Jose Bautista might not be a Blue Jay next year.
You may remember Jose as the MLB home run king of 2010 and 2011. Or as a six-time all-star. Perhaps you recall his three Silver Slugger awards, or the fact that he holds the team record for home runs in a single season.
Or you might remember him for what he did last year, in the seventh inning of a tied Game 5 of the ALDS, to a 1-1 pitch from Sam Dyson.
He was already an icon of this team long before the bat flip, but that home run (and subsequent bat flip) is what cemented his status in as an all-time great in Toronto sports history. For someone who hasn’t seen a playoff run in her lifetime (I was exactly 23 days old when Joe Carter touched ’em all), he was responsible for the best moment this team has ever given me. And I don’t want him to leave.
I’ve only been obsessed with three of the ‘big stars’ in my time as a Blue Jays fan. Usually I change favourites like people change socks. But Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay, and Jose Bautista are true legends in my mind. I was heartbroken when the first two went to other teams. I don’t want it to happen again. And yes, he might do the whole ‘re-sign for a day so he can retire a Blue Jay’ thing like Doc did, but it won’t be the same. Halladay was a generational talent, one who didn’t deserve some of the crappy teams he was stuck with. He deserved a team that could take him to the World Series, and he got one by being traded. Bautista already has one. He’d make another run to the playoffs more likely if he stayed.
Plus, he’s ours.
He’s already so disliked by so many other fanbases that they literally celebrated him being punched in the face. Now, I’m sure most of those fans would change their tune the second he donned their jersey, but he also doesn’t really have an emotional connection to any other team, any other place, but Toronto.
He’s perfectly emblematic of Toronto, partly because of his take-no-crap attitude, partly because of his refusal to let the sports world forget him just because he played on an often-overlooked team. He may not be the most smiley person while on the field, but there’s no denying that he plays with a fire and intensity rivaled only by the likes of Josh Donaldson and Marcus Stroman.
He’s got a way with words and their usage that can be enigmatic at times, and at others tell you exactly what he’s thinking without him having to say it. His cool indifference of ‘I couldn’t care less what Adam Jones is saying’. The bold, un-matched level of sass in this tweet, which became a rallying cry for Jays fans on Twitter:
.@simmonssteve who are you and why are you talking to me?
— Jose Bautista (@JoeyBats19) October 1, 2014
I, for one, am greatly looking forward to the memoir he inevitably releases after his retirement. Everything he does, everything he says, has purpose, has meaning. For example, this shirt he oh-so-casually wore for batting practice during the ALCS when Royals fans were accusing him of steroid use.
*Bautista walks onto field*
*Glares at accusers*
*Points to shirt*
*Picks up bat*
— Emily – RIP JF (@JaysGirlEmily) October 22, 2015
If he does leave, two of the teams most able to give him what he wants, salary-wise, are in the AL East. That’s not saying they’ll want to give him the money, but they’re capable of it if they so choose. For all the talk about his health being in decline, the man can still get on base. That has value.
Not only is he a talented hitter, but he’s capable of pulling a ‘screw you’ revenge homer out of thin air.
Do we really want our poor pitchers facing that guy 19 games a year?! This is a man with 6 home runs against David Price. One of the best pitchers in baseball (current season notwithstanding), and Bautista’s taken him deep six times.
If he leaves, he’ll still be one of my favourites, but it’ll be heartbreaking to see him in another uniform. Every memory, that framed photo of the bat flip that sits on my desk, will be a little bittersweet knowing what comes after. Which is exactly why I made the last-minute decision to go to tonight’s game, bittersweetness and all, hoping to wring one last amazing memory from our time with him. It breaks my heart that this might be the last time we get to see him stretching (always stretching!) out in right field at the Skydome, or standing on deck with his brows furrowed, Marucci bat in hand.
We have to celebrate all the moments he’s given us, all the years we could cheer for him when there wasn’t much else to cheer for. How he turned a night of frustration and anger last October into the best baseball memory many of us have. It’s the closest thing he has to a walk-off home run in his career, and it was a perfectly scripted moment. For this man, who waited so long to make the playoffs, to be the one to save the day is like something out of the sappiest sports movie.
If I had my way, he’d be a Blue Jay forever. But I don’t make those decisions. If he doesn’t, I at least want him to go out with a bang. In what could potentially be his last home game of the regular season in Toronto, he’s facing off against a team he’s had many, many dust-ups with over the years. Said team is currently chasing the Blue Jays for a wild-card berth. The series is tied at a game apiece.
Who could have written a better narrative? Perhaps not even Jose himself.
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