Stop the insanity!! There is nothing to be gained by the Jays recent experiment of putting Jose Bautista back at third base. Nothing. Gregg Zaun says so, I say so. So too does the polite Jose Bautista who told the toronto Sun yesterday :”I still feel strongly that my best position is in right field and not only because it’s where I play the best, but because it’s where I am going to help the team the most. I don’t think just because I’m moving to third is how we can get bats into the lineup.” Hmm, maybe Jose would be a good player-manager. He seems to make more sense than John Farrell and his boss, Alex A. do right now.
There is no upside to this experiment. But there are plenty of downsides. For one, the team loses out defensively. Bautista is fine at 3B, and has played there over 300 times in his career. But not recently. He is however, brilliant in RF… arguably the best in the league at that position. So we get Bautista replacing either Edwin Encarnacion or John McDonald or Jayson Nix at third. He’s better than EE, even though Edwin played the position quite well in St Louis last week. But he’s probably not particularly better than mcDonald or Nix, both of whom have shown outstanding gloves at the hot corner. Either way, we lose out in the outfield as we clearly saw the first game when young Eric thames, playing RF for the first time this year and first time ever in the Bigs, misjudged an easy fly ball, let it bounce over his head and corey Patterson who makes the routine an adventure in the wilderness of the Rogers Centre outfield, misplayed the carom off the wall , then threw lousily in to the cutoff man which the ball fell short of. End result: what should have been an easy flyout, and 99 times out of 100 would have been that with Jose in RF, ended up being a triple for Matt Diaz. A triple which soon came in to score in a game the Jays lost by one run. An outfield consisting of Patterson, young Thames and either Rajai Davis or Juan Rivera is among the weakest in the league.
Nor do the Jays gain offensively fro the move even though this is their rationale for it. The argument is it lets them get young Eric Thames into the lineup for lots of at bats. That isn’t a bad thing– he’s hitting over .300 in limited time up here and looks comfortable and pretty smart at the plate. He can help the team score runs. BUT– they fail to admit that they could have both Thames and Bautista in the outfield every day, with probably Corey Patterson as well. So moving Jose doesn’t mean it adds in Thames to the mix, it means it takes out Encarnacion or Nix (or even McDonald) and inserts Davis or possibly Rivera instead. Well, Encarnacion can’t field but he can hit; the reverse is true of Nix lately. Either way, their preferred lineup addition of Rajai Davis is a step down lately, hitting below .100 for June and ending Tuesday’s game with a season average of .228 with one homer . I’d prefer to take my chances with jayson Nix, who at least was hot at the start of the year and has some power.
Third, the team has managed to upset the star player, the face of the franchise. Never a good move, and in so doing they also expose him to a greater risk of injury. Third is a more physical position, with much more chance of being hurt by sliding runners and on-base collisions, and it requires a different set of physical skills to play properly than outfield. Four days seems pretty short to be sure Bautista can properly adjust to the different types of throws and frequent handling of grounders. A major injury to Bautista due to an awkward throw or being run into by a 250-pounder sliding into the base would be a disaster… for the team and for the public relations it’s supposedly trying to build up.
Stop the insanity! Put Jose back into the outfield.