"No," he says. "I'm not afraid of intimacy."
When the segment ends, Bautista walks over and shakes his head. "I wanted to help make it funny for that guy," he says. "I was going to keep saying yes until the end when I was going to say that I'm afraid of everything except hitting a baseball. I really tried. But I couldn't say yes to that last one."
Bautista shakes his head again. "Intimacy?" he asks. "Who is afraid of intimacy?"
AMAZING TRUE SPORTS STORY: Running back Priest Holmes
A backup tailback at Texas, Holmes was signed by Baltimore as an undrafted free agent in 1997. He gained 1,008 yards in '98 before blowing out his knee the following year and losing his starting spot. He went to Kansas City and at age 28—old for a running back—he led the NFL in rushing. The next year he gained almost 2,300 yards from scrimmage in 14 games, but he badly hurt his hip. It was unclear if he would play football again. The following year, at age 30, he set what was then an NFL record with 27 touchdowns. When asked how he did it, Holmes said, "We can do anything we set our minds to doing."
Do you believe in miracles? Can you? When the Blue Jays played in Detroit in mid-May, skeptical fans booed Bautista. (When asked if this was a sign of respect, Toronto's first-year manager John Farrell says with disgust in his voice, "I don't see how you could love this game and boo him.") In New York the Daily News ran a Bautista story with the sentence—pulled out in a separate paragraph for emphasis—"Let's hope he's clean." On a Chicago White Sox television broadcast, outspoken announcer Hawk Harrelson said, "If you didn't know any better, you'd say [his bat] had a little cork in it."
The questions are asked repeatedly. Are you? Have you? Did you? Bautista always answers. He never drifts into self-righteousness. "I know why people ask," he says, "and I will answer the question as many times as people ask it. What I've done is a product of dedication, being given a chance to succeed and the change to my approach. I have never taken steroids or anything like that. I know what kind of person I am."
There are no words to convince the unconvinced. The only testimony in this Trial of Whispers Against Jose Bautista is his numbers, his performance, the trajectory and fury of his batted balls, and the suddenness of it all. Bautista is almost exactly the same height (6 feet) and weight (195 pounds) he has been for years. His body has not bulged. His hat size has not changed. And, as Bautista says, there has been drug testing in the game since 2004. "I know what people did before," he says, "but there's strong testing now."
When told that some people don't believe in the effectiveness of tests, as some PEDs are not detectable—he grimaces. Why have them then? "I know why people ask the questions," he says, "but I wonder when they are going to stop asking."
Bautista says only one part of this transformation has surprised him. "I always believed I could be a guy who could hit in the middle of the lineup every day," he says. If anything, he thought last year was disappointing in some ways. He hit only .260. He walked a career-high 100 times, yes, but still felt as if he went after too many bad pitches. "Jose always had a really good eye," Gaston says. "That certainly doesn't hurt him as a hitter."