By Matt Speigel-

(WSCR) There’s been a lot of discussion about Jose Bautista on the station of late, as I’ve countered what I perceive to be bitter, often lazy skepticism about his turnaround.

He’s exactly the same height and weight he’s been for years; there’s been no body bulge, no hat growth. But he of course could be using some untraceable HGH varietal to give him better fast twitch muscles, and to enable him to work out faster. I don’t know, and neither do you. What we do know is that he’s done a ton of work on his swing and approach, and changed who he is as a hitter completely. Drugs or not, that part is true.

I could tell you details about what he’s done..what he’s worked on…how he’s always had great potential but had never figured out the swing to harness it. How he’s used the leg kick to help his timing, and started his swing so early that he finally uses the power in his hips which had always been there. How he stopped chasing balls out of the strike zone. He’d been trying to prove himself desperately on unhittable pitches; not any more.

He’s working counts, getting respect, and getting 2-0 fastballs, 3-1 fastballs. If those were doubles, and not home runs, he’s then universally praised, lauded for his mid-career transformation. It’s kind unfortunate for him that he has the power to make them home runs.

But it’s bigger than that just him my mind now. It’s gone beyond a steroids discussion. It became a conversation on what you like to watch for in sports.

Among other things, I like seeing people get better. I like when talented people work at their crafts, and break through whatever pride, or stubbornness, or stupidity has held them back from reaching their potential. That’s fun to me…the humanity of that. Because we can all get better. It’s the reason Joakim Noah is my favorite player in town, and the reason these last three years of Derrick Rose have been so special.

Hell, I like when people get better in all walks of life. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco has always had a knack for simple, beautiful, evocative songwriting. On AM (and in prior Uncle Tupelo records), the simple elegance of his country songs was clear. Now, as each Wilco album comes and you dive in, you hear incredibly complex blends of country, blues, rock, noise, all somehow informed by decades of music before it. There have been horn sections, and long psychedelic jams. Evolution. And all the while, Tweedy’s simple brilliance at melody is right there in the middle.

People do indeed sometimes get better at their jobs. And with Adam Dunn and Alex Rios in town, we know they sometimes also get worse.

This came up on the show today, and a texter correctly pointed out the imperfections of the Tweedy/Bautista comparison, which then led to dozens of other musical suggestions. I present those names of mid-career transformations, serious late bloomers, here. Look them up and see if you like one better than the other, or suggest others. I like the first one the best.

LCD Soundsystem (James Murphy), Cee-Lo Green (Gnarls Barkley), Matthew Sweet, Sheryl Crow, Peter Frampton, The Goo Goo Dolls, Jay-Z, Christopher Cross, Michael McDonald, Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices)

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