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Remember when the Toronto Blue Jays were good?
It feels like ages ago since José Bautista flipped his bat after hitting that towering home run in game five of the American league division playoff series against the Texas Rangers.
What a flip! See Jose Bautista receive an @Esurance MLB Award for this CLUTCH HR! https://t.co/2Z224Egi0Z pic.twitter.com/hiGWofJXzs— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) November 21, 2015
What a flip! See Jose Bautista receive an @Esurance MLB Award for this CLUTCH HR! https://t.co/2Z224Egi0Z pic.twitter.com/hiGWofJXzs
For a short two-year span (2015-2016) the Jays were a true contender that had a great mix of home run hitters, reliable relievers, and consistent pitching.
It all started in the 2015 offseason when the Jays made a bold move by acquiring star third baseman Josh Donaldson (who went on to win the MVP award later that year) in a trade with the Oakland Athletics. Toronto also gained a reliable and well-respected leader by signing Canadian-born catcher Russell Martin from free agency. Donaldson and Martin joined a Blue Jays squad that already had a solid mix of young pitching (Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Roberto Osuna) and dominant power hitters (José Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion).
The Jays got off to a slow start that season but in mid-August they found themselves second in the AL East division. Blue Jays fans were pleading with management to make some trade-deadline moves that would help the team pass the hated—and first-place—New York Yankees.
Former general manager, Alex Anthopoulos (now the GM of the Atlanta Braves) answered fans prayers by making not one but three major acquisitions. Anthopoulos acquired former gold glove short shop Troy Tulowitzki, speedy centre fielder Ben Revere, and a dynamic ace in David Price.
As a result, for the first time in 21 years the Jays made the playoffs. Fans were ecstatic after they came back from two games down to defeat the Texas Rangers. After Texas, the Jays lost a heartbreaking six game series to the eventual champion, Cleveland Indians.
But despite the disappointment, fans across Canada were encouraged by the major progress of the club. Canadian baseball fans were ready for years of Blue Jays dominance in the American League. So long Yankees and Red Sox, it’s our time now (we naively thought).
In 2016, the Jays had the third highest average attendance in the league with around 41 thousand spectators attending per game. The Blue Jay movement hit Vancouver in full force. Vancouver Blue Jays fans gained national recognition after it became evident that there were more Jays than Mariners fans when the teams played against each other in Seattle. Thousands drove down to Seattle to cheer on their favourite team. I noticed a rapid rise in the amount of Jays’ jerseys and caps around the city. It was an exciting time to be a Toronto Blue Jays fan in Vancouver.
The 2016 season was also filled with on-field success. It was highlighted by a Edwin Encarnacion walk off home run in extra innings to eliminate the Baltimore Orioles in the Wild Card round.
And that folks was the beginning of the end.
Cut to 2019, and the Jays are second last in their division, ranked 19th in attendance, and consist of many new players that aren’t very good (to put it nicely). In a blink of an eye, fan favourites like Bautista, Donaldson, Encarnacion, and Pillar were gone. The only promising player left is top ranked prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
So how did we get here? How did the once-beloved Jays go from a national sports movement to the least relevant major sports team in their own city in just three years?
It’s actually quite simple. After intense research and numerous sleepless nights, I have found the answer to the million dollar question. I’ve summed it up with one basic equation with three key variables.
Injuries + decline in player’s performance + poor management = losing.
Unfortunately for Blue Jays fans, the future doesn’t appear that bright, the moments of greatness are now in the rear-view mirror but it could be worse…like being a Miami Marlins fan (do those even exist?).