Blue Jays When you come to the Y on the Road…Take it!! Part 1
So, we are days removed from the trade deadline for MLB. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The American League East has a far too familiar look for Blue Jay fans. Yet again, they are looking at the dreaded Yankees and the smug ex-Blue Jays manager, John Farrell’s Red Sox. Canadian fans have been given a scant fifteen minutes of fame in the past two years. A fleeting moment to claim we are not just the little brother to the power brokers of baseball that reside in baseball’s toughest division.
Take a good look and be entirely honest; we caught lightning in a bottle in 2015 and 2016. It was a flawed business plan built on a day trader philosophy. Magic beans at best. Told to swallow them, the team would be a juggernaut of offensive power. An unstoppable force at the plate.
The proven truth is this formula never wins in the playoffs, even if there is a dip in power, the runs simply dry up. Numbers don’t lie. Joe Bastista is a utility outfielder with little pop in his bat. Just simply can’t hit his weight in average anymore. Tulu is unable to stay healthy and father time has stagnated a once dominant bat. What remains is a limited range, a below average offensive shortstop who is paid like a top five talent. Once more a long stint on the DL.
Gosh, golly Canadians love a good hometown story! When local son, Russell Martin migrated home it made us proud. In 2015, we reveled in Russell’s return. Even then we knew the last three years of the deal would not only haunt but stunt management’s ability to make the necessary changes to stay young and competitive.
Gavel down, it’s hard to make the argument of why the Jays made a huge free agent splash to acquire Martin. The stated case was his post season playoff record is unmatched. The team needed swagger and Martin is a winner. Believed to be the miracle straw that could stir the drink of this pitching staff. Like a faith healer waving a hand over a congregation he made them believe. Martin’s greatest strength…he flat out demands the staff challenge hitters. Push, demand, challenge the staff to new heights. Pitching was and is not supposed to be the signature of this team, but on any given night it is good enough, providing we had our big boppers.
One of the most lopsided deals made was when Anthopolus somehow convinced money ball founder Billy Bean to trade the best player the Blue Jays had seen in twenty-five years.
Josh Donaldson’s heart and hustle drove the Jays to heights not seen since the early 90’s. New excitement filled the summer of 2015. Fans were on a magic carpet ride. Eyes and hearts witnessed this group hit home runs in record amounts. Oh yeah, we stayed turned on and tuned in to the scoreboard, watching the great moments unfold.
Something we had that the dreaded Yankees and Sox did not… raw grit and unstoppable power. A nightly feature was to have eye popping 400-foot bombs be hit by the entire lineup. Ugh, like Cinderella, big ben struck 12. The lesson learned from the adage, good pitching beats good hitting. It was over and the ALCS went to the Royals in six games.
Josh made us Jays fan again, culminating in the American league MVP honours. Blinded, we could not see the Jay’s luster had been extinguished. Teammates got old. Josh’s golden carriage was transformed back to a pumpkin and could not transport the weight of a fan base longing to return to the fall classic.
Despite the Jays late season surge into the wild card game in 2016, the signs were there. The team was on the decline. Our pitching became our strength while the bats got slow and old. Not all gloom, there were some players who still performed at the highest of standards. Josh was Josh, Edwin was all world.
A rapid decline normally not seen as we watched Jose Batista get old. His once fastest bat in the wild wild west was firing blanks. Tulo’s legs were exposing the years of playing shortstop and his was back hindered. His bat and his legs robbed him of both power and range. Yet with all these hurdles, the team’s’ tenacity willed themselves to finish line. They would host one of the most memorable games in franchise history that ended in such dramatic fashion. A walk off home run made us think the regular season was just a blip.
Our team was back from the dead, awakened from the grave. Texas, once again became our personal whipping boy. Jays punished the Rangers for their ill thought out treatment of our beloved Jose. The Punch that went viral.
History, repeated! What could go wrong? A young gifted upstart team built from the draft. The Indians would block our rightful path to the fall classic. The formula remained as it had the year before, a young, talented athletic group with good pitching.
The Cleveland Indians in a bittersweet moment for the Jays management dismantled our hitting with good pitching. They ran the bases and played defense like team ten years younger. The Indians were not afraid of the old American League East Champs. It ended in a surgical six game manner.