History was made this past week when Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista blasted his fiftieth home run of the season, making him just the twenty-sixth player in MLB history to do so. Bautista joins the likes of legendary players like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle and surpassed George Bell’s record for home runs by a Blue Jays player which was set at forty-seven in 1987. What makes this even more incredible is that he came out of nowhere and has emerged as baseball’s best home run hitter this season.
In his six prior MLB seasons, playing for five different teams, Bautista never showed signs of having such extreme power, hitting just fifty-nine home runs and no more than sixteen in a single season. So the question comes to mind, is Bautista using performance-enhancing drugs? I wish I knew the answer to that but unfortunately I do not. I would like to think that MLB’s drug testing would be able to detect everything a player could potentially use, but it doesn’t. To me, it is just amazing to think that simple adjustments to his timing, setup, hands, and leg kick could have an impact on his power hitting. When a player appears to come out of nowhere with a monster season, people reach for explanations. It’s in our genetic makeup to want answers, and it’s human nature, after the Steroid Era, to be skeptical. Until it is proven that he has used PED’s, I guess I can’t ever underestimate the power of simple adjustments.
Jose Bautista joined the Fan 590 in Toronto to talk about how the at-bat transpired when he hit his 50th home run of the season, the notion that not a lot of players aren’t able to adjust in an at-bat like he did when he hit his 50th home run, and how much getting the opportunity to become an everyday player again has changed him as a person.
How the at-bat transpired when he hit his 50th home run of the season:
“Well I had a gameplan before the game started, I knew what I wanted to do. He is a very aggressive pitcher and he should be, he has got a great arsenal of pitches and he throws very hard, his ball moves a lot and he knows how to pitch. I know that he was going to try to get aggressive. I know that he hadn’t walked a right-handed hitter in his last five or six outings. He made a quick two outs in the first, I was trying to be aggressive, he missed badly with two fastballs, I know that he wasn’t trying to do that but I got into a good hitter’s count and I decided to stick with looking for fastballs. He threw me one and I missed it. He was late on it, with that train of thought I thought he was going to try to do it again and then maybe try to put me out. So I got ready a tiny bit earlier and I put a decent swing on the pitch, not the best, I hit it good enough for it to go out and unbelievably it was the only run of the game. We only got a hit after that. Most importantly, we got the win and surprised that it was enough. Our pitching staff did a great job of holding them to a shutout so it was a great win.”
On the notion that not a lot of players aren’t able to adjust in an at-bat like he did when he hit his 50th home run:
“Well I felt like I missed the pitch because I was a little bit late on it. I let it get in too deep in the hitting zone, to close to my body to put in more understandable terms, I guess. So I figured if I started a little bit earlier my bat would be a couple inches in front of the hitting zone in contrast to the previous pitch. That is exactly what happened and I was able to make decent enough contact to get the result.”
Whether it has sunk in yet that he is one of 26 players in MLB history to hit at least 50 home runs in a season:
“I have and I saw the reports last night. It has been great coverage and I am really grateful that everybody has been on top of everything. I have seen that names and I still can’t believe it. It hasn’t really sunk it yet. I will get to enjoy it in the offseason. We only have got a couple of games left but I’m just really honored and really happy and more important than anything, I am really grateful that I got the opportunity that I received again to be an everyday player and happy that I was able to take that opportunity and run with it.”
How much getting the opportunity to become an everyday player again has changed him as a person:
“Well I’ll correct you again. I apologize for doing so. I did get a fair chance to play again in 2007 with the Pirates, but I was younger, more immature, didn’t have the experience, didn’t have what I thought I know now that I needed at the time was proper coaching with my hitting mechanics and everything and I didn’t make the adjustments that I needed to make. I had an average year, I didn’t have a terrible year but after that the opportunity was never there again. On the other note, I don’t think anybody takes the opportunity that they get at this level for granted no matter how old you are from the kids that are 19 that make it to the big leagues or 30. I think everybody wants to do good once they are here and I think they try to do everything in their own power to become successful major league ball players. I take my job very seriously and I try to come out here and work very hard so I can be productive for my team. So I think that is what everybody else tries to do as well. It is just all the combination of factors that led to my success. It just happened this year for me and it has been a great year and it has been really fun.”