Jose Bautista's improbable rise to stardom in the Major Leagues is one of the best post-steroid era stories in baseball.
Bautista has his doubters, for sure, that just can't wrap their mind around the notion that a player who had never hit more than 16 homers in any season in his career could jump to 54 in a single season without the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Bautista explains, and Passan eloquently describes, that he was unable to make the necessary adjustments to become the hitter he is now because any decrease in productivity would have jeopardized his career.
Thus, he went through five teams before finding the stability he needed in Toronto. A team that would work with him and allow him to make the adjustments while remaining an everyday player.
As the results began racking up with each ball knocked over the fence, Bautista's confidence grew, and he was able to unload on pitcher after pitcher on his way to his first home run crown in 2010.
The encore performance is underway, and so far he is on a run that could windup placing him amongst the greats of the game, clean and not steroid-tainted.
"What he did remains inconceivable: evolve from a nobody, a piece cast off by the sport's dregs, into the most dangerous hitter on the planet. He hit 54 home runs last year when no one else hit 40, and he followed up this season with the best two-month stretch since Barry Bonds."
The stretch Passan is referencing by Bonds was his 2001-2002 season in which he had a combined total of 119 homers. The two-year span by Bonds ranks fifth on the all-time list of two-season homer totals.
Eight out of the top ten two-season home run totals are owned by players with ties to steroids, including Bonds' run.
Mark McGwire ranks first with 135 homers between the 1998-1999 seasons.
The two top-10 performances by a player with no steroid implications? Babe Ruth in 1927-1928 with 114 homers, and Ruth again in 1920-1921 with 113 total homers.
The only modern-era player with such a stretch and no steroid implications is Ken Griffey, Jr. Griffey currently has the eleventh best two-year string of success with 112 homers in 1997-1998. Griffey also topped the 100-homer mark for two-year spans in 1996-1997 and 1998-1999 with 105 and 104 homers, respectively, during those spans.
Bautista currently has 75 homers with 92 games remaining in the season. If he continues on his current pace he would wind up with 48 homers according to ESPN. The combined totals would give him 102 for the 2010-2011 combined seasons, good enough for the 19th best two-season total in history, seventh best among players with no steroid connection.
Pre-steroid use, depending on when you believe that was, Mark McGwire never achieved 100 homers in two seasons. Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds only reached those totals during the years they allegedly were on the juice as well.
It is worth noting that today's greatest power hitters, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard, have never accomplished this feat.
Future Hall of Famer, Jim Thome, has only reached the 100-HR-over-two-seasons plateau once in his career, between 2001-2002 (101 homers).
Bautista's rise to stardom already has all the makings of a feel-good Disney movie with a happy ending and a lesson to be learned about determination and never giving up on your dream.
His present day accomplishments, though, have the makings of history written all over them.
|Players With 100-Hr 2-Season Totals|
|Ken Griffey Jr||1997||56||1998||56||112|
|Ken Griffey Jr||1996||49||1997||56||105|
|Ken Griffey Jr||1998||56||1999||48||104|
|* Player implicated as steroid user|
Brandon McClintock covers Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @BMcClintock_BR.