In real life Jose Bautista is now primarily an outfielder. Yay for fantasy! Thanks to most standard rules, the home run champ qualifies at both third and outfield, but his qualifications for the hot corner are what make him most valuable to fantasy owners. Thanks to injuries and inconsistencies, three of the top five third baseman in the league (Evan Longoria, David Wright, and Ryan Zimmerman) have completely disappointed. In steps Bautista to save the day for the position and make his eligibility at "3B" all that much more important.
There's been so much written about Bautista in the last year and a half that what could I possibly say that hasn't been said before? I suppose if you look beyond the numbers and look at the story, that's the most interesting thing about him. Even as a stats junky, I tend to obsess with what he has done and would happily dissect the very fabric of his accomplishments, but what he means to the game and to the fans is what fascinates me even more.
Baseball is such a perfectly designed game that when a person steps out of the realms of those truisms, we are left in absolute awe. The pitchers mound is exactly the right amount of distance to home plate. First base is perfectly separated from the batters box. A stolen base isn't easy, but it isn't impossible, thanks to the distance from home to second. These absolute and exact distances are what makes the talented players stand out above the rest. However, baseball could never decide on an acceptable and perfect distance to the outfield fences and therefore where you play at home would affect how many balls you hit out of the park.
For Bautista, Rogers Centre in Toronto is an acceptable hitters park but still nobody has lifted them out at the pace that he has. In 36 home games this year, he has hit .363/.500/.815 with 16 HR and 32 RBI. In his 42 road games he has hit a mere .301/.440/.569 with 11 HR. Indeed, we believed that Barry Bonds numbers had left with steroids, and whether you believe that steroids are still rampant in baseball or not, the numbers can still exist. Players had hit 50 home runs in a season before the 90's, why couldn't they still do it today?
More than anything, Bautista represents hope. Hope that players can get better if we don't give up on them. Hope that players have untapped potential, just waiting to escape. Hope that players won't give up on themselves, especially when the chips are down. Hope that players deserve a second, third, and sometimes endless chances. If we give them that, they sometimes can give us something truly wonderful. And if you take each of those sentences and replace that word "player" with "people" you'll understand why I am so fascinated with Bautista, baseball, and sports.
The All-Star break can be tough for fantasy owners because if we don't really care about the home run derby or the game, you're just left with too many off-days in your roto league. But enjoy this one. Players like Bautista don't come around often.