Is Jose Bautista the most watchable Blue Jay of all-time?

I, like many who follow baseball feverishly, had my concerns about Blue Jays star rightfielder Jose Bautista heading into the 2011 season.  After a breakout season that no one in the league’s history has ever experienced, the Jays inked Bautista to a five-year, $65-million extension that when coupled with the Juan Rivera contract and the signings of Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch basically cancelled out the financial savings of the Vernon Wells trade.

I was concerned.  What if Bautista dive-bombed back into obscurity and the Jays were left with a utility player worth roughly $13-million a season?  I was under no grand illusions that he was going to repeat his 54 homerun performance from 2010, and trust me, he doesn’t need to to make this contract worthwhile, but I was still concerned that Bautista was a jewel-encrusted chariot, ready to turn back into a pumpkin at midnight.

Then the season started.

Bautista destroyed a pitch in his very first game into the leftfield bleachers at Skydome Rogers Centre and despite missing three games since due to the birth of his daughter is leading the league in every important batting category: batting average (.364), on-base percentage (.517!!!), slugging percentage (.788), obviously OPS (1.305), walk-rate (24.1%) and isolated power* (.424!!!).

I’m slowly being converted to a believer in Bautista’s long-term ability, but I’m not willing to call it a sure thing yet.  I still believe the extension’s timing, especially considering its length, was questionable.  It’s all about process and signing Bautista to a five-year deal at that point flew in the face of that.

For now, at least, it appears as though he’s worth every cent and then some.

I was thinking about this earlier.  Is there any hitter in Jays history that has been more fun to watch than Bautista?  I honestly can’t think of any; not even Delgado in the late 90s/early 00s.  Right now, there’s no one in the game I enjoy watching more.  His attitude, swagger and confidence coupled with an ability to get on base at stupefying rates and smash pitches into the far reaches of the universe make him the most interesting player in baseball.  Throw in the fact that he came out of obscurity at the age of 29 to do it and he might be the most interesting player I’ve ever bared witness to.

*Isolated Power, for those who don’t know, is simply slugging percentage minus batting average.  It’s purpose it to measure a player’s pure power rating.  A decent power hitter will have a .200 ISO, while the league leaders are usually up just under .300.  Last year, Bautista’s ISO was a major-league-best .357.

2 responses to “Is Jose Bautista the most watchable Blue Jay of all-time?

  1. George Bell in his MVP year, 1987. Not by much.
    ie The Jays were in old Komisky Park, which was as big as a barn. Since before WWI, a ball was hit over the left field stands and out without bouncing on the roof, I’m thinking 7 times…anyway.
    Only 3 times had a ball been hit right out of the park in centre field.
    First game of the series, Bell crushes one out in left field, well over the bleachers. Saturday, Bell hits one even farther to left field, again right over the roof.
    Last game on Sunday, Bell hit a ball as hard as I’ve ever seen, it went out like a bomb over the bleachers in dead centre field. 4th time since the turn of the century.

    I was in the Dome for Conseco’s first into the 5th deck in left. I think Bell’s shots were farther. I saw Bautista hit one foul on TV last year. The roof was open, it went out of the Dome in the gap between the stands and the open roof edge. It was massive. I doubt anybody in baseball ever hit 3 in one series like Bell did. Anybody.

    I love Bautista, a great ballplayer. But I remember watching a rule 5 ,19 year old George Bell at batting practice. He had more power than anybody, the ball got out quicker as well. And it SOUNDED different, I could close my eyes and know it was Bell in the batting cage just by the sound.
    He had a cannon for an arm when he was young. Jesse Barfield, Barry Bonnell, and Bell would take fungoes in deep RF and throw peas to the plate. Bonnell had a really good arm, but Barfield had one of the best of all time. Bell threw just as hard as Barfield, but a tad less accurate. And I mean only a tad. He could run too. The classic 5 tool player, every tool way over average.
    He had a rep as a hard nosed player. When a reporter asked him about his injuring an opponent at 2nd, breaking up a double play, Bell said “It’s a man’s game, you play like a man”. And he played like that every day, until his bad knees took away all of his game except the power swing, way too early in his career.
    In 1987, Bautista would have been 6 years old…I wonder if he was old enough to idolize his fellow Dominican, Bell?

  2. He did.

    While growing up in the Dominican Republic, Jose Bautista followed the career of slugger George Bell. After Bautista was given his first professional baseball contract, Bell began to follow him.

    “I knew who he was, and I followed him in the big leagues and in winter ball,” Bautista said on Saturday morning prior to the Blue Jays’ game against the Tigers. “After I signed, for some reason, he’s one of those guys that’s always reached out to me.”

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