Jose Antonio Bautista | RF, 3B | 2008-2017
Jose Bautista was born on October 19, 1980, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He was the Pirates 20th round draft pick in the 2000 draft. Jose played college ball in the states, making him eligible for the draft.
The Orioles took Jose in the Rule 5 draft before the 2004 season. He played a handful of games with them, and then the Rays claimed him off waivers. From there he went to the Royals, Mets, and then back to the Pirates.
On August 21, 2008, the Blue Jays traded Robinzon Diaz to the Pirates for Bautista. I had just started writing for BBB a couple of months before that. Our poll on the trade had 48% saying it was a good trade and 52% saying bad. That shows why we aren’t working in the scouting department. Jose played in 21 games at the end of the season, hitting .214/.237/.411.
In 2009, Jose played in 113 games, split mostly between left, right, and third base. He hit .235/.349/.408. I went to Seattle for the Jays series that year, and I got to see how strong his arm was. We were sitting right at the wall, almost even with third base. Kenji Johjima (not the fastest runner) was on second, Chris Woodard singled to left, I saw Johijima go by and figured we were down 1-0. Then I saw the ball flying past, about 8 feet in the air, on a line, and Kenji was out. I think it is the best throw I’ve ever seen live.
He hit really well against LHP but not great against RHP. Many of us thought he should be platooned. But Cito Gaston was smarter. In 2010 Jose hit .260/.378/.617 with 54 home runs (still a team record) and 124 RBI (6th best in team history). He was an All-Star for the first time and finished 4th in MVP voting (odds are it would have been higher in the vote if the Jays had finished better than 4th in the AL East). In September that year, I saw games in Boston and saw him hit home runs 48 and 49 (I was hoping to get to see number 50).
It is worth mentioning that Cito Gaston, hitting coaches Gene Tenace and Dwayne Murphy deserve a ton of credit for helping Jose become the slugger he was. Cito was always a fan of pull hitters. He tried to get everyone to turn on the ball. Murphy helped him find the big leg kick. Murphy told me that ‘several players’ watched Jose’s big leg kick and tried to copy it, but that it causes troubles for most batters.
In 2011, after signing a five-year contract extension, Jose again led the league in home runs, with 43, but hit much better .302/.447/.608. He was an All-Star again and finished 3rd in the MVP vote. He also set a career-high with 132 walks and bWAR at 8.3, both franchise highs for position players.
Jose missed some games in 2012, playing just 92, hitting .241/.358/.527 with 27 home runs. In mid-July, he went on the DL with inflammation in his wrist and missed most of the rest of the season.
Jose made the AL All-Star team for the fourth straight season in 2013. He had 28 home runs with a .259/.358/.498 line, but he missed the end of the season with a bone bruise in his hip.
2014 was a bounce-back season for Bautista. He played in 155 games, hit .286/.403/.524 with 35 home runs. He made the All-Star team again, finished sixth in the MVP vote, and won his third Silvery Slugger award. But the team was a disappointment, finishing third in the AL East, 13 games back of the Orioles.
Before the 2015 season, the Blue Jays traded for Josh Donaldson (as well as adding Marco Estrada, Russell Martin, Chris Colabello, Devon Travis, and then David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, and Ben Revere at the deadline). Between Jose, Josh, and Edwin Encarnacion, there were 120 home runs and 348 RBI. Josh would hit .250/.377/.536 (slightly eclipsed by Donaldson’s .297/.368/.568 line). Josh would win the AL MVP (Jose finished sixth, Edwin 12th).
And, of course, we made the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. Jose hit .273/.304/.636 in our five-game ALDS win over the Rangers, but really only one at-bat matters. Game 5, the bottom of the 7th inning, after a horrendous top of the 7th, Bautista hit the series-winning home run and proceeded to make the world’s most famous bat-flip. Many of us have the tee-shirt. I have a lovely painting of it, by Chris Ripley.
Jose also hit great in our six-game series loss to the Rangers, putting up a .316/.500/.684 line, with 2 home runs and 6 RBI.
Bautista didn’t hit as well in 2016, .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and only played in 116 games, missing time with an injury big toe.
But the Jays made the playoffs again. Jose hit a home run in our Wild Card win over the Orioles. He didn’t hit well in our ALDS win over the Rangers (.167/.286/.417) and, like most of our batters, had an equally rough time in our ALCS loss to Cleveland.
The Blue Jays signed Bautista to a one-year contract before the 2017 season, but he wasn’t the player he was in the past. He hit .203/.308/.366 with 23 home runs, and his defense wasn’t what it used to be.
His 2018 season was split between three teams, the Braves, Mets, and Phillies, finishing his career.
In 15 seasons, Jose hit .247/.361/.475 with 344 home runs, 1032 walks, and 1394 strikeouts in 1798 games. With the Jays, in 10 seasons and 1235 games, he hit .253/.372/.506 with 288 home runs.
He was one of my favorite players to watch. He was intense. Extremely intense (until we picked up Donaldson I never thought I’d see a player as intense, but Josh came close. He was an all-out pull hitter, and that can be fun to watch.
Defensively, he was good (well up until near the end of his career). Sometimes Jays' broadcasters would suggest he should be a Gold Glove winner (either at right or third) but I think that was overstating his abilities. But his arm did make up for any deficiencies in range.
As I’m sure you remember, there was the odd bit of controversy:
- Damien Cox, showing how much of a jerk (I wanted to use a different word) he can be, decided to accuse Jose of using steroids because Jose hit a lot of home runs. He said that Jose would go with him to a Toronto hospital and take a steroids test (because, of course, that’s what is hospitals are set up to do).
- Jose had a brief Twitter back and forth with Steve Simmons, with Simmons tweeting something silly at him and Jose tweeting back, “who are you and why are you talking to me.” When Simmons stated that Jose didn’t run his own Twitter account, Jose corrected him saying, “I tweet myself, and that was me last night just so YOU are sure of it.” That might still be the best interaction between a player and a writer I’ve ever seen on Twitter.
- There have been many ejections by umpires and little wars with opposing players. Jose has an excellent eye at the plate (sometimes much better than the umpires) and sometimes has had the inability to refrain from voicing his opinion. And he’s also had a flair for the dramatic, which hasn’t endeared him to other teams. The Rangers crying over the bat flip is one example. I get that teams when they get beat, want to deflect the story from their loss to something else.
- There has always been the odd person complaining that Jose ‘wasn’t a leader.’ I remember people telling me that Munenori Kawasaki was a leader and Jose wasn’t. One of those things that you sad for the education system in this country. I’ve liked Jose as a leader because he doesn’t make a show of it.
- Jerry Howarth once went off on him not being a leader and his bad leadership being the reason we weren’t winning. This is something that always seems to happen with bad franchises. They point at their best player as the reason for them not winning instead of pointing out the crappy replacement level players surrounding them. It is one of my least favorite of ‘lazy analysis’ that we get handed. Good players take too much of the blame for bad teams, and then average players get too much of the credit on good teams, which is why guys like David Eckstein get signed.
- And there was some racism. I remember someone writing a fanpost saying we had too many Dominicans on the team, which got deservedly beat up on pretty good, but it was an opinion that was out there and played into the ‘not a leader stuff’.
Before we traded to pick up Bautista, the team really didn’t have an identity, but after he was with the team, we became the team that everyone hated. And we went from a team that was pretty boring to a team that was rarely boring.
I’ve often said that I’m sure I’ve written more about Bautista, on here, than any other Blue Jays player. He gave us an endless supply of things to talk about. Perhaps my favorite moments were when a pitcher would come up and in on him and he would get mad and hit the ball a mile.
Jose is married and has two daughters.
Bautista’s place among the Blue Jays hitters:
bWAR: 1st, 38.3
BA: 41st, .253
OBP: 7th, .372
Slugging: 5th, 506
OPS: 4th, .878
Games Played: 5th, 1235
Runs Scored: 2nd, 790
Hits: 6th, 1103
Home Runs: 2nd, 265 (Delgado had 336 as a Jay)
RBI: 3rd, 766
Walks: 2nd, 903
Hit by Pitch: 5th, 52
Intentional Walks: 3rd, 49
bWAR: 1st, 8.3 (2011), also 8th and 9th.
Slugging: 2nd, .617 (2010), 3rd, .608 (2011)
Home Runs: 1st, 54 (2010) and 5th, 43 (2011)
Walks: 1st, 132 (2011), 6th, 110 (2015), 9th, 104) 2014