Three months ago, the Toronto Blue Jays were mired in a miserable early-season slump. After losing seven of eight games and coming off a tough one-run loss to the Houston Astros, Josh Donaldson spoke to the media about his team’s lack of success.
What came forth was Donaldson’s famous “this isn’t the try league, this is the get it done league” quote. Much like Master Yoda, Josh Donaldson saw it fairly black and white; either the team was going to get it done, or they weren’t.
Ever since, Josh Donaldson has been the poster boy for the “get it done league”.
What ensued in the coming weeks and months was the Blue Jays’ response to Josh Donaldson’s comments. Rather than try to win, the Jays are finally beginning to do it on a consistent basis. And it should come as no surprise that Donaldson was a catalyst in the club’s turnaround.
Josh Donaldson’s quote from John Lott’s excellent post-game story reinforces how Donaldson simply exudes confidence at the plate. And it’s that very same swagger which may be rubbing off on some of Donaldson’s teammates.
“The game of baseball is a very mental game. You have to expect to get the job done. If there’s any doubt, if there’s any questioning whether you’re going to do it, you’re probably going to fail in this game.
So it’s important to have confidence and belief in yourself and believe in your teammates at the same time. Every time I come up I expect myself to not only have a good at-bat but to help my team win the game.”
There are still quite a few games left to play in the 2015 season (42 for the Blue Jays), but night after night, Josh Donaldson is making a very strong case for himself to win the American League MVP award.
Wire to wire, Mike Trout has been the MVP favourite since day one. At only 24 years old, Trout has matured into one of the best players in all of baseball, and he’s putting forth yet another MVP-calibre season.
But Josh Donaldson may have something to say about that. This is a man who’s come over to a brand new team in a new division and he’s absolutely destroying the competition. Donaldson went from playing in a cavernous park in Oakland to the Rogers Centre, a stadium that is tailored to his strengths.
Donaldson finished in the MVP in years prior, but never before was he seriously in discussion for the award. After falling victim to some East Coast bias in the past few years, Josh Donaldson is reaping the benefits of playing in the American League East.
We can talk about the politics surrounding the MVP vote itself, and how voters tend to lean towards candidates whose teams have reached the postseason. If Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays can do exactly that, writers will be hard-pressed to write his name anywhere but at the top of their ballot.
The potential narrative of Donaldson leading his team into the postseason after a 22 year playoff drought may be too good to pass up for MVP voters.
People sometimes get hung up on the “valuable” part of MVP, and relative value towards one particular team can be difficult to measure. But this is a case where one can’t imagine where the Blue Jays would be right now if it not were for the incredible contributions from Josh Donaldson.
Mike Trout is Mike Trout; he should probably already have two or three MVP awards in his trophy case, and he’ll probably tally many more over the course of his career. But Josh Donaldson is coming on strong down the stretch … and so are the Toronto Blue Jays.
It will all depend on what happens with the Angels as well; if the Blue Jays and Angels both make the playoffs and Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson’s numbers are fairly even, the edge probably goes to Trout.
But if either player’s respective team misses out on the postseason, it could significantly hurt their chances in the MVP race; regardless of how well their overall individual performances are.
It’s not something I tend to agree with, but it’s the tendency of voters. Individual results should carry the bulk of the weight in any awards voting, but often times that’s simply not the case. Other factors such as team performance may influence writers to vote on way or another.
The exact same thing happened with Jose Bautista in 2010 and 2011. He posted MVP-calibre numbers both years (with 2011 being the best of his career), and yet he finished third or lower in the voting. Surely his team’s abysmal performance didn’t help Bautista’s cause.
But Josh Donaldson’s MVP case is quite the opposite; Jose Bautista is playing the part of a supporting character this time around, while Josh Donaldson is the star of this team as he’s willing the Blue Jays towards the postseason.
It’s easy to get caught up in the magic that has been Josh Donaldson’s 2015 season, but the fact remains that he still remains under team control for three more seasons after 2015. So Donaldson may just be getting started in his attempt to win a Most Valuable Player Award.
Just perusing Josh Donaldson’s numbers, it’s hard to really find any fault in his game. He leads the league in runs, RBI’s and he’s tied with Mike Trout for the third most home runs in the American League.
Head-to-head, Mike Trout is arguably the superior defender, but Josh Donaldson is no slouch at the hot corner himself. Defensively, it’s almost like comparing apples and oranges, but both players are superior fielders.
However, as the Angels continue to struggle and the Blue Jays have surged past them in the Wild Card standings, this bodes very well for Josh Donaldson’s MVP case. While Mike Trout was enjoying a fairly sizable lead on the next closest competitor, much like the Blue Jays themselves, Josh Donaldson has closed the gap very quickly.
It’s still a little premature to forecast which player will ultimately walk away with the hardware by season’s end, but what’s fascinating is Mike Trout’s MVP case has gone from being a complete slam dunk to a coin flip between him and Josh Donaldson.
Image via Tom Szczerbowski Getty Images Sport