Just in case he was starting to slip a little bit, Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista made sure he returned to the top of everyone's most-hated list after once again pimping a home run and launching a bat into orbit against the Braves on Wednesday.
The bat flip came after he hit an eighth-inning bomb, which Bautista followed up by staring down Braves pitcher Eric O'Flaherty before trotting around the bases. The benches cleared as Bautista got to the plate, but it didn't escalate much more than that. The tensions were running high after Braves star Freddie Freeman was plunked earlier in the game, as well as Jays second baseman Devon Travis, and came an inning after Kevin Pillar appeared to direct a homophobic slur toward Atlanta reliever Jason Motte.
Bautista's latest display of bravado comes under much different circumstances than his notorious bat flip against the Texas Rangers in the 2015 ALDS that resulted in him eating Rougned Odor's right fist less than a year later. At the time, his teammates and many around the majors showed their support for Bautista, who was simply exuding a crazy amount of passion and fire after hitting one of the biggest home runs in franchise history.
This one was different, though. It wasn't the bottom of the seventh in Game 5 of a playoff series, or a career milestone—the home run was literally meaningless. The bat flip came with the Blue Jays losing 8-3 in the eighth inning and on their verge of dropping their third straight to the Braves.
As you'd expect, his antics aren't sitting very well, especially with the pitcher he showed up.
"It's turned into look-at-me stuff. It's not even about winning anymore. Guy hits a home run in a five-run game. Pimp it, throw the bat around. It's frustrating as a pitcher. I didn't see it at the time. I saw the video. He looked at me, tried to make eye contact. It's just tired. We've seen it from him enough," O'Flaherty said to reporters.
"I'm surprised he's ready to fight again after last year."
To nobody's surprise, Bautista—who is having one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, hitting .208 while posting a WAR of -0.1 through 41 games—defended his actions.
"I think it's part of the game, the emotion," Bautista said. "Sometimes it's fitting in the game. Sometimes it's not. Just like people celebrate after defensive plays and big strikeouts, I think it's part of the game and we're all getting used to it."
It's clear Bautista is just embracing the hate at this point and his role as major league villain.