It’s the Blue Jays’ most indelible moment since the back-to-back World Series years.
2015 elimination game vs. Texas. Score tied 3-3 in the seventh. 1-1 count, runners on first and third.
The patented leg kick. The powerful swing. The bat flip. The explosion.
As Jose Bautista nears the end of his Jays tenure — and it’s increasingly unlikely the aging slugger will re-sign with Toronto — the question of his legacy flips to the forefront. It’s a foregone conclusion that his name will be raised to the Rogers Centre’s Level of Excellence.
In fact, there is a strong case to be made that Bautista is the greatest Blue Jay since the franchise won consecutive championships in 1992 and ’93.
From 2010-2015, Bautista appeared in six consecutive all-star games, finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times (including two top-five placements) and won three Silver Slugger awards.
He twice led the American League in home runs, and he twice led the AL in walks. Power and patience was Bautista’s MO. He lulled pitchers to sleep with his precise command of the strike zone, then unloaded when the count was in his favour.
It’s impossible to remember Bautista without his antics. His enemies included the umpires, the Atlanta Braves, the Baltimore Orioles and Darren O’Day, the Rangers and Dyson and Rougned Odor… even Goose Gossage.
Bautista’s fiery nature only endeared the Dominican outfielder to Jays fans further. Other teams despised playing against him — Orioles GM Dan Duquette said this summer that “Jose is a villain in Baltimore and I’m not going to go tell our fans that we’re courting Jose Bautista for the Orioles because they’re not going to be happy.”
And he always made sure he had the last laugh. Odor punches him in the face? The Jays sweep the Rangers in the ALDS. O’Day strikes him out in a big spot? Bautista homers off him the next day. Orioles reliever Jason Garcia throws behind him? The next pitch is gone.
Bautista held grudges, to be sure. It’s part of what made him so fun to watch. And it’s part of the reason he’s the best Blue Jay since Joe Carter touched ’em all in ’93.
Take a deep breath, then take this in: Amongst Blue Jays, all-time, Bautista ranks fifth in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, third in on-base-plus-slugging, second in walks, third in runs,…