Let me start by saying that I don't consider myself a skeptic. I also don't like controversy and try to avoid it as much as I can.
But there's something about Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista's sudden and surprising power surge that doesn't sit well with me.
Maybe it's because I grew up during the steroid era, marveling at how Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa could hit so many home runs, only to find out that it was all artificially generated. We all know the old saying—once bitten, twice shy.
Maybe it's Bautista's past numbers. His previous high was 16 in 2006 as a member of the Pirates in 400 at bats. The next year, in 532 at bats, he hit just 15.
Fast forward to 2009. In his second season with the Jays, Bautista hit 13 home runs in 336 at bats, or one in about 25.8 ABs. Then came the breakout year of 2010: 54 homers in 569 at bats—about once per every 10 appearances.
This year, Bautista already has 16 in 33 games. Things like that don't just happen. And I don't think I'm the only one scratching my head. At least I hope not.
One could argue that he's made changes to his swing and is working out more. Maybe, but it takes a lot more than a solid workout regimen and better plate mechanics to become a prolific home run hitter almost overnight.
The league office should at least have a seedling of curiosity about Bautista, especially after the late '90s and early 2000s when steroid use ran rampant under a virtually non-existent drug policy.
That's not to say players have suddenly stopped. Check out the ESPN Bottom Line a few times a year and take a look at minor-leaguers who are getting busted for using banned substances and are serving 50-game suspensions because of it.
Blue Jays fans are enjoying this. They haven't seen a ball player of Bautista's type since Joe Carter. But you have to wonder if there are a few of them out there who are curious what exactly is going on—how a former journeyman player is all of a sudden a power-hitting superstar.
Bud Selig certainly should be. If not, he's either naive, has not learned his lesson, or has just plain given up on keeping his sport clean. Even if it's a negative test and findings show that Bautista is clear, then Selig and baseball can rest easy.
Hopefully, for the sake of baseball, that's the case. Otherwise, the trust it has built with its fans could begin to be breached once more.
This time, it may take much longer to repair.
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