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.