Bautista, Romero: No leadership void on Blue Jays

Bautista, Romero: No leadership void on Blue Jays

TORONTO -- As a 2012 season marred by injuries came to a close, issues surfaced that had some members of the Blue Jays wondering if good health was the only thing missing from the clubhouse.

It's no secret that Toronto's fourth-place, 89-loss season was largely the result of a number of key players missing extended time, forcing the club to use a record number of players. However, some Blue Jays players pointed to a lack of leadership within the organization as a source of trouble.

The issue was initially raised by 24-year veteran Omar Vizquel.

Vizquel made waves during the final homestand of the season by saying he believed the coaching staff needed to hold players more accountable for their mistakes, that there was a disconnect in the level of communication, and added that the team needed more veteran leadership -- something Adam Lind and Jason Frasor both agreed with.

All-Star slugger Jose Bautista, who was sidelined for much of the second half with a wrist injury that required season-ending surgery, was absent from the locker room the final months of the year, but he didn't share the same belief as some of his teammates.

"I really don't understand why everybody is making -- in my eyes -- a big deal out of that subject," Bautista said at an end-of-the-year press conference. "It's not something that needs to be addressed in our clubhouse.

"I think we have plenty of leadership on the players' side, on the management side, on the ownership side."

Manager John Farrell believes Bautista's presence inside the clubhouse was missed, but stressed there are other players on the team who are capable of taking on a more vocal role.

If Bautista had been around, could he have stopped Yunel Escobar from his ill-advised decision to write a homophobic slur on his eye-black stickers? Bautista doesn't think so.

"I don't think the fact that I would have been here or not would have made a big difference," Bautista said. "I'm not going to look at [Escobar] and see what he has written on his face to see if it's OK to go on the field."

On paper, the Blue Jays had plenty of veterans on the squad with a 45-year-old Vizquel and Darren Oliver, who completed his 19th season and turned 42 on Saturday, and Frasor, who turned 35 in August. Toronto also began the season with 37-year-old Francisco Cordero, a 14-year veteran.

The Blue Jays had their share of young players, too, but the roster was balanced, and the subject of leadership was never brought up publicly until the final stretch of the season. Either way, Farrell doesn't believe leadership has an age requirement, and he doesn't feel it's necessary to bring in more veterans.

If an issue needs to be addressed, Farrell wants his players, regardless of their stature in the game, to feel comfortable speaking out to one another.

"Leadership is not dependent on age," Farrell said. "There are daily opportunities for guys in our uniform to lead, and there needs to be an acceptance of that and a willingness to demonstrate that.

"I think there has been cases of maybe guys not knowing how to go about leading and maybe not wanting to accept that responsibility. My response to that is ... don't wait for some pecking order because of how many years you have on a contract, how much you make or what you've earned in your career -- take a [leadership] role, ... an active role."

Left-hander Ricky Romero agreed with Bautista that the issue was blown out of proportion. Romero describes himself as someone who leads by example, and he doesn't think that having a more vocal veteran is needed.

If the Blue Jays get some of their key players back healthy and their younger players continue to develop -- ultimately resulting in more wins -- general manager Alex Anthopoulos believes the questions surrounding leadership will be put to rest.

"When you win, things go a lot better, when you don't win ... that's when some of the other things come out," Anthopoulos said. "That's not to say there aren't areas we can get better in. We can improve, but there's no question winning cures a lot of things."

Romero experienced a challenging season on a personal level but never made excuses about his own performance. And from a team standpoint, Romero stayed consistent.

"Honestly, all of this [leadership] stuff would never be said if we were winning," Romero said. "I think that's what is going to cure all of it -- if we were winning.

"You see other teams, [like] Oakland -- it's such a young team and they're winning, so none of that is being questioned. As far as leadership, I think amongst ourselves we can be leaders."

Romero believes that tone needs to be set from Day 1.

"I think you kind of set that standard from Spring Training -- on how you carry yourself on and off the field and how you approach the game and how you play the game," Romero said. "I think if you do that, guys start to follow that example.

"I don't really believe in the whole, 'we need a 20-year veteran or a 15-year veteran in here.' You come in here, play the game the right way and I think that's good enough and that's a good leader to me."

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.