Last night, the Atlanta Bar- er, Braves now, apparently, came to town for the first of a two-game set against the Jays. Atlanta currently leads the NL East this late in the season for the first time probably ever, and have a ton of young talent, but that’s not why this game was circled on the calendar for weeks.
I was dumb enough to scoop up tickets for the game the moment Jose Bautista was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. This – save for the day that he inevitably signs a one-day contract to retire a Blue Jay and throw out the first pitch at the 2019/2020 home opener – was supposed to be the final farewell to an icon, something that we as sports fans aren’t always lucky enough to have the chance to do. Bautista hit a double in his first Braves plate appearance and then not much since, lasting only 12 games and slashing .143/.250/.343. It kind of felt like the end for ole Joey Goat.
Thankfully, Blue Jays fans get a mulligan as the Mets did the Metsiest thing and signed the legend two days after his Braves release, keeping the dream of a potential farewell alive. The Mets themselves just needed bodies to plug into the corner outfield, so they threw out one of those orange looking things lifeguards use to save our pal from the dark retirement clouds swirling nearby. I also bought tickets again the moment it was announced because I don’t learn, and if you could quantify it, my love for Jose Bautista would be greater than my IQ.
The Mets come to Toronto on July 3rd, so Bautista just needs to last two more weeks. Since going to New York, Bautista has hit .213/.406/.340 with six extra bases – all doubles. His 116 wRC+ as a Met is almost double that of his mark of 63 in Atlanta. Furthermore, he’s showing better plate discipline. He’s very much not his dominant Blue Jays self, but he’s swinging at pitches outside of the zone less – 23.4 O-Swing% in New York compared to 29.3% in Atlanta – and as a result, his walk rate on the season rose from 12.5% on his last day as a Brave to 19.2% going into last night’s game. Also, his average exit velocity rose from 90.2 MPH to 95.1 MPH.
I’m worrying about 12 and 24 game sample sizes way too much, but Bautista has looked better lately. He should hopefully get to the 3rd of July as a member of the New York Mets unless he gets hurt or stops getting on base. There’s also the fact that the Mets are actually kind of bad themselves and won’t cut dead weight as fast as the Braves did. After how the season has gone, and with this Blue Jays team WELL out of the race in the American League East, I think we need at least one moment that gives us goosebumps and not the urge to vomit.
After that…whatever. There’s nothing that could possibly happen in New York that would take away from who he was in Toronto. Maybe he hits 20 home runs in the second half and the Mets go on a miraculous run, maybe he’s enjoying a beach somewhere by the time September rolls around. All that matters is he’s the face of Blue Jays baseball for many fans that didn’t get to witness the glory years. And for that, he’s forever an icon in Canada. Hopefully Blue Jays fans get to remind him of that one last time.