For years, the inevitable thudding end of a Toronto Blue Jays season has been met with a monotone eulogy. One that was given annually, a dark tradition of sorts with only a few names and locations changed to fit the season. In the wake of the Blue Jays 2015 ALCS loss, however, Toronto has introduced us to a long forgotten friend. Hope.
The landscape of modern media will leave you bombarded with knee-jerk reactions to the Blue Jays heroic run and eventual shortcomings. Some of it over-the-top in optimism for the days to come, coated in glitter and good intentions. Down the spectrum, you’ll also have the carnival barkers, dispelling the Blue Jays failure to rise to the moment and calling for the end of days. It’s a competition of volume more than value, but as is always the case in baseball, the answer lies at some point in the middle.
If Toronto is unable to climb back to the mountain top in the coming years, many will circle this as the team that got away. The stars had aligned with aging holdovers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion still firmly in their prime, while the remainder of the young roster overlapped perfectly. Even Toronto management, after years of shuffled feet and half-efforts, pushed all in on a championship run. There’s a beauty in this type of failure.
The Blue Jays have not had an opportunity to fail this gloriously in two decades. Often out of contention by mid-summer, baseball seasons in Toronto have ended with a whimper, fans wishing each other a good winter season as if they were leaving the birthday party of an aging friend. To fail on a stage this grand is an accomplishment, and in a league of 30 teams with one goal in mind, it is OK to view a season of professional sports as a step forward.
“Championship or bust” is a mentality that sounds invigorating in theory. “If you’re not first, you’re last,” a wise man once said. But in the scope of Major League Baseball, that isn’t practical. Speaking purely in terms of probability, that leaves the average professional club to win two championships in your lifetime, three if you’re fortunate. Treating every other year along the way as a complete disappointment is a farewell to happiness.
So now the Blue Jays have a season to stand on top of. The first step in something larger after two decades of incessantly hitting the ‘reset’ button, eyes closed and hoping for better results in the morning. This season has also ignited a fanbase well past anything we’ve seen since 1993 in Canada.
Baseball is often viewed as the ‘boring’ sport by younger generations. It lacks the constant movement of hockey, the violence of football and the athletic flash of basketball. This 2015 roster turned Blue Jays broadcasts from background noise into adrenaline-shocked must-see-TV. In the simplest of terms, they’ve made baseball ‘cool’ again.
As we’re now left with the unwanted ending, it’s important to value the story that brought us to this point. I’ve always considered baseball to be the great novelistic sport, something that’s sustained my love of the game through many peaks and valleys. Characters unfold throughout the year, while weekly sub-plots support the overarching narrative of a season. The drama rises and falls, chapters begin and end. Greatness is foreshadowed, tragedy awaits.
This is why some struggle to adopt baseball not just as their sport, but as something they truly love. Jumping into a game mid-July is like pulling an unread book from your shelf, opening to page 89 and beginning to read. The names are unfamiliar, the scene lacks context and you’re not sure how they got there.
When read from the beginning, however, a great baseball season can support a disappointing ending. In some rare, wonderful cases, a new author will jolt your upright with excitement. Their story grabbing you by the collar of your shirt and leaving you yearning for a sequel.