Over the winter Orioles general manager Dan Duquette said that he would not pursue free agent outfielder Jose Bautista because Orioles fans didn’t like him.
Whether that’s the real reason, as opposed to matters of cost, the team’s needs and Bautista’s value as a player going forward, is only something O’s decision makers know, but it was a fun bit of needling. Bautista is an unpopular guy in most places that are not Toronto, and hearing a GM get into the kinds of discussions fans often get into was unusual.
Duquette was interviewed by Mark Feinsand of MLB.com yesterday and he expanded on those comments:
(Laughs) Well that was an easy one; our fans just don’t like Jose. We play those guys 25 times a year and he’s the face of the Blue Jays. He’s the villain in the play whenever we play the Blue Jays. I like our guys. Our guys are good. [Mark] Trumbo is like a working-class-type baseball player. If he was going to work every day on a construction site, you would understand that he brings that kind of work ethic every day. That’s the kind of player that our fans identify with. We try to get gritty players that work hard every day and give their best effort every day. Our fans seem to like that and respond to it.
Again, I get the Bautista hate, and anything to stir up a rivalry is good showmanship, but those comments about Trumbo are inane. And not just because Trumbo comes from one of the most affluent suburbs in America where there were not, in all likelihood, a plethora of lunchpails in people’s houses.
For one thing, that kind of “gritty, blue collar” thing comes with a lot of historic racial baggage in which white players, regardless of their background or work ethic, got those complimentary labels while black and Latino players, regardless of their backgrounds and work ethics, were described as lazy or entitled or showboaty or whatever. While I do not think Duquette is intending to make some racial comment here — I think he was leaning on some shopworn cliches — that “combustible Latino” vs. “hard working, lunch pail guy” trope has a long and ugly history and it’s unfortunate to hear it referenced, even out of laziness.
For another thing: on what planet is Jose Bautista not a hard-working player? I get that you may not like the guy, but his story is a pretty amazing one. He was a journeyman who, for years, was an average-at-best performer. A lot of guys who profile like he did early in his career wash out of the league before they’re 30. He persevered, worked hard and, somehow, found an extra gear most people didn’t expect he had and he has spent the past seven seasons as one of the best sluggers in the game. Maybe he’s not a fan favorite, but his work ethic has never been questioned.
I dunno. Stir the pot if you want to — it can make things a lot of fun — but this is some dumb pot-stirring.