Thursday, February 17, 2011
Don't Lose Sight
Didja hear? Jose Bautista is now richer than three astronauts. 5 years rich! The money isn't crazy and, while I'm not in love with the term, it is a risk the Jays can afford to take.
Either way, Jose got Fuck You money for real, son. It is also a pretty clear sign of faith from the Jays brain trust, who believe completely in the abilities and characteristics of Jose Bautista.
Let there be no doubt: Jose Bautista has abilities. He has lots of pop1 and, most importantly, a terrific batting eye. To me that is his greatest and most important skill. Speed doesn't slump but neither does patience. Drawing walks is always in style. Stealing first when "they're not falling in" is one thing Bautista can do that a guy like Vernon Wells cannot.
Bautista will slump eventually. He will miss pitches in his wheelhouse and scrape the wrong side of the fence a few times. His home run per fly ball rate won't always sit above 20% but his ability to draws walks can (and must) stay around his career average (11.85% a.k.a. very good.)
The temptation to Try And Do Too Much when you're getting paid the big bucks makes even the best grip the bat a little tighter. That's what we're told, anyway. People talk about pressure to perform and meet heightened expectations as though the pressure to keep a job and survive the margins of big league life is a carefree stroll in the park. If anyone knows about the pressure of walking the line between washout and enviable riches it is Jose Bautista.
Staying patient and continuing to draw walks is something Jose cannot abandon. As the team's presumptive cleanup hitter his approach cannot adjust to the presence of his face on the side of the stadium.
If it was as easy as that then we would all be GMs and there would be no such thing as outlier seasons. Just as Parkes points out at Getting Blanked, a terrific comparison for Jose Bautista is Carlos Pena. Both came on late and went nuts. Pena quickly devolved into the prototype Three True Outcome guy, completely eschewing singles for huge haymaker cuts. He still draws walks to salvage him from the depths of Mendoza Line Hell.
Jose Bautista doesn't need to hit 54 home runs again to justify his contract. If Jose Bautista hits 30 home runs in a single season again it will rank as a serious victory for Alex Anthopoulos. Which is all well and good but this move also signifies a shift towards building towards competing, not just acquiring assets like a coked-up broker.
Is Jose Bautista a key piece of a winning team? Obviously 2010 Jose Bautista makes any team better. My hope is the player doesn't change who he is to conform to a preconceived notion of what a Leader and Run Producer is supposed to be. No matter how much praise he receives for his intangibles it's still about being an effective baseball player. Here's hoping the odds stay defied for a few more seasons.
1 - Insight!
AP photo courtesy of Daylife.