When the Toronto Blue Jays made a decisive organizational shift towards acquiring high-quality character and clubhouse players this past offseason, I struggled with the debate of how that dynamic would show itself on the field. Baseball is the great sport of measurements and statistics, but teams are not rewarded a +4.9 or -1.2 Clubhouse Rating.
The impact of these moves became quickly apparent, as the club remained afloat long enough to welcome reinforcements into the fray and make an incredible late-season push. Gone were the days of Adam Lind, Anthony Gose and Colby Rasmus, who always seemed one poorly-timed Air Supply song away from tears in their post-game media availability.
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Games three and four of the ALDS, however, are the most concrete examples of this clubhouse chemistry spilling over onto the field and impacting real numbers. There was a bizarre aura around the Blue Jays, down 0-2, as they believed they were still a lock to win the series. R.A. Dickey explained the permanent level-headedness to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi following the game four win.
“I think that’s one of the really cool things about this team. I’m speaking from personal feelings and what I’ve observed – there hasn’t been one game that has superseded another as far as making people behave differently or feel differently. We know we have a good baseball team and guys are still cutting up, [Munenori] Kawasaki was dancing on the bus after we lost the first two games on the way to our hotel, and it was hilarious.”
Dickey then said it best, following the game, with a quote that he’s used several times throughout 2015. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” While Dickey would have preferred the win to be his own, and David Price would have preferred to be the starting option in game five for John Gibbons, the two combined to keep the season alive.
This overarching attitude will serve the Jays well when they return to a sold out Rogers Centre, where some nerves may have gotten the best of them in parts of games one and two. There’s an understanding that the player behind them on the roster is just as capable of cracking the game wide open, and although it’s counterintuitive to say, the balls can really start to fly over the wall when you stop swinging for the fences.
Egos have been checked at the door on this star-studded roster, and led by AL MVP frontrunner Josh Donaldson, a united roster has brought the series home. On-field performance still rules the day, but as we’re seeing, that can start in the clubhouse.