Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Let's be honest. I don't do this for the money. Or the fame. Or even because I love sports.
This whole having a career thing? It's just so I can get more Twitter followers.
The cat's out of the bag now. You've all been duped, America.
Okay, most of that's not true. But I am trying to get more Twitter followers. My handle is @JessePantuosco if you're interested.
In case you were wondering about my progress, last week I reached 283 followers. I'm no Biebs (Can you believe 50 million people follow that clown?) but I do okay for myself.
Unfortunately, as I type this, my follower count is now at 282. I blame this very unfortunate occurrence on Craig Kimbrel.
That's right. I was betrayed by the best relief pitcher in baseball. A mere hours after posting an article highlighting Kimbrel's awesomeness, the three- time All-Star stopped what he was doing, sprinted to the nearest computer and became follower No. 283.
It was the happiest moment of my life, or at least the happiest I'd been since winning ten bucks on a scratch lottery ticket around Christmas time.
But later that week, excitement quickly turned to sadness when I found out Kimbrel, without any explanation at all, had stopped following me.
He was on to bigger and better things, like following his new teammate Ervin Santana and tweeting out pictures of an oyster bar he went to during spring training. I wasn't part of his life anymore and it devastated me.
But not everyone is as callous and mean-spirited as Kimbrel. If Kimbrel is a Twitter villain than Jose Bautista is the social networking hero sent from Toronto to deliver us from evil.
Bautista, gentle soul that he is, follows 185,000 people on Twitter.
The question is, should we follow back?
Not everyone is buying what Bautista's selling. Formerly a perennial first- round pick, Bautista's average draft position on ESPN is 42.5. That makes Joey Bats a fifth-round pick.
The reason for the drop is simple. Bautista has averaged just 27.5 HR and 69 RBI over his last two seasons. In the two seasons before that, Bautista averaged 48.5 HR and 113.5 RBI over a combined 310 games. The feeling is that Bautista has peaked and at age 33, he's only going to get worse.
Certainly, that's true on some level. The heights Bautista reached in 2010 (54 HR, 124 RBI) will never be surpassed. That's a once in a lifetime kind of season.
But I'm not ready to close the book on Bautista just yet. And neither should you.
Part of the problem is that Bautista hasn't been able to stay on the field. He's averaged just 392 at bats the last two seasons, which is 149 fewer than he averaged between 2010-11.
If Bautista had seen the same number of at bats in 2012-13 that he did in his previous two seasons, he would have averaged 38 HR and 95 RBI, good for third and tenth-best in the American League in 2013.
Despite missing 114 games over the last two seasons, I'm not sure we can call Bautista "injury-prone." Bautista's two biggest injuries, a broken hand and a bruised hip, were both isolated incidents. They could have happened to anyone at any time.
To me that's not a sign of weakness. That's just bad luck.
Last year's hip injury, which cost Bautista the final month and a half of the season, was probably an ailment he could have played through. But because the Blue Jays were in last place, they decided not to risk it. Toronto did the same thing with Edwin Encarnacion (sore wrist) a few weeks later.
With Encarnacion comes another piece of the puzzle. Because Encarnacion is a threat to go deep at any moment (36 bombs last season), teams are forced to pitch to Bautista in the No. 3 spot.
We see this happen year after year. Aaron Hill batted .315 out of the two-hole for Arizona in 2013, largely because pitchers preferred facing him to All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Torii Hunter applied the same principle in Detroit while hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera last season (.306 batting second).
But more importantly, have you seen Bautista this spring? The Twitter enthusiast has been an absolute monster, hitting .375 with 6 HR and 12 RBI in 56 at bats.
I know, I know. Spring training doesn't mean anything.
Right. Anyone who says that didn't have Freddie Freeman on their team last season. All Freeman did after hitting .342 with 16 RBI in spring training was finish fifth in MVP voting (.319, 23 HR, 109 RBI in 147 games).
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