With only 13 games remaining, Blue Jays right-fielder, Jose Bautista, looks to etch his name amongst a select group of players.
Leading the majors in long balls, the 29-year-old hopes to become a part of a selective group – the 50 home run club.
On Friday night, the slugger made his first milestone of the season breaking the Jays single season home run record. His major league leading 48th round-tripper helped surpass fellow Dominican Republic native, George Bell.
The major league home run leader would add to his tally the next night in a close game against Boston, and inched closer to the illustrious half-century mark.
If Bautista were to attain the landmark feat he would become only the 26th player in MLB history to join the exclusive club.
More impressively, his achievement would come three years after Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder were the last to accomplish the mark in 2007.
In light of the majors recently becoming more stringent on testing for performance enhancing drugs, the power numbers over the past few seasons have taken a dramatic dip to what was being output at the turn of the century.
Before 1961 only seven different players had attained the half-century mark. Following this, there was a 30-year span where only three others would join the group, starting with Roger Maris in 1961, George Foster in 1977 and finally Cecil Fielder in 1991, for a total of 10 in the select club.
However, the number of members in the exclusive club would more than double over a 12-year stretch, bringing the tally to 25 by 2007.
The effect of steroids on baseball’s most recognized statistic went mainly unnoticed for some time as league officials and fans revelled in the resurgence of the long ball, ignoring the harm done to the integrity of the game.
Seeing the errors in its ways, Major League Baseball has stopped at nothing to redeem their reputation and began with the Mitchell Report, to identify the widespread problem plaguing the league.
Having established more thorough testing procedures the use of performance enhancing drugs has seen a decline as baseball hopes to gain the prominence it once held.
Three years removed from the last to reach the mark, Bautista finds himself in an interesting position.
With the effects of steroid withdrawal clearly evident in power numbers from across the league, the notion that the righty’s accomplishment will be the first in baseball’s post-steroids era is something he may be remembered for.
Of course there are cynics who find it hard to believe a six-year veteran, whose past home run high was a pedestrian 16, could suddenly become one of baseball’s most deadly power hitters without the help of performance enhancers.
Yet it has been heavily documented the drastic change has been largely due to the help of Jays hitting coach, Dwayne Murphy, who worked on the right fielder’s approach in the off-season and created a monster in the making.
If Bautista were to reach the milestone he would forever be grouped with players heralded as the best to ever set foot on a diamond.
Regardless of the perception that may follow home run kings in the new age, it by no means has lost its significance and may be recognized as the single greatest individual Jays accomplishment to date.