Recognizing the weight of great baseball moments can be difficult, especially when such moments have spent two-plus decades becoming wholly unfamiliar.
On Tuesday night at the Rogers Centre, Edwin Encarnacion‘s walk off, three-run home run added another unforgettable moment to a 16-month stretch that has reawakened the game of baseball in Toronto.
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them,” said Andy Bernard in a 2013 documentary.
These past two seasons are the “good old days” of Blue Jays baseball. Toronto fans are living in them, especially the younger generation that only knows Joe Carter touched ’em all through second-hand stories or replays, and World Series or not, this is the baseball that a city and country spent 22 years politely waiting for.
Edwin Encarnacion playing the role of hero in the biggest moment of the season — and Jose Bautista doing the same with 2015’s Bat Flip — represents the alignment of a perfect story for the Blue Jays and their long road back to October.
With an influx of talent dating back to Josh Donaldson‘s offseason addition prior to the 2015 season, the Blue Jays have taken on a new look. A necessary one, too. Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, and others now lead a strong veteran front for the Blue Jays that is balanced by young, dynamic, and homegrown talent elsewhere on the roster.
In Encarnacion and Bautista, however, the Blue Jays have their link to 2009.
That was Encarnacion’s first season with the Blue Jays and Bautista’s second after playing a handful of games in 2008. Most notably of all, it was Roy Halladay‘s last season playing in Toronto.
Encarnacion had just been shipped over from Cincinnati with Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart in a package for Scott Rolen. Both he and Bautista were fringe players, powerful yet flawed, and were dropped together onto a roster that finished 75-87, fourth in the American League East. Rod Barajas and Marco Scutaro were everyday players and Kevin Millar appeared in 78 games. Brian Tallet, Scott Richmond, and Brett Cecil all made at least 17 starts with ERAs comfortably over 5.00.
Look at them now. To Blue Jays fans, Encarnacion and Bautista still represent the truest “core” of the team. There is an originality to these two players, a comfort similar to your hometown friends that need no reintroduction when you return home after a year or two spent away.
Baseball can take quick, cruel turns. In a perfect world, the Blue Jays success could be sustainable over several more seasons, especially given the potential for roster re-adjustments this coming offseason and the young, affordable talent already in-house. It can just as easily spin 180-degrees.
Who’s to say the Blue Jays — or any team, for that matter — are not headed for another 22 years outside of the playoffs?
On April 4th, 1994, the Blue Jays defeated the Chicago White Sox 7-3 on opening day at The SkyDome. Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado, and Ed Sprague all homered. Juan Guzman pitched seven innings before handing off to Greg Cadaret and Mike Timlin to lock up the win.
On that day, and with that team, was there anyone expecting the Blue Jays’ next playoff inning to come in the year 2015? Savour the “good old days” while they’re still new.