When the Toronto Blue Jays gathered for spring training seven months ago, there was hushed optimism surrounding the club. The kind of optimism capped by two decades of shortcomings, but following the additions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, something had to give. John Gibbons was on the hot seat, GM Alex Anthopoulos was entering the final year of his contract needing to save his job, and looking back, none of us had a damn clue what we were about to see.
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You can’t predict baseball. The old saying rang truer than ever as the Blue Jays clinched their first AL East pennant since 1993 on a champagne-soaked Wednesday night in Baltimore. This same club that sat dead last in the AL East with a 12% shot at the playoffs on May 23rd and had fans calling for firings had righted the ship, then been reinforced with elite talent. We predicted none of this, and frankly, we’re fools for ever trying.
March is prediction month in Major League Baseball. As the Blue Jays roll into spring training we write off extra pieces like Ezequiel Carrera as “organizational depth”, not knowing he’s about to appear in over 90 ball games. We scoff at Chris Colabello‘s addition, the flash-in-the-pan AAAA bat, not knowing he’s about to lead the team in batting average while adding 14 home runs.
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Roberto Osuna, the 20-year old prospect, was just brought along to keep Miguel Castro comfortable, right? Not to become one of the most dominant closers in baseball and a top-5 AL Rookie of the Year candidate. Liam Hendriks, at best, might give the club an average arm out of the bullpen to eat long innings. Then, he threw a 95 MPH fastball.
Ryan Goins would be an offensive liability while filling in as the utility infielder, and that’s if he even found his way onto the MLB roster. Since, he’s appeared in 124 games, rebuilt his swing and is hitting .253. Kevin Pillar would make a fine 4th outfielder, we thought, not expecting to look up on October 1st and see him with a .275 average, 12 home runs and Gold Glove candidacy through 156 games.
These surprises led the Blue Jays to the point where Alex Anthopoulos was really able to shock us. Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Ben Revere, LaTroy Hawkins, Mark Lowe. Fans were left to pinch themselves after the GM who won the winter stole the show at the trade deadline. Then, for the first time in many years, the fans weren’t the only ones believing in the Blue Jays. Oh yeah, the star pitcher lost for the season with an ACL tear also popped back up to dominate in the clinching game. Go figure.
Keep this in mind as we enter another offseason, hopefully following a few more celebrations. There is no such thing as a “just depth” signing in Major League Baseball, and if you say “this is what’s going to happen”, you’re already wrong. Regardless of how much data you have, or how much you might know, the beauty of baseball is that it’s impossible to be 100% correct. We’ve been proven wrong around every corner this season, but it’s never felt so good.