Despite 54 home runs, 124 RBI,  and a fourth place finish in the American League MVP voting, there’s still no love for this guy. 

Despite Jose Bautista’s career year with Toronto Blue Jays, filled with career highs and team records and the infamous distinction for biggest home run differential from one year to the next, his 2010 campaign is being treated as an aberration. 

Many are comparing him to Brady Anderson and his breakout year in 1996.  Anderson, who had never hit more than 20 big flies up to that point, burst onto the scene with a year he would never come close to duplicating: 50 HR, 110 RBI, .297/.396/.637.  Of course, there are many examples of burn-and-fades after career years.

Take, for example, Ian Church of the 2006 Kalamazoo Kings.  In Church’s three previous Independent seasons, he totaled nine home runs and 87 RBI.  In ’06, after some obvious adjustments, Church left the yard 31 times tallying 78 RBI.  Again, numbers he would never duplicate. 

The question is this: Can Bautista come anywhere near the numbers he has just produced? 

Since the Jays traded their 1997 first-round pick Vernon Wells to the Anaheim Angels, all signs are pointing to Bautista getting his long-term contract.  Considering the other two options—a one-year deal or going to arbitration—the obvious suggests Bautista walks away with more than the $2.4 million he earned last season, one way or another. 

But how and why has Bautista, under the radar for so long, appeared out of nowhere to have one of the greatest turnarounds in the game’s history?

The obvious PED and steroid questions arose in late August while Bautista put No. 40 on the board.  Unfortunately, speculation exists and will always exist until the stigma of “the steroid era” subsides. 

This speculation coupled with the meteoric rise in his numbers puts Alex Anthopoulos in a precarious position. 

Vernon Wells is the perfect example.  He signs an astronomical contract, doesn’t live up to the hype and is literally a sacrificial lamb to anyone looking for a reason why the Jays can’t topple the mighty New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.  Management is in a unique position where it can avoid the big pay day for at least one more year. 

Wanting more proof of the caliber of player the Jays have, they can go to arbitration and the Jays can bite the bullet for one season.  If Bautista produces anywhere close to what he accomplished, all the better. Prepare the papers and sign him up.  If midway through the season Bautista appears to regress into his career average, undoubtedly the Jays have made the right decision. 

Of course, this process can leave a bad taste in the mouths of all parties involved.  The curious case of Jose Bautista is just that. 

The team is blessed with an unknown commodity where values can fluctuate on a whim.  A difficult situation indeed, but what makes me cringe is if Bautista hits 30 home runs this year, his historic 2010 will be written off as fluke. 

Whether its right or wrong, it’s all up for debate.

Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective

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