In the job description line of any general manager of any sports franchise is this task: Compile the best players possible for your roster.
That description gives most GMs wide latitude to pursue whomever they deem necessary to make their team better.
There are exceptions, however. Most Orioles fans, for instance, know that Dan Duquette does not have the kind of open checkbook that his counterparts in the American League East have, to bring in anybody.
But Duquette, who is technically listed as the Orioles’ executive vice president for baseball operations, does have some discretion in who he can bring in.
And he has exercised it in a way that has raised the eyebrows of many around baseball.
Duquette has declared that the Birds will not be players in the free agent sweepstakes expected to launch over Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista.
Bautista, who hit .234 with 22 home runs this past season, earned $14 million last year. While he rejected the Blue Jays’ $17 million qualifying offer, his projected price tag would likely place him in range of what Mark Trumbo, last year’s designated hitter and major league home run champion, would command.
But money is not the stated reason the Orioles don’t want Bautista. No, Duquette said the team has no interest in Bautista because their fans can’t stand him.
Indeed, Duquette told the Baltimore Sun last week that Bautista’s agent has persistently contacted the Orioles to gauge whether the club had a desire to sign him.
And Duquette said he told the agent quote Jose is a villain in Baltimore and I’m not going to go tell our fans we’re courting Jose Bautista for the Orioles because they’re not going to be happy unquote.
Duquette is partially right. Bautista, who played ever so briefly for the Birds in 2004, is a villain in Baltimore, but he’s also a villain in a lot of other major league cities too.
That’s because Bautista has this habit of drawing attention to himself when he does great things.
In particular, Bautista is fond of standing at home plate when he hits a long home run and admiring his handiwork.
That is, until he flips his bat and takes a self-aggrandizing trip around the bases, but not before occasionally yelling something at the pitcher.
It’s not the kind of thing that endears one to an opposing team. Indeed, Orioles players Adam Jones and Darren O’Day, among others, have taken exception to Bautista’s antics.
And last May, a Texas Rangers player slugged Bautista in the face during a game as retaliation for a Bautista bat flip after a home run in the previous year’s playoffs.
It’s nice to know that someone in officialdom cares about the feelings of fans.
In all likelihood, whatever hostility Orioles fans have toward Bautista would melt away the first few times he cracked home runs while wearing the black and orange.
They got over having Albert Belle, Roberto Alomar and Reggie Jackson in Baltimore. They’d probably get over Jose Bautista too, but let’s hope that theory doesn’t get tested.
And that’s how I see it for this week.
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