With one swing (and emphatic toss) of the bat, Jose Bautista cemented his legacy as one of the greatest Toronto Blue Jays of all-time.
His home run in Game 5 of the ALDS was one of the biggest in franchise history. No, Bautista didn’t clinch a World Series title for the Blue Jays like Joe Carter. Nor did he win them an ALCS or World Series game like Roberto Alomar or Ed Sprague.
But Jose Bautista validated his entire existence within the Toronto Blue Jays organization, and he also validated this team as well.
Statistically speaking, Bautista is already one of the most prolific Blue Jays ever, but what he lacked was his signature “moment”. Up until now, Jose didn’t have that career-defining play.
Joe Carter had the home run. Roberto Alomar had the home run. Now Jose Bautista has his very own lasting legacy that people will be talking about for years to come. The home run and the subsequent bat flip or bat toss heard around the world.
Even if Jose Bautista does nothing else in the playoffs this year for the Blue Jays, he’ll always be remembered for that game-winning three run home run.
If the Blue Jays ever decide to erect a statue outside of the Rogers Centre, it will be of Joey Bats admiring his handiwork and his bat levitating several feet in the air.
Jose Bautista’s list of accomplishments as a Blue Jay thus far are a laundry list of franchise records; his historic 54 home run season in 2010, his even better 2011 campaign (which now stands as the second best single season position player WAR in franchise history).
The list goes on and on. Up until Wednesday night, Jose Bautista was in danger of becoming one of those forgotten Blue Jays; like the Carlos Delgado’s, Vernon Wells’ and Roy Halladay’s of the world.
Despite putting forth tremendous individual efforts, they lacked talent around them. Although baseball is predominantly an individual sport, ask virtually any Major Leaguer and they’d probably trade all the individual accolades for a World Series ring.
Bautista no longer has to worry about being a footnote because he effectively put his stamp on the Toronto Blue Jays franchise with that home run.
I could not think of a more deserving player for this to happen to than Jose Bautista.
He’s practically been to hell and back over the course of his entire career. Bautista bounced around from organization to organization before settling in as a utility player for the Blue Jays.
Since 2010, Jose Bautista blossomed into one of the best players to ever wear the Toronto Blue Jays uniform. For a few years there, he was one of the few highlights from what was otherwise a forgettable Blue Jays team.
As a superstar on a team devoid of any talent that matched his, Jose Bautista may have felt like he was out there on an island. Screaming “help me … please, somebody help me.”
In the years that followed, Alex Anthopoulos surrounded Jose Bautista with better talent. Edwin Encarnacion’s career arc mirrored that of Bautista himself, and the two became two of the most feared hitters in all of baseball.
It wasn’t really until this year that Jose Bautista had the core talent around him to represent anything close to a contending team. In fact, Jose really wasn’t even the Blue Jays’ best player this season; he might only be the third or fourth best.
But that’s okay, because for many years Bautista carried the Blue Jays on his back. And now he no longer has to worry about doing the heavy lifting, because Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki and others are there to help him.
In many ways, 2015 represented a passing of the torch from one era of Blue Jays baseball to the next. Jose Bautista, who has been the face of this franchise for so many years, made way for the new superstar in Toronto: Josh Donaldson.
As a player, it must be humbling experience to watch someone like Josh Donaldson march into Toronto and practically drag the Blue Jays into the postseason and help end the team’s 22-year playoff drought.
It was something that Jose Bautista tried to do for many years with the supporting cast surrounding him, but simply couldn’t.
But personal pride aside, it must feel so incredibly gratifying to see the team you’ve spent the past eight seasons for finally vanquish the ghosts of Blue Jays’ past. It must be so satisfying to finally begin a new chapter in the era of the Toronto Blue Jays.
And now with Jose Bautista only under team control for one more year, his time with the Toronto Blue Jays may be coming to an end very soon. But if it does, it surely will be remembered quite fondly not only by Bautista himself, but the fans as well.
I don’t doubt that Jose Bautista still has something spectacular left in him; whether it’s the remainder of this postseason or a potential playoff run next year. But if the lasting image of him as a Blue Jay is the one above, I’m cool with that.
No longer will Jose Bautista be remembered as one of the best Blue Jays that never made the playoffs. He won’t be looked back upon as that guy who put forth monstrous regular season numbers but disappeared in the postseason.
At the very least, Jose Bautista will always be remembered as the one who delivered the final blow to the Texas Rangers in the playoffs. Thus, Bautista will be regarded as one of the best Toronto Blue Jays of all time.
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