DUNEDIN, Florida - Jose Bautista was watching the ninth inning of Canada's 10-3 win over Mexico Saturday night and didn't like what he saw.
"I believe in the unwritten rules of the game," said Bautista of Chris Robinson's bunt in the ninth inning, which inflamed Mexican tempers and led to a brawl between the two teams. "They should be respected. It's a code amongst players and everybody who plays baseball at a level higher than Little League knows what it is and there's no excuse."
Prepare to be disappointed if you're looking for the best player on our country's lone major league team to stand behind Canada's late-game strategy.
"I thought it was uncalled for, what (Robinson) did, especially after having two bad slides at second base, too," said Bautista.
What about Canada's run differential, an ugly -10 after a mercy loss to Italy in the tournament opener? Didn't they need to beat Mexico by as much as possible?
"I'm not buying the fact that teams are bunting when they're up by six because of the rules of the WBC," said Bautista.
The Canadian victory, coupled with the late shenanigans, restored pride to a squad battered by the loss to the Italians. Former star player turned first base coach Larry Walker's involvement – and post-game comments – reflected the hockey mentality to which Canadians best relate. Bautista, though, feels scraps are best left on the ice.
"A fight for this tournament is not good, no matter who it is and no matter what it was about," said Bautista. "You never want to see guys get into fights because the possibility of injuries exists... It is competitive and there's a lot more on the line than just personal success. You're playing for your country and it's a short tournament and people play with a lot of passion so emotions are high. That sort of stuff can happen."
The World Baseball Classic is still in its infancy; its imperfections many. There's debate about when is best to schedule the tournament. March is too early, pitchers are on stringently mandated pitch counts; nobody wants to play in November after the long haul of 162 games; the major league season is compacted as is and can't be interrupted part way through.
"I'm not the one to make the rules but I think everybody would agree, players and organizers, that something's not working," said Bautista. "They'll sit down and figure it out and come up with a better way to set up the tournament. Whether that's the timing, the length or whatever it is, they'll figure something out... Once you start doing a tournament like this for the first time, you can't make it perfect from the first couple of times. It takes a couple of go-arounds to make sure that you get everything squared up and set up the right way."
Bautista, returning from wrist surgery last September, isn't participating in the WBC. The fact he's not playing doesn't mean Bautista isn't an active viewer – he's been huddled with Dominican teammates watching their team jump out to a 2-0 mark in Pool C action. A cry of "Winner, winner, chicken dinner" was heard from Bautista's stall when the Dominicans wrapped up Saturday's 6-3 win over Spain.
Bautista will be watching Saturday afternoon when Canada meets the USA in a winner-advances, loser-goes-home tilt.
"It's a game that's going to bring out a number of rivalries," said Bautista. "Canada and the US have had rivalries that go back a number of years and in a broad number of different sports; even stuff outside of the sports. I'm sure that everybody is going to have that competitive edge, pulling for their own and it's going to be an interesting game when everything's on the line."