August 24, 2010
I've yet to come down from my Jose Bautista high. If you have, watch this.
Which do you prefer: a 16-2 thrashing of the Boston Red Sox by the Blue Jays at Fenway Park, or a dramatic 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees at the ole Dome? Both contests certainly had their charm, and I enjoyed Toronto's Boston Massacre probably more than anyone, but if I had to pick one, I'd have to choose the events of Monday night. What an evening of baseball!1 I needed a cigarette after it was all said and done.
What didn't happen in that game? Ejections, a home plate umpire who couldn't discern the strikezone even as he crouched behind it, a benches clearing -- what shall we call it? -- brouhaha, and, of course, long-ball theatrics, and some showmanship, from Jose Bautista.
What's left to be said about Bautista that hasn't already been written? Forty home runs. A feat Carlos Delgado, the greatest Blue Jays slugger I've ever known, managed but three times in Toronto. But it wasn't that Bautista hit the 40-mark Monday night; it was the way he got there.
What I've enjoyed most about watching Bautista as the season has progressed is the confidence he's brought to the batter's box. As home run after home run began to stockpile, Bautista began, more and more, to believe in himself; to believe in his abilities. Now he steps up to the plate knowing -- believing -- he can take any pitcher out of the ballpark. And it was that confidence, and that swagger, that was on display last night for the New York Yankees, and the baseball world, to see.
Bautista has become a leader on the Blue Jays. The leader, perhaps. And if Bautista doesn't yet have your respect, he will demand it. And he will go out and get it. What I loved most about Bautista's comments post-game was the candor with which he delivered them. Unhappy with being sent to the mat by a high-and-tight fastball from Yankees rookie Ivan Nova, Bautista said he slowly made his way out to the mound in order to gauge the youngster's reaction. He was testing Nova. And Nova failed.
Proof of Bautista's elevation to slugger, and leader, was found in the reaction to the melee, by both the Yankees and Blue Jays. As Bautista crept to the mound, it was New York manager Joe Girardi who stepped in front of him and asked that his young pitcher's bravado be forgiven. Girardi could have gone to his pitcher; he chose to restrain Bautista. And as Girardi put his hands on Bautista, it was Jose Molina first on the scene for Toronto, grabbing Bautista away from the Yankees skipper, and walking him away from the scene.
Then there was the business of Bautista's 40th home run. A no-doubter, if there ever was one. Look, I'm all for guys playing the game the right way; for a slugger to hit a home run and act like he's done it, oh, you know, 39 times before. But Bautista had every right to enjoy that long ball more than any of the his previous 39, and I'm glad he did. Bautista was locked-in; focused. It was, as Parkes over at Drunk Jays Fans put it, "perhaps the greatest display by a hitter in a single at bat that I've ever seen." David Robertson paid dearly for Ivan Nova's mistake.
In the aftermath of the home run, more proof of Bautista's exalted status. If you watch the replays closely, as Bautista steps out of the dugout for his curtain call (yes!!!1), DeWayne Wise and Freddy Lewis are standing on the top step of the dugout, nodding their heads, and looking, it seems, straight at the Yankees dugout. It was as intense a moment I've witnessed all season; a sure sign that this Blue Jays team is tight-knit, and will not back down from anybody, no matter how many games they're behind in the standings.
Jose Bautista has single-handedly brought people back to the ballpark this season. He has single-handedly given people a reason to talk about the Toronto Blue Jays. Bautista has made it easier to swallow the terrible seasons Adam Lind and Aaron Hill are having. He's made it easy to not lose sleep over the fact that save for April and May, Vernon Wells has been awful, and is an absolutely insane choice to be batting cleanup. Bautista is the biggest part of why this season has been one of the most memorable in recent years, and a big part of why Toronto is buzzing about baseball. If you were at the game Monday night, or watching on television like I was, you could sense that there was indeed something different about it. Yankees fans certainly noticed. Their players did, too. Bautista is now enemy number one in their books, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Bautista will break George Bell's single-season Toronto record of 47 home runs. Bautista will hit 50. It's his summer. And I will not, goddamnit, let Damien Cox ruin it.
If Jose Bautista vs. David Robertson was Monday night's main event, Brandon Morrow vs. the New York Yankees was the undercard. Morrow's masterful performance was lost in the lights of The Jose Bautista Show, but it certainly did not go unnoticed.
It's not everyday a pitcher mows through the New York lineup, striking out 12 batters in six innings while only scattering four hits. Morrow put to rest any doubts about his arm, striking out the New York side on three separate occasions: in the 1st, 3rd, and 6th innings. When's the last time you saw that happen?
"Gotta At Least Ask The Question"
Thanks to the aforementioned Cox, everyone's favourite scribe, the Bautista-steroid rumours and allegations aren't going to disappear. The fact Jose got to 40 in the manner that he did against New York won't help. Brady Anderson's name was flying about on Twitter last night, let me tell you.
If Cox is so eager to "at least ask the question," I wonder, where was Cox last summer, when Aaron Hill, who'd never hit more than 17 home runs, and was coming off a concussion-riddled campaign that saw him hit two home runs in 55 games, swatted 36 home runs? Where was Cox when Adam Lind, who hit 11 home runs in 2007, and 9 home runs in 2008, hit 35 last season?
Roger Maris hit 16 home runs in 1959, and 39 in 1960. In 1961 he set the standard: 61 home runs. He'd never hit more than 33 in a season again. I guess he might have been on steroids, too.
Here are my questions: Why Bautista? Why now?
The bottom line: if Bautista is indeed using a super-steroid which isn't turning up in the drug tests he's taking, he needs to start sharing. With Lind, and Hill, and Wells. Because sharing is caring. And because lord only knows those guys could use the help.
Some good has, and will continue to, come out of this situation. It's rather apparent that even those that work with Cox don't seem to like him very much. He's been called out, through sarcastic blog posts and tweets, by his colleagues in his own newsroom, and those in other newsrooms. And while I've promised myself on many occasions to never read Cox again, I'm sticking to it this time. His Bautista piece was the last straw.
Image courtesy of daylife.