A lot has been made about the fact that Jose Bautista is a free agent, and the Baltimore Orioles are looking for an OF/DH. In that sense he would be a perfect fit. However as we know, Dan Duquette allegedly told Bautista’s agent that “Orioles fans don’t like him.”
I still say that while that’s certainly the truth, it’s more code for he’s unpopular in our clubhouse and wouldn’t be well-received than anything else. And that I think that does make a difference. Bautista has antagonized the Orioles for years, and the fact is that you don’t want to pour gasoline on something that’s already simmering.
But while I don’t buy the fact that the fans were the overall reason, the fact is that Duquette was right. In fact, I think that it would be a tougher sell to the fans than it would the players. While he’s seen as a villain in the Orioles’ clubhouse, players also understand that in today’s game guys change teams. The guy you were fighting last year might be your teammate this year. And the fact is that friend or foe, players are a fraternity – no matter how you spin it.
However here’s a question; are fans not potentially doing a disservice in some aspect by “hating” players – even opposing players? Again, guys change teams all the time. It’s part of the game, and part of the contemporary business of sports. But with that narrative out there, might guys think twice about signing with the Orioles in some manner?
It’s entirely possible that free agent players might think twice about signing with the Orioles in the sense that their fans must be tough on them. Now anyone who’s ever played here knows that not to be true – Orioles fans have a reputation for being very passionate but also very respectful. Which is why a guy like Bautista finds it so easy to draw their ire – he himself shows very little respect.
But we’re talking about outsiders in a sense; people (players) who aren’t familiar with the team. It’s an interesting point. In this particular case, I’m not sure if that would be such an issue. Bautista’s reputation as a trouble-maker is well known across the league. So many folks probably know the fans here don’t like him, and with good reason at that. But it’s something to consider moving foward, as free agency gives guys a chance to look at every aspect of the organization – including how he’ll be received by fans.