The Toronto Blue Jays gave us a season full of ups and downs, but there is certainly no reason to ignore the positive.
There will be plenty of time to focus on why the Toronto Blue Jays couldn’t get past the American League Championship Series for the second season in a row, but we should also find time to focus on what went right this season.
We can start by acknowledging what most people seem to ignore: Toronto survived the gamut of 162 regular season games, dispatched the Baltimore Orioles in a dramatic Wild Card, sweep the Texas Rangers – the top team in the American League during the regular season – in the American League Divisional Series, and found their way back into the ALCS after last season’s surprise playoff run. That is something to celebrate in my opinion.
After a slow start in April, then a sharp downturn to start September, it didn’t even look like the Blue Jays would make the playoffs at various points during the season. They put up quite the fight in the playoffs, too, before ultimately falling to Cleveland in a very competitive series.
Beyond the final result, we find positives in the bullpen, the rotation, the defence, and the offence.
After a horrid start to the season, the bullpen quickly righted itself with the additions of Jason Grilli and Joaquin Benoit. Brett Cecil eventually turned things, Roberto Osuna continued to excel in the role of a young closer, and Joe Biagini was a pleasant surprise from the start. There’s now a solid foundation in the bullpen, one that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins can spend the off-season improving along the edges.
We already know what the rotation will look like next season – Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Francisco Liriano – and that’s a good thing. A 20-game winner in Happ, the AL ERA leader in Sanchez, a strong rebound candidate in Liriano: it’s not difficult to imagine the rotation putting up similar numbers next season.
On the defensive sides of things, there’s a chance Kevin Pillar will finally earn a Gold Glove for his stellar performance in the outfield. Troy Tulowitzki continues to amaze me with his steadiness and patience in the infield, Russell Martin fought through injuries to put up another respectable behind home plate, and Josh Donaldson took his defensive game to a whole other level – something that didn’t seem possible after watching his bankable performances last season. Even Edwin Encarnacion looked sharp playing first base. This gives the Blue Jays another starting advantage for next year.
The offence wasn’t always consistent this season, but it was good enough to finish fifth overall for total runs scored in the AL and third for home runs. It was this offence that helped the Blue Jays to post winning records against AL East rivals Baltimore, Boston, and New York. This is significant in its own right because it was only two seasons ago when we would regularly refer to Yankee Stadium as a “House of Horrors” for the Blue Jays – those days are now long behind us. All of this was accomplished, too, with minimal contributions from Jose Bautista, which leaves room for improvement next season or no major loss depending on what happens to Bautista during the off-season.
I won’t lie: I found the 2016 season frustrating at times, and it wasn’t always clear that they would make it this far (or deserved too), but in the end, the Blue Jays largely lived up the expectations that followed them into the start of the season. How can anyone possibly complain about?
There’s no World Series title, but we can say that the Blue Jays went further than the Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Rays, and Rangers for the second straight season. Those are some of the Blue Jays’ biggest rivals, and it feel great to say we played harder, survived longer, went further than them.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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As a long-time Jays fan, I’ve invested more time in bad baseball than a sane person would allow. Fortunately, I was finally rewarded with some post-season action last year! This year?