The Toronto Blue Jays’ season may have crashed and burned, but fans of the team were gifted a small measure of revenge a few days later.
The Seattle Mariners, after dispatching the Blue Jays in a mini, two-game sweep, were taking on the defending American League champions, Houston Astros, and looked very much up to the task. They took a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth and when their bullpen began to falter, Manager Scott Servais called on Robbie Ray to close the door.
Ray, last year’s Jays’ ace and AL Cy Young Award winner, threw just two pitches, the second of which Yordan Alvarez deposited into the right field seats to send the Minute Maid field crowd into a frenzy. The hulking slugger tossed his bat high into the air to put the exclamation point on an impressive comeback victory. It was a cool bat flip, for sure, but did it really compare to Jose Bautista’s iconic bat flip to punctuate his huge homer in the 2015 ALDS?
Blue Jays: Jose vs. Yordan
If the idea of comparing these two moments seems a bit silly Jays fans, you’re right it is! But count on the folks at FOX to make the leap to this “interesting” juxtaposition:
Going back to 2015, if you recall, baseball players were expected to be buttoned-down, emotionless creatures of habit, expected to show their colours only at select times, and in a certain manner, so as to not upset the baseball gods, or disrespect the game.
That began to change in 2015, and there was no bigger turning-point moment than Bautista’s one-handed bat launch after his go-ahead jack in Game 5 of the division series against Texas. It’s as if he was representing ball players worldwide all collectively saying, “we want to celebrate, be individuals, and express ourselves!”
Not only did Bautista turn the tide when it came to regulating home run celebrations, but it also gave him a signature moment in what had been a great Blue Jays career. He had been with the organization since 2008 but was getting his first taste of playoff baseball.
Of course, the team needed mid-season acquisitions like Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, not to mention big-time free agent signings Russell Martin and MVP Josh Donaldson to make the playoff push, but it only seemed right to have a long-time fan favourite get the deciding hit.
Blue Jays: Bat Flip Context
While Alvarez’s violent smash of a home run was a thing of beauty, it was hardly unexpected. It was simply an extension of what he had been doing all season. As for Ray, as Blue Jays fans can attest, he’s prone to giving up big home runs, even during his award-winning season in 2021.
Of course, Bautista was no stranger to the long ball and hit 40 during that fateful 2015 season. But it’s more about soothing the Rogers Centre’s collective angst that had developed during a wild seventh inning that makes Jose’s blast so memorable.
If you recall, there was the ill-advised Martin throw that deflected off the bat of Shin-Soo Choo that allowed the Rangers to take a 3-2 lead. After a lengthy review, several pieces of debris thrown on the field, and many more fingernails chewed on, the Jays faced the very real prospect of elimination.
Then, there was the barrage of errors made by the Rangers’ defence that set the stage for the bat flip heard ‘round the world.
It cemented Bautista’s place in Blue Jays’ lore and, although they couldn’t finish the deal and win the World Series, the play will go down in history forever. Yordan Alvarez is off to a fine start in his MLB career and he doubled down by hitting another go-ahead homer in Game 2, but he’s just riding the wave after the tsunami created by Bautista’s bat flip revolution.