Wednesday, August 4, 2010

José Bautista is a Very Dangerous Man (and other new, weird feelings)

As we sat in the ballpark on Friday night, watching José Bautista step to the plate in the fourth inning with the bases loaded, we became acutely aware of a completely new feeling.: That JoBau has become a feared man at that plate for the Jays.

Maybe you can discount this, and maybe you need way more evidence and two more seasons of similar performances before you start to think of him as any sort of premium offensive performer. But for us, there was a palpable feeling in the air that night as Bautista strode from the on deck circle: It was the feeling of anticipation, because our best hitter was standing in for a key situation, and it was a sense that Bautista is the one player in the lineup who the other team does not want to see with men on base.

It's a feeling that we would have a few years ago, when Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols or Barry Bonds would step in. Their at bats would simultaneously create expectations and anxiety, and you'd feel a sense of relief when you got through them unscathed.

(Okay: Hold up. Slow down. Take a moment and go with us here. We know that you can't wait to get into the comments, and tear us a new one over the ridiculously overstatement that you see in that paragraph, but we're using it to make a point. We could say: "This must be what it felt like Dante Bichette came to the plate", but we're trying to sketch something out quickly, and don't especially feel like digging to far down to find the precise comparable that is going to suit your needs. Stop being so picky.)

It's odd that this feels so novel, but the truth is that the Jays have not had the Jim Rice Feared Hitter in the middle of their order since Carlos Delgado left six years ago. There have been players who have had good seasons here or there, and we might have wanted to feel as if they were those terror-inducing offensive threats, but they never quite became that thing. But after nearly four months (plus a month last season) of being the most prolific power hitter in the Majors, it certainly feels to us as though Batista has affirmed that deserves to be treated with respect.

And as we were in that moment on Friday night, and wondering whether if any of this notion made a lick of sense, Bautista hammered a Justin Masterson pitch 424 feet into the left field seats, reaffirming every last absurd bit of that line of thinking.

...and other new, weird feelings and modest goals
It was disappointing to see the Jays cough up the last two games of the Cleveland series, especially given that both of them were eminently winnable games. But if it is any consolation, there is something in the manner that the Jays are playing through the last half of their schedule which we can't remember seeing in recent years.

Rationally, we'd have to assume that the Jays are more or less out of contention for the post season, but the Jays doesn't seem to be relenting or slowing down at all in recent weeks. If anything, the roster that they have assembled at this point seems as though it is the strongest team that they've put on the field in years, and that with the bench strength and bullpen depth, they might have enough to actually make a run at contention as soon as next year.

In the interim, we've mentally set a goal for the Jays for the remainder of the season: Fifth in the AL.

Sure, it sounds like not much, but we'd actually get some satisfaction out of seeing the Jays finish the season as the best team not the make the playoffs. It would likely mean catching up with Boston, who sit five games ahead of them in the standings, but with three series still to come against the Sox, that's a manageable number.

It might not seem like much of an aspiration, but legitimately leapfrogging the Red Sox and jumping into that fifth seed is one important step that could precede the next one: a postseason berth.

23 comments:

eyebleaf said...

Fifth!!!1

Anonymous said...

I was at the game on Friday as well. The electricity and anticipation as JoBau walked to the plate with the bases juiced WAS palpable.

He's in command and has been for months. The only question is when the media outside of Toronto will start to recognize him as anything other than a fluke.

mike in boston said...

it's amazing how joining to Red Sox turns you into a masshole near instantly. in the fracas yesterday Lackey and his fat head were front and centre pretending to be in need of being restrained. Beckett, that head-hunting douche, has this down to a science.

that team is so hateable, it would be great to pass them and their $150 million payroll.

Ty said...

Beating the Red Sox this year actually seems like a pretty reasonable possibility, especially considering how locked-in this team has been since the break. I hate to get into the whole "intangibles" discussion but these guys really seem to be the most cohesive team the Jays have put together in recent years. It seems like every single time Sportsnet shows a dugout shot, the starters are all sitting together watching/talking about the game, and that's awesome.

eyebleaf said...

And Youkilis is FINISHED!!!1

Yoooouuuuuukkkkk.

SP said...

Every JB AB is like an event for me. As in, stop what you're doing and watch the whole AB because there's a good chance he hits a bomb.

I don't think it's the best team in the past few years, but at least we're not the unluckiest team in baseball, which was the norm for like 4-5 years. We are "only" 5 wins below our 3rd order wins--only 3rd unluckiest in baseball! http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/standings.php).

The Ack said...

Every JB AB is like an event for me. As in, stop what you're doing and watch the whole AB because there's a good chance he hits a bomb.

Agreed. Snider too, for me.

....and anyone else notice that JoBau is starting to pimp them a little bit? Followed by the Esco custom shake in the dugout, of course. Brothers by different Latin mothers.

Ty said...

The last couple homers JoBau has hit have been total no-doubter line drive shots and his reaction each time has been amazing. The second homer at home vs. Cleveland the other day was my favourite - he just dropped his bat as soon as he made contact and the ball was in the stands before he even made it to first base.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

I am still smiling at the people who laughed at me in Tao's Rotisserie Hoedown fantasy league when I drafted JoBau. Love it. I drafted him in every league I am in. Good stuff.

mike in boston said...

1. Travis Snider, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. John Buck, C
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
9. John McDonald, SS

oh Cito ... with an off day tomorrow and a chance to sweep the Yanks on the road, what the hell is JMac doing in the line up, and why is Snider leading off?

i have a sinking feeling it's going to be lunacy line-ups the rest of the month as Cito tries to get all the vets contracts for next year while teaching all the youngsters a lesson about respecting your senile elders.

Ty said...

I don't think that's entirely fair Mike -- Johnny Mac is already under contract for next year, and he's sitting 30-year-old Lewis in favour of 22-year-old Snider.

It's actually kind of awesome, I think.

Ty said...

And let's not forget that yesterday he sat Overbay -- the oldest guy on the team -- in order to get all three of Snider, Lewis, and Lind into the lineup.

The resulting lineups are pretty wacky, but not in a bad way. Remember, this is the same guy who went out of his way to keep Kevin Millar in the lineup as much as possible, even starting him at 3B last year. What we're seeing now, I'd call that progress.

mike in boston said...

fair enough re: sitting the vets, but i still don't get why Yunel is not in the line-up. also i forgot JMac is going to be on the team next year. i wonder if he can get some time as the 3rd base coach or something.

Leaker19 said...

Feels like a giveaway to the Yanks type of lineup.

Wells and Bautista should be flipped, maybe? Let Vernon feast on heaters cause they don't want to F with Jose. I always thought Wells' best years was when he was second banana to Delgado.

eyebleaf said...

STEROIDS!!!1

NoisyFlowers said...

I was going to argue that Troy Glaus was as good in 2006 as Bautista is now but the numbers don't support it. As it stands currently Bautista definitely has a better slash line (.260/.373/.599) than Glaus did in 2006 (.252/.355/.513). I still think Glaus deserves some love though.

SP said...

Glaus was fun. Remember those chest lifts he did, like he was adjusting a mansier or something? Loved those murderous faces he made when he struck out or GIDP for the trillionth time.

MRB said...

Good to see you tipping your hat to Hall of Famer Jim Ed.

Tao of Stieb said...

@MRB: You know I was being facetious.

Ice Cream Jonsey said...

Passing the Red Sox seems like a fun goal for this team, which has become weirdly likable, except for every Lind at-bat. I'm in. I'm in!

(NOTE: I don't know what it is I have to do now that I have declared that "I'm in," but still.)

Ian H. said...

All this love for Jose made me reminisce about trying to pinpoint the moment the Bautista Appreciation Society was born on this site.

We were talking about how Bautista was grossly underrated, and some anonymous commenter said something to the effect of "I'm also a closet Bautista Appreciation Society" member.

BAS 4 Life.

Anonymous said...

http://tdotsports1.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/curious-splits-hanley/

Seriously pumped the Jays got Yunel Escobar for Gonzo...

He was nearly in the same league (almost) as Hanley not too long ago....

SP said...

Ian, I bet it was Ghostrunner