red Sox organization.
On Wednesday afternoon in the Blue Jays clubhouse, ESPN was playing Machado’s rant on repeat on the clubhouse televisions. As the players walked around between their workouts and pre-game routines, their eyes were glued to the monitors, digesting the play that had unfolded and Machado’s subsequent comments. Marco Estrada, the Blue Jays resident leader of the pitching staff, weighed in on the feud, taking a rather ambivalent, yet self-serving approach to the situation.
“Let them do their thing. If they want to throw at each other and hurt each other, that’s on them.”
It’s a fun, but simple quote. However, when asked about his thoughts on the practice of throwing at batters in general, he had a lot more to say. Estrada maintained that as a pitcher, he has to look out for his teammates if a situation arises where they are being put in danger. “You got to protect your players. If it needs to happen, it needs to happen” he said while shrugging, as if to express his displeasure with the current way the game deals with these things. He added that he doesn’t “want to see anybody get hurt from it”, and was very clear about the following:
“If the other team is out throwing at us left and right…We can’t just let pitchers drill our guys, and let it be, or move on.”
Jose Bautista was more interested in talking about the sentiment that this is how the game has been played for years, and how the players need to use common sense on these matters to avoid hurting anybody.
“I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way [to retaliate]. It’s just common sense. I mean putting people at injury risk… Nobody is out here, I believe and I would hope, to injure anybody. There is a certain protocol on how the game has been played for a long time and most people want that to be respected. But there should be ways to do it without putting people in harms way.”
Estrada made sure to differentiate between throwing at a player’s backside and head hunting, the latter of which he said “should never be done”.
“There is a certain protocol on how the game has been played for a long time and most people want that to be respected. But there should be ways to do it without putting people in harms way.”
“If you can’t keep the ball in the safe zone, don’t try to do it. It’s dangerous. You can end somebody’s career trying to do something like that.”
Steve Pearce also weighed in, saying that “sometimes it gets taken a little too far,” but generally players “want to stick up for [their] teammates”. Pearce has an especially interesting perspective on all of this because the Blue Jays are now his fourth AL East team, and changing clubs has allowed him to see both sides of certain rivalries. He said that these rivalries tend “to stay between the lines”, and there are no hard feelings afterwards. Pearce added that although he has been on many teams, the general view point among players about these issues is “basically the same” everywhere. You may think that the journeyman would have no part in old rivalries, but Pearce explained that it doesn’t play out like that:
“When you go from team to team, sometimes you inherit somebody else’s beef. They’re your team and you have to stick up for them.”
That would perhaps shed some light on Matt Bush bizarrely taking centre stage in the Blue Jays – Rangers fight last season even though he was not around for the Bat Flip.
Pearce has also changed his style of play throughout the years when running the bases to avoid injuring players or breaking the newly implemented rules for sliding into a base. While laughing, he said that he doesn’t even “want to slide into second” anymore, choosing instead “to peel off, and save all the crap that’s going on now.”
Of course, you may have realized that this entire conversation stemmed from Manny Machado decrying being thrown at, something his team has done often against the Blue Jays, and specifically towards Jose Bautista. He didn’t want to get into that, or anything to do with the Red Sox and Orioles on Wednesday. Bautista shook his head from side to side while making a devilish smile when asked about the hypocrisy behind Machado’s statement, saying “I don’t want to be out of line, and comment on something that I shouldn’t be commenting on.”
So what does Estrada think about this all? Does he wish to see MLB do something to change the way the game has been played?
“I don’t know. F*ck, if it happens, it happens. It’s been part of the game. It’s not going to change.”
Basically, who knows?
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports