Saturday, September 18, 2010

Don't forget about George

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.


Anonymous said...

As someone who watched the Jays in the 80's, Bautista is not Jorge Bell. Bell was a liability in the field and on the basepaths. He was also a distraction in the clubhouse. Aside from having a similar number of HRs in a season and being Latin, what of that sounds like Bautista? Lame post.

Darren Priest said...

Uh oh, sounds like anonymous is going to cancel his or her subscription. How will they deal with that loss of revenue.

You see, Ack started the paragraph with "In many ways..." and then proceeded to list those ways. You listed the ways they are different. Brilliant take-down, bro.

The Ack said...

Priesty, thanks for the defense, that would have been my rebuttal almost verbatim.

Anon has me one thing though... for other reasons entirely, the post is fairly lame. Not my best effort. What can I say? I got no game this weekend, I guess.

KissMyPurpleButt said...

The post is totally not lame. Bell was my favorite player as a kid. Warts and all. "He was Manny before Manny" is spot on, great line. The links brought back some memories.... though the end of '87 is not a good one.

Mylegacy said...

Bell was a beast. He never made a mistake by not trying hard enough. He played with aggression and passion. When he got two strikes on him he seemed to turn it up a notch - George was a PLEASURE to watch.

The Ack said...

I don't know why I remember this, but before it became the norm to change balls at the slightest hint it touched dirt (as is custom today), Bell would request the ump check any ball that came close. I just have this memory of him pointing at the ball on every pitch down. Anyway, that's my random George Bell memory for the day.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

Ack, enjoyed the hell out of this post. Well done. The fact Bautista has said Bell has been in touch, and that he's rooting for JoBau, makes Bau's record-breaking season that much better. And that SI Vault piece was great, thanks.

Parker said...

Don't be so hard on yourself, Ack. It was a quality post. Thanks for the link to the 1987 article... was that ever a blast from the past.

I think Bautista has a few more outstanding seasons in him. The most obvious difference (in approach to hitting, not personality) between Bell and Bautista is that Bautista is a very patient hitter who waits for his pitch. Bell was like Vlad Guerrero... he'd swing at fucking ANYTHING. It worked for him for a while, but eventually pitchers figured out how allergic to taking a walk he was, and wouldn't throw him anything he could put good wood on.

Toragirl said...

I was happy to see AA making noises that he'll take a wait & see approach with JBau...realizing that he has something good, but likely not ever this good again.

Peter D said...

Bell was my favourite player growing up, that being said with hind site being 20-20, the Jays should have done things a little differently.

After Bell's big MVP season, it was the following season (1988) that Jimy Williams wanted to DH Bell and with all the turmoil that followed rumours began to spread about the Jays trading Bell. If you remember Bell got off to an incredibly hot start in 1998 with 3 home runs on opening day and followed that up with a 5 for 5 game. Teams were falling over themselves making offers for Bell. In fact there was a report that the Orioles offered Cal Ripken plus for George.

Of course Bell ended up staying with the Jays for a few semi-productive years, but nothing close to what we expected, then left as a free agent. With this in mind it would have been best for the Jays if they had traded George at this point.

Hmmm, is this a possible lesson for what the Jays should do with Bautista?

Christopher said...

If anyone has the game where Bell drop kicked Bruce Kison on tape please email me.

bluejaysfreak at hotmail dot com

Peter D said...

Here is a picture of the kick. It's funny how skinny players were before the steroid era.

Anonymous said...

Bell never swung at the first pitch. Ever. But yes he was allergic to taking a walk. It's completely false to say that pitchers figured him out after 1988 - his bat speed slowed, he gained some weight and just couldn't rake anymore. To say that after 4 years of killing AL pitching they finally figured out "gee let's make him chase" is wrong. They were doing that all along, it's just that after 1988 he couldn't produce the same results.