Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista was under a lot of pressure after signing a long-term contract extension and becoming the face of the franchise after his breakout 2010 campaign.
He responded with one of the best individual seasons in team history. On Monday, he just might be rewarded for his efforts.
Bautista is a contender for the American League MVP award after hitting .302 with 43 home runs, 103 RBIs and a .447 on-base percentage.
“He's as good as it gets,” Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said in a recent interview. “I'm certainly hopeful for him and he certainly deserves it.”
There is no clear favourite for the AL honour this year.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox are also in the mix along with New York's Curtis Granderson. Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers could also be a factor.
The results of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote will be announced at 2 p.m. ET Monday.
“I realize that I had a good year on the individual side,” Bautista said. “But I do realize that there are other guys around the league who had great years as well.
“All I can do right now is be hopeful.”
Anthopoulos said Bautista is a well-rounded player who can do it all.
“I think with what Jose means to the team and the organization — playing Gold Glove defence both in right field and at third — and the offensive numbers speak for themselves,” Anthopoulos said. “With everything he's done, he's by far for me the MVP.”
Bautista recently won his second straight Hank Aaron Award as the most outstanding offensive performer in the AL after a vote by fans and a panel of Hall of Famers.
The 31-year-old slugger led the major leagues in home runs, walks (132), slugging percentage (.608) and on-base plus slugging (1.056) to become the first player since Barry Bonds in 2001 to lead in four offensive categories.
However, unlike the other contenders, Bautista was not playing meaningful baseball in September.
Whether the baseball writers take that into consideration remains to be seen.
“Obviously from a biased standpoint, I think it's the best player in the league,” Anthopoulos said. “It's not the best player on a playoff team.”
Former Toronto outfielder George Bell was named league MVP in 1987. He is the only Blue Jay to have won the award.
The six-foot-one 192-pound Bautista smiled when asked who he would select if he had a vote.
“Obviously myself if I was allowed to,” Bautista said with a laugh. “Who wouldn't?”
His No. 2 pick would be Detroit's Miguel Cabrera.
“He's the one guy that some people are overlooking,” Bautista said. “He was on the field for 160 games for the Detroit Tigers and they made the playoffs.
“I think I would vote for him.”
Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers won the AL MVP award last year. The 2011 National League MVP award winner will be named Tuesday.
Jays infielder Brett Lawrie said Bautista posts big numbers and does the little things too.
“He's a tremendous player,” Lawrie said. “He's worked hard to get where he's at right now.
“I'm glad he's on my team, I can tell you that.”