The Miracle of the Toronto Blue Jays (And It Isn’t Over Yet)
September has arrived, and it’s safe to say that the 2015 baseball season has not been what we expected. As of 9/4, the Astros and the Mets are on top of their respective divisions, the Pirates are in the lead of a still competitive NL Wild Card race, and a team that’s not from Boston or New York is in line to win the AL East.
For the past ten years, the Toronto Blue Jays have been overshadowed by their rivals in the most talked-about division in the American League – perhaps in all of baseball – with eight consecutive finishes in third place or lower. Yet now, in 2015, the team from up north that was consistently down south in the standings is one of the hottest teams in baseball.
The resurrection of the Toronto Blue Jays began in April, and we witnessed it reach its highest point at the trading deadline in July. The best part of this story is: it isn’t over yet.
The Blue Jays finished the 2014 season with a record of 83-79, ending at third in the division and sixth in the AL Wild Card. Rather than head into the new year with the same mediocre expectations that had failed to produce any great success in the past, GM Alex Anthopoulos did what any smart executive would do: he went shopping.
In a single offseason, the Jays picked up catcher Russell Martin, pitcher Marco Estrada, first baseman Justin Smoak, and All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson. Donaldson, who spent the previous four years in Oakland, has been having one of the best seasons in Toronto history, with a current average of .304, and totals of 36 home runs and 111 RBIs. Blue Jays fans celebrated the #7 ranking in the Sports Illustrated preseason predictions, but little did they know that their greatest excitement was yet to come.
It was the tweet heard ‘round the baseball world. In four words and one hashtag on July 28, FOX Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal said the words that would change the season, and perhaps a few more to come, for the Blue Jays.
In the span of 48 hours All-Star Troy Tulowitski went from being the starting shortstop of the fifth-place Rockies to the new face of a franchise on the brink of long-awaited success. In an article on Tulowitski by ESPN’s Jayson Stark, Anthopoulos said, “It just seemed like once Tulo showed up, a switch got flipped. And it energized everybody.”
Tulowitski made his season debut against the Phillies, and finished with a home run, 2 doubles and 3 RBIs. Just two days later, the Blue Jays acquired pitcher David Price, a 5-time All-Star and 2012 Cy Young winner, from Tampa Bay. Since Price and Tulo joined the Jays, Toronto has gone 26-6, with a whopping 200 runs scored in those thirty-two games. And thus, the resurrection was complete.
The date is September 7, and there are exactly 29 days until the MLB Postseason begins. The pennant race in the AL East between the Yankees and the Jays is officially in full swing, and Toronto’s pitching rotation of Price, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada is looking stronger than ever. The offense is first in the majors in three offensive categories (runs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage), and their bats will be dangerous come October.
But possibly the most exciting part of what has already been a thrilling season to watch from this Toronto team is what will come next. These Blue Jays have revitalized a city in need of a savior. Whether you think that savior is Donaldson, Tulowitzski, Price or even Anthopoulos is up to you.
Cinderella said, “Even miracles take a little time.” The Blue Jays have patiently waited for their miracle, and it’s their turn to show up for the ball.
It’s all well and good to recount their deadline moves (and player stats), but maybe add in some analysis as to why they made them, what players like Tulo mean to the team, and if the general lack of playoff experience will hurt them.