José Bautista’s most memorable moments with the Toronto Blue Jays
3 months ago
When most Blue Jays fans think of a memorable player from the past decade, one player that easily comes to mind is outfielder José Bautista.
The righty-slugger, who moved from third base to become a permanent outfielder during his Jays tenure wasn’t a bonafide All-Star prior to joining Toronto but instead emerged as a key power bat during the early 2010s, making the one-for-one deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who acquired Robinzon Díaz in exchange, a downright steal looking back in history.
Bautista spent parts of ten seasons with the Blue Jays and later today, the Dominican product will join the Level of Excellence, an enshrinement for individuals who contributed in one way or another to the organization, with the honour bestowed to many former greats such as Joe Carter, Tony Fernandez, and Dave Stieb to name a few. Amongst the Jays’ leaderboards, Bautista sits firmly among many offensive categories, including:
- 2nd: Offensive bWAR (37.0) / Home Runs (288) / Walks (803) / Runs Scored (790)
- 3rd: RBIs (766)
- 4th: OPS (.878)
- 5th: Games Played (1235) / SLG (.506)
- 6th: Hits (1103)
- 7th: Doubles (219)
Bautista also holds the Jays’ single-season record for home runs at 54, which he set back in 2010 while also holding the record for most walks in a single campaign at 132 (2011). By signing a one-day contract to officially retire with the Blue Jays, Bautista finishes his career with six All-Star appearances, three Silver Slugger Awards, two Hank Aaron Awards, and was in the running for the AL MVP award on numerous occasions, finishing third in 2011.
With this in mind, let’s take a look back at five memorable moments in Bautista’s career with the Blue Jays (in no particular order).
5. Bautista collects his first hit with the Toronto Blue Jays
After being acquired from the Pirates in mid-August 2008, Bautista was starting to establish himself as a regular big-leaguer, seeing regular playing time dating back to the 2006 season. With the Blue Jays, he wouldn’t see that same playing time right away, being used as a late-game substitution in four of his first five games.
At the time, Bautista wasn’t known for his power swing just yet and he actually went hitless in his first 14 at-bats before collecting a single off of Yankees pitcher Darrell Rasner in the seventh inning, driving the ball up the middle and scoring first baseman Adam Lind on the play.
The Jays would go on to win 7-6 that day with Bautista collecting another hit in the eighth inning, a single to left field between the shortstop and third baseman off of reliever Edwar Ramirez that would score outfielder Vernon Wells and move Lind to third base, who later scored and would be the winning run.
4. José Bautista throws out Billy Butler at First Base
When fans think of Bautista, the most likely connection you will think of is his bat and power swing, with his quick hands able to get to any ball in the strike zone and drive it over the left field wall while generating walks if needed with his keen eye. What fans may forget is that Bautista also had a rocket for an arm, generating 103 assists throughout his career in the outfield, primarily in right field.
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That arm was on full display against the Kansas City Royals in late May of 2014. In the top of the ninth with the score 6-5 in the Jays’ favour, closer Casey Janssen was on the mound trying to close out the game when right-hander Billy Butler sprayed a ground ball into right field.
While it looked like a routine single, Bautista charged hard on the ball, played it on a single hop, and fired it to first baseman Edwin Encarnación, getting Butler out by a step and getting a loud ovation from the home crowd for the second out in the inning.
The play was fantastic although the Jays would end up dropping the game in extra innings by a score of 8-6.
3. Bautista’s heroics fall short in Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS
In 2015, Bautista and the Blue Jays put together a strong campaign that saw them reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993 when they won their second World Series championship. The club won in dramatic fashion in the ALDS and would face a strong Kansas City Royals squad that finished the year with a 95-67 record, the best record in the American League in the ALCS, eventually dropping that series in game #6.
The Jays may have lost that game but Bautista put on a hitting clinic, as the slugger went 2 for 4 on the day with both hits leaving the park and driving in all three of the Blue Jays runs that day. His first home run off of Yordano Ventura went high over the left field wall but his second home run was the most impressive, as the Jays’ three-hole hitter would tie the game in the eighth inning with a two-run shot off of reliever Ryan Madson that hugged just inside the left field foul pole. That would be his fourth home run of the postseason that year.
Closer Roberto Osuna would allow a run to score in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Jays were unable to score Dalton Pompey from third, with Dioner Navarro and Ben Revere striking out while Josh Donaldson grounded out to third base to end the Jays postseason run.
2. Final home game with the Toronto Blue Jays
Following the 2015 season, the Toronto Blue Jays front office was undergoing some serious changes, with Mark Shapiro being brought in as the CEO and bringing in Ross Atkins as the general manager, with Alex Anthopoulos heading out west to join the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With a veteran squad and another playoff run in the books following the 2016 campaign, the writing was on the wall that the Jays were heading towards a rebuild and looking to offload their veteran players. The Jays brought back Bautista on a one-year, $18 million deal for the 2017 season (with multiple options) but the outfield struggled that year, posting a .203 average with 23 home runs, 65 RBIs, and a .674 OPS, his lowest mark as a regular with the Jays.
Considering the direction the club was heading, fans knew that this was likely his last year with the club and fans showed up in droves for his final home outing, a Sunday afternoon game against the New York Yankees. On the day, Bautista went 2 for 4 with one RBI, one walk, and one run and would later be lifted in the ninth inning to a massive standing ovation, signalling the end of an era in Toronto as the club would later decline his option later that offseason.
1. The Bat Flip
Toronto Blue Jays history is filled with home runs creating significant moments, with the most famous being Joe Carter and his World Series-clinching left field homer in 1993. Right behind that home run is another off the bat of Bautista, who joined Jays’ folklore with his massive home run during the 2015 postseason.
After a wild top half of the seventh inning that saw that Texas Rangers take a one-run lead late in game #5 of the ALDS, numerous errors from the Rangers infield crew saw Bautista walk into the batter’s box with two batters on, two outs, and a tie game thanks to a Josh Donaldson bloop that scored a run.
Reliever Sam Dyson pitched to a 1-1 count against the Blue Jays slugger before firing an inside fastball to Bautista, who promptly launched the offering off the second deck in the left field, scoring three runs and generating momentum for the Jays who would eventually win the game and advance to the ALCS.
After hitting the no-doubter, Bautista paused, looked out to the pitcher, and flipped his bat towards the first base line in what will forever go down as the “The Bat Flip.” For Jays fans, it was a moment that will go down in history as one of the loudest home runs hit at the Rogers Centre and one that further cemented Bautista’s legacy as one of the best hitters to ever don a Blue Jays jersey.
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