Thank You, Blue Jays
It was a hell of a series – a hell of a playoff run – and one hell of a season.
The Toronto Blue Jays’ season may be over, but they have so much to be proud of. The ends result wasn’t ideal, but damn was it ever one exciting ride.
In your wildest dreams, could you ever have imagined how far the Blue Jays would go in 2015? On Opening Day 2015, with Marcus Stroman and Michael Saunders on the shelf and Drew Hutchison getting the start, would you have thought the Blue Jays could have made it to Game 6 of the ALCS?
I certainly couldn’t.
After 22 years of futility, I honestly felt like I might never see the Toronto Blue Jays make the postseason in my lifetime; that I would be forever clutching to the memories of Joe Carter in 1993 and Roberto Alomar in 1992.
I was afraid life as a Blue Jays fan would continue to be one never-ending Flashback Friday. But those fears officially ended this year when the Blue Jays finally ended that streak.
But not only did the Jays end their 22 year playoff drought, they staved off elimination in the ALDS in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.
The Jays also gave the Royals a wild ride in the ALCS. A few bounces here or there and the two are squaring off for Game 7 later tonight. But instead, Kansas City celebrates a World Series berth and Toronto will reflect upon the 2015 season.
There were so many great memories from the 2015 Blue Jays season, almost too many to count.
There was Josh Donaldson and his MVP-calibre season. A man who helped elevate this Blue Jays team to the next level and was one of the main reasons why the Blue Jays made the postseason in the first place.
There was David Price; the man who helped legitimize the Blue Jays and effectively put them on the map as a force in the American League. Price became this club’s true ace and anchored a much-improved starting rotation.
There was Jose Bautista; who trudged through year after year of forgettable Blue Jays teams. In 2015, Bautista finally got the company he was promised. Bautista also solidified himself as one of the best Blue Jays of all time with his signature bat flip moment.
The Blue Jays were in danger of going down as the team that was doomed by a strange technicality after Russell Martin somehow threw a ball off of Shin-Soo Choo’s bat. But Jose Bautista said “to hell with this” and reversed the fortunes of this team with a single swing.
How about Edwin Encarnacion? Possibly only the third or fourth best hitter on this Blue Jays team, but he was another driving force of this Blue Jays’ offense. His three home run/hat trick game was one of the most unique things I’ve ever witnessed at a Blue Jays game.
Let’s not forget the Troy Tulowitzki trade that happened in the wee hours of the night the week of the trade deadline. Many awoke to the news startled and confused, but Tulowitzki displayed first-hand who he’s arguably the best shortstop in the game.
Kevin Pillar, a guy who was cast as the Blue Jays’ fourth outfielder out of Spring Training, took the centre field job and completely ran with it. Pillar very quietly blossomed into a much better all-around offensive player, but he will always be remembered for his otherworldly catches in the outfield.
Or the remarkable story of Marcus Stroman? A man whose season was over before it even started, but then he came back. And he didn’t just return, he dominated. Marcus Stroman even pitched in the playoffs for the Blue Jays, something nobody but Marcus himself envisioned.
Chris Colabello was another great story for the Blue Jays. A career journeyman who played Independent League baseball but finally found his home in Toronto and had a very respectable year as one half of the Blue Jays’ first base platoon.
Think about Brett Cecil‘s arc this season. He began the year kind of miscast as the Blue Jays closer and Cecil experienced many highs and lows through those first few months of the season. But then he was virtually untouchable in the second half. It was just unfortunate his season ended the way it did.
How about the emergence of Roberto Osuna? He was initially viewed as Miguel Castro’s sidekick in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, but he developed into one of the Blue Jays’ best relievers in the bullpen the entire 2015 season. Oh yeah … did I mention he’s only 20 years old?
But the Russell Martin signing was the beginning of it all. It was quite unexpected that the Jays landed Martin in the first place, but that was really the first piece to fall in place this offseason. And Martin came through with a great offensive and defensive season behind the plate.
Marco Estrada came completely out of nowhere to post one of the best postseason pitching performances in Blue Jays’ postseason history. Logic dictated that a fly ball pitcher like Estrada was going to get eaten alive at the Rogers Centre, but his changeup dazzled hitters around the league for months.
Ryan Goins was a player that was always revered for his glove, but with the injury to Devon Travis, Goins stepped up with his glove and showed why he’s one of the best middle infielders in the American League, if not all of baseball.
These are only some of the memorable players and moments from the Blue Jays’ 2015 season, and that’s really what made 2015 so special. In previous years, fans might only get to hang their hat on one or two players or moments. This year, there were dozens of them.
During years gone by, we’d be relegated to nitpick about 40-man roster decisions or waiver claims. This year, fans were focused on getting the big names at the trade deadline and enjoying the Blue Jays’ unprecedented postseason drive.
Looking back, it’s still very surreal to see just how far the Blue Jays came in such a short span of time. Sure, this was all 22 years in the making, but the Blue Jays really didn’t escalate this all until late July. And ever since, it’s been a magical ride.
This group of guys and the front office staff have so much to be proud of. After missing out on October baseball since 1993, I think we fully realized how difficult it can truly be to field a contenting baseball team. In the past, the Jays had many impressive parts but either the timing or the fit wasn’t right.
In 2015, it all came together.
Everything worked. It all meshed and felt right and no longer was this team in the shadows of the 1992 and 1993 teams. The 2015 Blue Jays bridged the gap to the next era of Blue Jays baseball. This is the next chapter in this franchise, and I’d say it’s off to a tremendous start.
Save for a World Series appearance or World Series win, there isn’t much more you could ask from the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays gave an entire country a reason to believe again. They inspired many fans to come back to a sport they had once abandoned, and the Jays fortified those fans who have been there all along.
It will be difficult to watch the World Series and wonder what could have been for the Blue Jays, but it’s also time to be thankful for one incredible season.
Thank you, Blue Jays. We’ll see you again in February.
Image via Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images Sport