's next home run, his 48th, will break the record for homers in a single season by a Toronto Blue Jay. But has this slugger captivated baseball audiences?
Would Jose Bautista
be a sure-fire candidate for AL MVP if the Jays were a playoff contender? Would there be more league-wide buzz for Bautista and his bat if the 73-73 Jays weren't 15 games back of the wild card in mid-September?
George Bell cleared the fences for Toronto 47 times during an exciting 1987 season. He also drove in 134 runs, and became the first Jay elected to start an all-star game and beat out Detroit Tigers great Alan Trammell for AL MVP honours.
Bell's '87 Jays played to a 96-66 record, coming down the stretch in first place in the AL East with a 3 1/2 game lead over the Detroit Tigers when they collapsed in dramatic fashion with a seven-game losing streak to end the season.
While 1987 was Bell's best season, it wasn't the first time Bell got noticed, while Bautista hadn't garnered much attention before this season. From 1984-1988, Bell averaged 31 homers and 104 RBI per season and was one of the AL's most dominant power hitters. And with popular Jays Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield, Bell was part of one of the key outfields in baseball in the 1980s.
Bautista, on the other hand, had never hit more than 16 home runs in a season before this year. He has bounced from club to club, particularly in his rookie season of 2004 before the Blue Jays acquired him from Pittsburgh for minor league catcher Robinson Diaz in August 2008. He did offer a glimpse of things to come when he ended the 2009 season with 10 homers in the season's final five weeks. But did anyone expect this? Are fans caught up in Bautista's accomplishment, or do they believe it's just a fluke?
In addition to the 47 fence-clearing swings that have made him the home run king this season, Bautista also has 111 RBI. His chase of Bell's record - who like Bautista, hails from the Dominican Republic - is being followed closely in his home country. And recently, the Rogers Centre crowd serenaded Bautista with a chorus of “MVP, MVP.” Yet, the rest of the baseball world has been slow to notice. Big U.S. media outlets like ESPN and USA Today have only recently started to send reporters to capture his home run chase.
Bautista's numbers are comparable or even better than players being mentioned as early favourites for AL MVP: Josh Hamilton
(31 HR, 97 RBI) of the AL-West leading Rangers and Miguel Cabrera
(34 HR, 118 RBI) of the 72-74 Tigers. So does Bautista's 2010 performance put him in that conversation? Does a team's record act as a buzzkill? Cal Ripken was rewarded with the AL MVP award in 1991, despite playing for the sixth-place Baltimore Orioles. Alex Rodriguez
won the award in 2003 while playing for Texas Rangers, who finished last in the AL West.
Has Jose Bautista
's incredible 2010 season captured the attention it deserves? Does this campaign excite you the way other great Blue Jay campaigns did, like Bell, Carlos Delgado
(44 HR in 1999), Jose Conseco (46 in 1998), and Jesse Barfield (40 in 1986)?
Have your say below. It's Your Call!