He’s been called prickly, says what he thinks and doesn’t mince words. But Bautista has been a fan favourite since being traded to the Jays in 2008. And he’s back for at least another season.
With it confirmed that Joey Bats will be returning to Toronto for a one-year deal with a mutual option (pending a physical), let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit some of his greatest moments with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Many people remember 2016’s 19-inning game on Canada Day – which included infielders Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney pitching (Barney struck out Mike Napoli!), but sadly ended in a 2-1 loss to Cleveland.
But on August 10, 2014, there was another 19-inning marathon. Jose Bautista slammed a single in the bottom of the 19th to lift the Jays to a 6-5 win over the Tigers, after having come back from being down 5-0.
Although the Jays didn’t make the playoffs that season – the win kept them close.
Over the years, Bautista and Darren O’Day developed an interesting rivalry. The bad blood between Bautista and O’Day began in June 2013 in Toronto, when O’Day struck out Jose and followed it up by yelling at him.
Cut to less than 24 hours later when Bautista crushed a 3-2 pitch from O’Day into the stands in left field and pretended to talk with his hands as he crossed the plate.
Since then, there has been a series of retaliations on behalf of the O’s in the form of throwing at or behind Bautista, who frequently responds with a home run.
O’Day has twice hit Bautista with a pitch. Bautista has hit four dingers off the right-handed reliever. Advantage: Joey Bats.
Bautista is known as a slugger with an impeccable eye at the plate, but he’s also had some incredible moments in the field.
During the 2015 stretch run against division rivals Yankees, Bautista proved that he still had a gun in right field, throwing out a runner at third on a hard hit single, and saving a run with a huge strike at home to get the double play and end the inning in the ninth.
Call a ball a strike when Bautista is at the plate, and the umpire is likely to be treated to one of the deadliest glares in the MLB. Do it twice and that ump is now in for some finely parsed words.
But Bautista has a goofy and fun side that doesn’t often get showcased.
Like when he challenged the Phillie Phanatic to a push-up contest:
Or when he aggressively massaged Josh Thole for some reason:
And whatever is happening here with Kawasaki (it’s a long season):
Bautista knows how to get down to business when it counts (he is after all, one of the most clutch players in Jays history), but he also knows the importance of having fun.
One of the most frustrating things to hear as a Jays fan is that Toronto is a ‘small-market’ team. Regardless of the city being the fourth-largest in North America, the truth is that the Jays are also Canada’s team.
This small market has the weight of entire country behind it, and this was demonstrated in force in 2011; when Bautista crushed the All-Star vote record for a single player.
Close to 7.5 million votes were cast for Bautista – smashing the previous record held by Ken Griffey Jr, which had lasted for 17 seasons.
Canada showed their love for the right fielder, and he made baseball history.
Of course, the bat flip is the biggest home run of Bautista’s career (we’ll get to that in a minute), but often overlooked are the two home runs he hit in Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS that twice tied the game and kept the Jays close.
While a nasty rain delay, some egregious calls at the plate, and the (forever traumatic) stranding of Dalton Pompey at third with only one out resulted in the Jays losing the game – and ending their 2015 postseason run – Bautista’s Herculean efforts cannot be discounted.
Bautista has always been his own biggest supporter. In 2008, he was bounced from team to team before landing with the Jays. He made some adjustments to his swing, and believed that he could find the form that would count him among baseball’s elites.
In 2010, he proved that belief right, smashing 54 home runs to lead the MLB.
He broke the Jays’ single-season home run record with a solo shot on September 23, 2010 to score the team’s only run in a 1-0 win over the Seattle Mariners.
Bautista also showed he was no one-hit wonder (pun sadly intended), following up each of those seasons with strong offensive performances.
Well, at least throughout North America.
What else can be said about Bautista’s epic home run against Texas in the 2015 ALDS, capping an insane 7th inning (seriously, Ken Burns should do a documentary about it) and shaking the Rogers Centre to the rafters.
The bat flip that followed was driven by pure emotion, adrenaline and was classic Bautista. A little bombastic, a little (a lot) cocky, purely confident, and rightly so.
Perhaps only Joe Carter’s World Series home run in 1993 is more iconic in Blue Jays history.
Welcome home Jose!