On the same day it became known that there have been no negotiations regarding a multi-year contract between him and the Jays as of yet, Jose Bautista strengthened his case by capturing the 2010 Hank Aaron Award for the American League.
Since its inception in 1999, the Hank Aaron Award has been given to the player who has demonstrated the top offensive performance in his league. What makes the award special though, is that it is voted by the fans and, as a first time addition this year, by Hall of Fame players. The list of Hall of Famers included Aaron himself, and group of representatives who he personally selected.
The Hank Aaron award has had some notable winners over its 12 year history including Carlos Delgado, Todd Helton, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Prince Fielder, and Albert Pujols. While it’s exciting Jose Bautista will now be added to this list, what makes this nomination particularly intriguing though is that he beat out the most talked about AL MVP candidates: batting champion Josh Hamilton of the Rangers (.359/.411/.633, 32hr, 100rbi), and RBI leader Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers (.328/.420/.622, 38hr, 126rbi).
"“I changed my approach to hitting. I became more aggressive, and I also kind of tweaked the way I prepare myself. I start my swing on my load earlier, on the pitcher’s delivery, and that allowed me to attack the baseball more.” Bautista said."
Bautista’s critics (i.e. the Baseball Writers Association of America, who are responsible for the MVP voting) will look at his .260/.378/.617 line as inferior to the candidates above (not to mention Robinson Cano of the Yankees), and definitely note the fact the Jays did not make the playoffs, finishing 4th in the AL East. It’s important to mention the less publicized factors that contributed to Bautista being nominated for the Hank Aaron Award. We all know he cranked out a league leading 54 homers, and broke George Bell’s single season club record of 47 homers. What’s important to note though, is Bautista led his top competitors for the award in games played (at multiple defensive positions), extra base hits, total bases, and walks. He set a new MLB record for the largest single season increase in home runs with 41, and he was just the 4th player all-time with at least 35 doubles, 50 home runs, 100 walks, 100 runs and 120 RBIs in a season.
Some Jays fans would consider Bautista an MVP candidate, though it is realistic to say that he will likely be passed over in favour of Hamilton, Cabrera, or Cano, who are receiving the majority of MVP consideration. That is what makes this award even more special for Bautista, as it gives him something to show for his monster season. Fans across baseball and Hall of Fame players recognized that what Bautista did this season was something unique and that it was exciting for baseball.
With all of the publicity about Bautista’s impressive campaign, it will be interesting to see how the Jays handle Bautista’s contract situation this offseason (which Mat will be covering in an upcoming piece). Until then, we can continue to reminisce about Bautista’s best moments of 2010 and talk about what’s in store for 2011.