The Toronto Blue Jays single season home run record is dead. Long live the new king.
Jose Bautista's blast over the Monster confirmed his place in the history books for the Jays, his 48 (and counting) home runs becoming the new standard for long ball proficiency. We've spoken ad nauseum about the season Bautista is having - here and everywhere in the blogosphere - but not one word is undeserved. With all the positives we can take from theis season - AA carrying out The Plan, the development of the rotation, a strong draft, the Escobar trade, etc - Bautista's season is indeed the highlight of 2010.
So with so many words already devoted to our now and future king, how about a few remembering the outgoing monarch?
In a sense, I'm sad to see George Bell's name erased from the record books. Not because of any negative feelings for Bautista - not at all - but speaking personally, Bell represented that classic throwback slugger. He was the cleanup hitter and Big Scary Bat for the teams that cemented my Blue Jay fandom - that early-to mid 80's Blue Jays club that was deep, talented, and easy to cheer for.
As The Star's Dave Perkins captures, Bell was a magnet for media attention, whether he liked it or not. Charging the mound with a karate kick? "Kiss my purple butt?" Refusing to DH despite his outfield butchery? C'mon. George Bell was Manny before Manny. Want more George? Check out this classic from the SI Vault. Boom. Now there's a good read.
....And in many ways, Bautista is the new Bell. A Latin slugger leading a team on the rise, perhaps misunderstood by those outside the Blue Jay universe, but respected and revered by his teammates as an unofficial clubhouse leader. A middle of the order hitter on a team trying to break through. A player in search of respect from a disbelieving media. A dude who just keeps on slugging despite it all.
So where do we go from here? Long-term contract this offseason, or a few more months of production in 2011 before discussing? Winter trade chip or "core player"? More of the same production-wise, or precipitous drop-off (...let's ignore the fact that after Bell's record-setting season, he never again posted an OPS > .800, OK? OK.)?
Like everything else in the Blue Jays world, it'll make for an interesting storyline as September turns to October turns to the offseason.