Jose Bautista is no longer a Toronto Blue Jay, but everyone remembers the Jose Bautista bat flip right?
For the rest of my life I will remember in vivid detail the epic 7th inning of the decisive game five of the ALDS divisional series.
I remember selling my tickets for that game and thinking there’s no way The Jays get taken to five by the shitty Texas Rangers. I remember a pretty quick and dull game until about the 7th inning.
I remember the Shin Soo Choo “foul” where Jays catcher, Russel Martin’s, return throw to Aaron Sanchez hit Choo’s out stretched bat and the ball trickled away from the plat. This was then followed by Odur who was free to trot home from third base.
I’ll remember the drunk and angry Toronto Blue Jays fans raining down boos and beers from above. I remember the anger, rage and frustration that went through my mind and thinking there’s no way this season can end because of this kind of bullshit. However, as a life long Toronto sports fan I’m pretty used to bullshit with my perennial losing franchises ** cough ** The Leafs.
I also remember feeling giddy and excited by the three fielding errors that normally steady short stop Elvis Andrus played parts in during the bottom half of the inning that led to Jose Bautista getting his time to shine in his first ever MLB playoffs.
With one crack of the bat Jose Bautista became a living God in Toronto. The game was only in the 7th inning but it felt like a walk off home run and the game was never really in doubt after that point.
Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays hung on to win that game, Jose became a legend and life was good.
Although only two weeks later the Blue Jays were bested by the Kansas City Royals, who eventually won the 2015 World Series, a new generation of Blue Jays fans had their own memories to call their own.
We no longer needed to vaguely remember and recount Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter’s epic walk off home runs from the early 1990’s because beyond Jose Bautista, the 2016 Jays were supposed to be stacked and set to create another dynasty!
I mean they had rostered the AL MVP and Bringer of Rain in Josh Donaldson, a long ball threat and parrot trotter in Edwin Encarnacian, an all-star catcher and pitcher whisperer in Russel Martin, a young starting pitcher with ice in his veins, Marcus Stroman, and an impressive, young and lanky pitcher named Aaron Sanchez throwing smoke out of the bullpen.
I didn’t even get to mention Troy Tulowitzki, Roberto Osuna, Devon Travis, Kevin Pillar, etc, because not since the early 1990’s had a Toronto Blue Jays roster been this deep. Let’s put nostalgia aside though for a moment and snap back to the present; the truth is that Jose Bautista is no longer a member of the Toronto Blue Jays and it’s a damn shame. Quite simply the Toronto Blue Jays are a better team with Jose Bautista on it moving forward, and especially in the 2017 season.
Before we dig into this meaty topic it’s first necessary to revisit the past.
As most Blue Jays fans tend to reflect the early 90’s we’re actually going to quickly revisit the late 90’s and 2000’s.
These were the dark days as I like to call them.
This was when Rogers bought the team and turned the uniforms to black. I remember the dark days where the Blue Jays had average to potentially above average rosters with former stars Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells and pretty much nothing else yet they seemed to hum along at a .500 record that had no chance in hell to compete against the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Some of the Blue Jays most beloved players from these eras weren’t even starters.
Players such as John Mcdonald and Munenori Kawasaki were fan favourites and although I loved both players myself it’s usually not a good sign for a team’s competitive chances when bench players are the most popular players. For over 20 years it felt like the Blue Jays were bringing a knife to a gun fight in the AL East. However, at the height of the Blue Jays mediocrity in the late 2000’s the Toronto Blue Jays pulled off a rather inconspicuous trade.
A week later, The Toronto Blue Jays sent Robinzon Diaz to the Pittsburgh Pirates to complete the trade. For that first month Bautista wasn’t anyone worth noting on the Jays roster. Heck during the 2009 season where he established himself as an everyday player, it was more-so because the team lacked better depth options.
I vividly recall going to a game against the Boston Red Sox in May 2009 and Jose Bautista was in the starting line up and he was hitting middle of the order and I asked my father who the hell this scrub with the shitty walk up dance music was.
The 2009 season is probably best remembered for being Roy Halladay’s last stand as a Blue Jay. Doc Halladay was the one bright light in a very dark tunnel for a long time and that light was clearly gone at season’s end. The season felt like a funeral more then a fight for October baseball.
When Roy Halladay was traded to the Philldelphia Phillies by rookie GM, Alex Anthopolous, the haul was underwhelming. In the deal, Anthopoulos traded Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis d’Arnaud. None of the players beside Travis D’Arnaud ever amounted to much in the majors and D’Arnaud never even played a game for the Blue Jays as he was the centre piece for a much bigger trade by former GM, Alex Anthopolous.
I might write about that one another time.
Nonetheless, the Blue Jays were clearly in a rebuild.
The Blue Jays hadn’t made it to the post season since 1993 and outside of a few stars over the years there hadn’t been much to cheer about. Since 2003, Roy Halladay had been the team’s opening day starter seven times in a row and a perennial all-star, but that changed in 2010.
Oft-injured starter Shaun Marcum took the hill on a sold out opening day in Arlington Texas to usher in a new Blue jays era with a new young rotation that featured Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil and Brandon Morrow.
However, as soon as Toronto’s own opening weekend passed, attendance plunged at the Rogers Centre during 2010 and only 1,495,482 fans took in a game. This was the club’s lowest attendance since 1982 where the Blue Jays used to play at the outdoor Exhibition Stadium, which featured some of the worst and furthest seats from home plate in in baseball. Some seats were so bad they were as far as 820 feet away from home plate so I don’t blame people for not wanting to go to the X for a game, but in the year 2010 for attendance to be this bad was just shameful and not a good sign for baseball in Canada.
The Expos had fairly recently left Montreal and the Jays were showing no signs of progress and fan support was going the wrong way.
I remember a fan base being disillusioned by years of losing and mediocrity. Always in the dance but never at the table was the way it went.
A ticket to the Rogers Centre was dirt cheap and you could buy an upper deck season ticket with stand by seating for under $100. There was $1 hot dog give away days and now with Halladay out of the picture the 2010 Blue Jays just weren’t supposed to be very good.
In May of that year something clicked and that throw away player named Jose Bautista started hitting home runs. He started hitting A LOT of home runs. By the seasons end Bautista managed to hit 54 home runs and lead the league in that category. The Toronto Blue Jays finished the season with an 85-72 record, but missed the playoffs.
Although, if this Jose Bautista guy could continue to hit some more of those monster home runs, well maybe there is a new light in the dark tunnel. I’ll save you some time and skip over a few years but here’s a highlight of what this Dominican “Scrub” did up until 2016.
- From 2010 to 2015 Jose Bautista posted a.390 on-base percentage, which was fifth best in the MLB during that span
- From 2010 to 2015 Jose Bautista hit 227 Home Runs, which led the MLB. The next closest was two two time MVP winner Miguel Cabrera with 199 dick slapping dingers.
- From 2010-2015, Jose Bautista was named to six all-star teams and five as a starter.
- From 2010 to 2015 Bautista was a top 10 MVP vote getter on four occasions, and he came in as high as number three for MVP in 2011 losing out to Justin Verlander.
However, the Blue Jays only made the playoffs once which is all that really matters in sports. But, when The Jays made their long awaited October return, as we all vividly recall, Bautista made his mark known.
And then the 2016 season happened…
With Blue Jays fever as high as almost ever Spring Training came along and was a welcomed sight for Jays fans who surely had high hopes for their beloved roster. However, some of the first interviewed words out of Bautista’s mouth during a media interview in February 2016 were about his contract status.
There was no room for tired cliches, Bautista was to the point when asked about hometown discounts, he said: “In my world, that doesn’t exist. … In my eyes, I’ve given this organization a five-year hometown discount already. “I did not go to them. They asked me a question, ‘What would it take to get it done?’ and I gave them an answer. It’s not an adamant, drawn lines in the sand or anything. Simply questions were asked, I felt like for this process to go down smoothly there didn’t need to be any time wasted and efforts wasted for either party. If this is going to happen, they should know what it takes, and I told them the number because they asked me,” he told ESPN’s Britt McHenry.
Bautista went on to add “I’m not going to sit here and bargain for a couple of dollars,” he said, adding later, “They either meet it or it is what it is.”
It’s pretty hard for the average fan to sympathize with the modern millionaire athlete, especially considering that Bautista was signed to a five year 65 million dollar extension back in 2011. However, when that contract was signed salaries were not yet as inflated as they have become today and Bautista didn’t have the proven track record at that point. It was both a risk for the player and the organization and honestly it worked out better for the Blue Jays than Bautista. However, it’s pretty hard for the average fan to sympathize with any modern millionaire athlete. Strike one against Jose Bautista.
Once the real games started in 2016 it ended up not being very good for Jose. He was still a middle of the order threat but he was clearly not the same player he had been for the six prior seasons. Bautista hit the DL twice during the season. Once in June with turf toe, which is awfully painful and debilitating for an athlete and a second time in August with a bad knee. Needless to say even though Bautista was cleared from DL after both injuries he was likely playing hurt which likely zapped some power from his swing and his defensive range.
When everything was said and done at the end of the 2016 season, Bautista’s home runs were down, the strike outs were up, and his fielding range, which was was never great, seemed to have drastically declined. Jose Bautista finished the season with a Wins Above Replacement of 1.0 which means he was only slightly better when he played then a minor league call up.
Although The Jays managed to win a wild card spot, it took until the last day of the season and a late season run to solidify a spot in the dance. Something was amiss with the team but maybe they were going to be all right for the playoffs.
The Blue Jays played a thrilling must win Wild Card game against the Shit Weasel himself, Buck Showalter, and his Baltimore Orioles. Jose did his thing and hit a huge home run early in the game, the pitching staff was lights fucking out and Edwin mashed a baseball into outer space and provided modern days Jays fans with another Home Run as important as “The Bat Flip”.
The rematch with the Texas Rangers was rather anti-climatic for the most part as the Jays cruised past the Rangers in game one, escaped some late inning trouble in game two and then won a thrilling game three by virtue of Donaldson’s walk off mad dash from 2nd base to home on an infield error by Mitch Moreland.
Moving onto the AL Champsionship series, The Blue Jays and Bautista simply looked lost against the Cleveland Indians and their stellar bullpen. Game after game, the Blue jays got ripped apart and seemed to swing and miss at everything Cleveland’s hurlers threw at them. In 21 plate appearances, Bautista managed only three hits and struck out 7 times throughout the entire series.
I watched those games and it just appeared he was trying to do too much. However, most of the Blue Jays roster struggled mightily in these five games as well so it is not fair to single Jose out. This is a small sample size but recent production tends to have an impact in the minds of fans and often key baseball decision makers.
In reality Bautista hit two huge home runs for the Blue Jays in the Wild Card and Divisional series in 2016. This dude showed he can still mash and the fact that he was playing right field and not playing DH over guys like Melvin Upton and Michael Saunders says something too.
Less than a year since the Bat Fip I have heard so many Blue Jays fans and casual baseball observers lament Bautista. They call him a cancer, a selfish player, a washed up vet and even worse. I’m not sure what qualifies any casual fan to comment on a professional athletes intangibles and personality when it comes to multi-million dollar contracts but sure whatever. These are the same fans who bought their first Jays hats in 2014/2015 likely.
So here’s where we are at now.
The Blue Jays attendance has been through the roof since the 2015 trade deadline, media viewship is off the charts for Rogers’ Sportsnet brand, and the Jays are sexy again. I actually have meaningful baseball conversations in December with people who three years ago would likely not even watch an average Jays game. There is so much goodwill and money for the Rogers brand and their media division and they are so close to pissing it away. I’m fearful that Rogers is going to blame a weakening Canadian dollar for wanting to avoid spending big money, or that the Shapiro and Atkins front office will try to rebuild rather then retool for who knows why.
The Jays have some roster flaws at this point. Edwin Encarnacion and his parrot are off to Cleveland after it seems his agent miscalculated the Jays demand and free agent market. Edwin is gone and he ultimately chose to join the team who beat the Jays in the AL Finals.
The Jays closed their own door on Edwin rather quickly by signing a pure DH and aging masher who once broke his leg jumping on home plate in Kendrys Morales to a three year/33 million dollar deal. They further shut the door on Edwin by signing a depth piece in Steve Pierce who signed a very reasonable two year deal and he can play a bit of corner outfield and first base.
However the Blue Jays biggest hole is now in the outfield. Outside of Kevin Pillar who plays great defense but has a weak bat, the team is left with Melvin “Don’t call me BJ” Upton and late season revelation, Ezequiel Carrera who are both unreliable options with flaws. The MLB outfield free agency crop wasn’t that bad this year if you were willing to open up your wallet. Established stars like Yoenis Cespedes , Carlos Gomez, Josh Reddick, Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler could have been suitable Bautista replacements.
The first four players all found homes rather quickly and after failing to sign likely free agent target, Dexter Fowler, the outfield free agent market is now pretty dull. The St. Louis Cardinals clearly outbid the Blue Jays and will probably regret their Dexter Fowler signing in a few years but that’s usually the price to pay in free agency.
Now the Blue Jays have slim pickings from potential bargain buys/aging injury risks in Angel Pagan and Coco Crisp.
There’s another free agent still available who just happens to have led the league in home runs since 2010 and won’t cost a compensatory draft pick. His name is Jose Bautista and he happens to still want to play in Toronto where he is greatly involved in the community and has many business/sponsorship ties.
The Case for Jose
Statistically Bautista may have had his worst season since 2008 and in his free agent walk year, and at 36 years old with free agency around the corner, Jose couldn’t have picked a worse time to have a down year. The question everyone wants to know though is the following: Is Jose Bautista done? Is he actually washed up and on the wrong side of the aging curve?
When spring training began Jose was asked about his health and career. “I feel better now than I did five years ago, body-wise and performance-wise,” Bautista, 35, said at the time of the interview. “I have no reason to believe I’m getting older other than more people keep asking me my age. I certainly don’t feel like I’m getting older. And I’m performing at the highest level that I’ve ever performed… At least for me, my 35 is the new 30,” Bautista said.
At the time of that interview Bautista did happen to be coming off one of his best seasons as a baseball player, but he was clearly declining defensively as his past two seasons yielded negative defensive value to the Blue Jays, namely due to his limited defensive range.
Although Bautista may take care of himself, the reality is almost no baseball player besides Barry Bonds and David Ortiz has ever continued to be a perennial all-star into their late 30’s.
Rumours that came out of spring training in 2016 were that Bautista was going to demand a five year 150 million dollar contract. Given that the track record for elder baseball players is low it was unlikely any team was going to pay that kind of money, but though shall ask and may receive right?
At this point in time he isn’t even going to get half of that money and there may be a bargain to be had with the former all-star. I do however find it ironic and sad that fans applaud organization’s who sign players under market value, but those same fans probably aren’t fans of exported jobs to third world countries where cheap labour is obtained for less than “Market value”.
Does anyone besides stock holders cheer for giant corporations who under cut their staff? I myself can’t fathom what the difference between 60 million vs. 70 million dollars would do in my life.
All I know is that’s a lot of Fuck You money either way.
Don’t hate on Jose for over estimating his marketability. It just isn’t relavent and now we have a new scenario with some new variables for both the Blue Jays and Jose.
Salty feelings need to put aside by both the Jays management and the Bautista camp. The Blue Jays offered Jose Bautista a one year 17.2 million dollar contract prior to his election of free agency. This was merely a formality as it ensured the team would get a first round draft pick from any team who may sign Jose Bautistata. The Jays did the same thing with Encarnacion.
However, in December 2016 a new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed and players no longer will be tied to a compensatory draft pick more than once in their career. So if Bautista hits free agency ever again he cannot be tied to a draft pick.
In professional sports, draft picks matter. Just ask the Brooklyn Nets or Toronto Maple Leafs.
Actually scratch that and ask the Chicago Black Hawks or San Antonio Spurs who actually built championship dynasties around a core of homegrown talent.
In baseball the draft is the biggest crapshoot of all pro sports. That’s a topic for another time but at the end of the day there is value from a late first round draft pick. The Blue Jays currently have their own pick plus Cleveland’s pick for signing Edwin. The Jays should be willing to give up on any their potential compensatory pick they would receive if another team signs Jose Bautista and find some common ground on a two to three year bridge or at worst a one year deal.
Sure Jose Bautista may argue with umpires from time to time and he may have over estimated his monetary value at the start of the 2016 value, but at the end of the day he is the one of the greatest Toronto Blue Jays to ever step onto the Rogers Centre turf.
The Toronto Maple Leafs fucked up with Dave Keon and Darryl Sittler near the end of their careers. Nobody wants to see that kind of bad blood occur here so if the Jays and Bautista can work out a 2 year deal with a mutual third year option make it fucking happen. The Blue Jays, Bautista and Rogers all have something to mutually gain here if they can create another winning season.
The Blue Jays still have a playoff contending roster. Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitski, Russel Martin, Devon Travis, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna are still here. That doesn’t even include some of the depth peaces previously mentioned. Adding Jose Bautista back to that core for one or two more years at a fair 20 million per season deal would not hinder the Blue Jays into the future. It simply would add another power bat and quite frankly the team is likely slightly improved from adding Pearce and Morales over Edwin too.
As a fan I honestly hope they can make something work and one day we will likely see Jose Bautista’s jersey retired. Sometimes it’s okay to romanticize in sports but the stats and fit make sense here as well and maybe just maybe in 2017 a championship could be in the cards because in the end that’s the whole damn point of all this right?