By: Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
CLEARWATER, Fla. _ Jose Bautista may not be welcome any more at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa if Goose Gossage is in the building.
Yet, Bautista was a hit at Bright House Field, home of the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday afternoon.
Bautista was in short right field line doing his pre-game sprints when the Phillies mascot arrived on his ATV. The Phillie Phanatic mimicked Bautista’s every move: cross over steps and sprinting.
Then Bautista did a hand stand and walked a few feet.
(If one walks on one’s hands do they call it walking a few hands?)
The Phanatic dropped to his knees dramatically and waved his arms up and down in the “we are not worthy,” fashion, the way Wrigley Field faithful did when Andre Dawson came to the plate.
“Why not? The fans are here to be entertained,” Bautista said later. “Why not put on a show for them?”
Then, The Phanatic challenged Bautista to a one-armed, push-up contest.
Surprise, surprise, the mascot won and Bautista paid him the same bowing tribute as fans down the right field line cheered.
They were entertained.
Now, before people get upset that this is a (Bernie Sanders voice) “YUGE” knock against president Mark Shapiro and his high performance process -- star right fielder, who wants new, long-term deal beaten by a cuddly, pear-shaped mascot -- it should be pointed out that perhaps the fix may have been in.
“I’ve seen the guy work before, I know him a little,” Bautista said. “It makes for a better story: the athlete losing to the mascot. The people liked it.”
Bautista has been the story since Day 1 in Dunedin when he said he had given ownership a number and was not negotiating with Rogers Communications. It was up to Rogers to match.
Actually a better story than "Mascot Beats Athlete" would be Bautista coming out firing at Hall of Famer Gossage, who has prolonged proceedings going on radio in New York and Chicago.
Bautista declined to take on Gossage verbally.
Or it would have been a better read if soon-to-be-free agent Bautista went into specifics on contract talks with Shapiro.
“Nothing to report on my contract,” said Bautista, who entered the ‘why does he act like that?’ zone years before he went deep against the Texas Rangers in Game 5 to put the Blue Jays into the the American League Championship Series and flipped his bat high into the air.
It might be complaining ball-strike calls or chirping Baltimore Orioles reliever Darren O’Day.
The world is changing ... and it isn’t.
We, along with Gossage, have to made adjustments.
Some days I miss my Underwood typewriter, the one I never needed a password to work.
We recall standing alongside Montreal Expos reliever Woody Fryman in San Diego when Willie Montanez, acquired that day by the Expos, came out of the tunnel on September day in 1980 twirling a bat like the USC drum major.
“I don’t care how much mustard we put on that hot dog,” Fryman said, “as long as he knocks in some runs for us down the stretch.”
Montanez used to hit liners over shortstop, clap his hands and point at the ball. He’d snap routine throws out of the air like swatting mosquitoes.
And Montanez wasn’t the only colorful character we ever saw before Bautista.
Oakland A’s Rickey Henderson once threw out the anchor, stopping at 88 feet and folding his arms in the midst of a steal against the Blue Jays in the 1989 ALCS. The throw never came from catcher Ernie Whitt, as Henderson stole eight bases in five games.
That same series Dave Parker hit a tape-measure homer off Todd Stottlemyre and almost went into the Jays dugout running to first base on a Arctic Circle route.
Closers Al (The Mad Hungarian) Hrabosky of the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds’ Brad (The Animal) Leslie were known for their on-mound antics. Hrabosky would turn his back to the hitter, take a deep breath, pound the ball into his mitt and stare down the hitter.
Leslie celebrated strikeouts by jumping around the mound.
And then there was Dennis Eckersley fanning Ed Sprague ending the eighth inning of Game 4 of 1992 ALCS game on Thanksgiving weekend. Eck turned to fire an imaginary six shooter into the Toronto dugout. Pat Hentgen said the Jays dugout resembled half-time at a high school game.
Devon White singled to open the ninth and Robbie Alomar hit a no doubter, arms-up, game-tying homer. The Jays won in 11 innings to go up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
“The thing about back in my day, or in Goose’s day, players policed themselves,” said a grey-haired former big-league player Saturday. “They would knock guys down if they didn’t like what they saw.”
The next season Stottlemyre knocked down Parker and the benches emptied at Exhibition Stadium.
The Orioles have buzzed Bautista a few times.
And off the mat he got to take Jesse Garcia and O’Day deep.
Just as he did with his no-doubter off Sam Dyson of the Texas Rangers.
And that is what the young crowd at the Rogers Centre pays to see.