The recent surge by the Toronto Blue Jays has forced us to pull a dust-covered question down from the attic. How do we define a “successful” season? With a team this talented, many have become cautiously optimistic of a deep playoff run, but with a playoff drought stretching across two decades, some will be happy with just a ticket to the dance.
Toronto’s acquisition of David Price will play the heaviest hand in this debate, as his contract likely makes him a half-season rental. Alex Anthopoulos surrendered top prospect Daniel Norris in the Price deal with Detroit, which signified the club going all in on a playoff run this season, whereas the trades for Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere give the Blue Jays valuable team control into 2016 and beyond.
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Entering this off-day Monday, FanGraphs playoff odds give the Blue Jays an 85.5% chance of either winning the AL East or clinching a Wild Card spot, with a 64.8% likelihood of appearing in the AL Divisional Series. Toronto now owns a 34.9% chance of winning that round and advancing to the American League Championship Series, and sure, let’s get ahead of ourselves and point out their 8.8% shot at winning it all.
Where will Blue Jays fans draw the line and say “Yes, this is good enough. Anything from here is a bonus”? Let’s drop any argument of being a bigger Blue Jays fan by wanting a greater end result than someone else, because I don’t believe those two points are related. For me, winning one round of postseason baseball should be considered a “successful” season. Yes, it’s possible to find “success” without reaching the ultimate success.
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My stance largely comes from the idea that the best team in baseball does not always win the World Series. This is a delicate game, and especially with the (ridiculous) crapshoot of a Wild Card game and a five-game ALDS, luck and chance are, unfortunately, a factor. Perhaps R.A. Dickey‘s knuckleball decides not to dance for an evening, or the Blue Jays run into an opposing pitcher who, even against this lineup, has a special night.
Look at the 2014 Kansas City Royals, who squeaked into the AL Wild Card playoff by 1.0 game over the Seattle Mariners and faced the Oakland Athletics. Oakland had loaded up at the deadline, it was their season for a push, and they led the Royals 8-5 entering the eighth inning. KC stormed back, forced extra innings, won the game and marched to the doorstep of a World Series title.
I expect the more conservative side of this conversation to point out that beggars cannot be choosers, as well. It’s been this long in Toronto, and a mere appearance is a great step forward for baseball in this country. That’s where I will disagree. It’s OK to be greedy with success. The Blue Jays have made themselves relevant over the past two weeks like we have not seen in many years, bumping their weekly American TV coverage up from 12 seconds to one whole minute. It’s time to make noise, not just show up.
Winning one playoff series would solidify the Blue Jays once again in the broader picture of Major League Baseball. Perhaps it would also help to attract free agents to the organization, or tempt David Price to re-sign, although that’s well down the road. The series win would not leave me entirely satisfied, but it would allow me to enter the offseason without feeling the year had been wasted. Besides, I’ll put my dollar on this roster against any team in the ALCS.
Setting the bar for success at a level below “World Series or bust” does not make me, or you, any less of a fan. We’re all hoping for something here, so get involved in the conversation below in our comment section and tell us what your definition of success will be over the next three months.