Jose Bautista is very quietly playing out his final days with the Toronto Blue Jays.
His contract with the team contains a mutual option for 2018, but there’s no chance the Blue Jays choose to exercise their end of it, as it would require them to pay him $17 million next year.
Bautista, who in his heyday commanded the strike zone like few others in the game, is set to eclipse the club’s single-season strikeout record held by Jose Canseco and Kelly Johnson. He could also post the worst batting average ever by a Blue Jays hitter who played enough games to qualify for a batting title—Aaron Hill’s mark of .205 in 2010 is the lowest. By the time the next two weeks are up, and Bautista has received his last Rogers Centre serenade in a Blue Jays uniform, one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise may well hold two of its most ignominious records.
That such dubious feats are flying mostly under the radar speaks to a number of things about the Blue Jays’ season and about Bautista’s place in it. Fans are too exhausted from all the losing, and too resigned to their fate, to make much of a stink about the iconic right fielder slowly sinking into sub-mediocrity.
It’s somewhat ironic that now, when his play actually warrants it, the knives aren’t out for Bautista. Because if there is one defining characteristic of Jose Bautista’s big league career, maybe even more than the leg kick or the home runs down the left field line, it’s how often and how unnecessarily he’s had to take shit. And how he’s handled it all with such aplomb.