The Blue Jays fared pretty well with Josh Donaldson on the disabled list, but he proved his worth in a big way during Thursday’s return.
Depending on who you ask, the Blue Jays have been a pleasant surprise so far in 2018, especially now that they’re 18-14 after Thursday’s doubleheader. The record length double-header has to be considered a success for the Blue Jays for a number of reasons, even with the thumping in game two, but maybe the most important of which was the return of Josh Donaldson.
The “Bringer of Rain” didn’t just make his way back into the lineup, he pronounced his return with a huge day at the plate against the Cleveland Indians. They had to play a double-header to make up for games lost earlier in the season to bad weather, and fortunately the only significant rain in the forecast was Donaldson’s performance.
I generally do my best to dismiss the really negative fans, and even some members of the media on social media, but I couldn’t help but laugh at a few ridiculous tweets in recent weeks. For the sake of maintaining whatever “class” I have here, I won’t embed any of them, but I actually read a few tweets that suggested the Blue Jays were better off without Donaldson, for one reason or another.
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Nothing could be further from the truth, and the 2015 AL MVP proved that in a big way against Cleveland on Thursday with two home runs, and a double, going 3-7 and 1-4 in his first games since April 10th, adding a pair of home runs, a double, and four RBI. Not only did he perform at the plate, but he looked stronger than we’ve seen from him so far this year at third base in the first game, a big sigh of relief for Blue Jays fans.
For as good as the likes of Teoscar Hernandez and Yangervis Solarte have been this season, they are not in the elite category that Donaldson resides in. When the third baseman is healthy, there are only a handful of players in all of baseball that can produce on offence the way he does, and nobody else in Toronto is all that close. Health is the key of course, but for example Donaldson slashed .276/.386/.606 with 24 home runs and 53 RBI in just 67 games played after the All-Star break in 2017.
Without his production in the double-header on Thursday, the Blue Jays likely get swept against Cleveland. Of course, you could say the same about others like Solarte, and that it takes a whole team to win, and that would definitely be true. However, when you have someone who is capable of taking over a game like Donaldson can, it makes any team better and it’s foolish to suggest otherwise.
The debate will continue about his place with the Blue Jays in the long term, but that’s more a question of evaluating an expensive long term investment on the wrong side of 30. In the short term there is no question that Donaldson makes the Blue Jays better and gives them the kind of star they’ll need in order to compete with the division rivals in Boston and New York, and even to hang in the Wild Card picture this year.
Maybe the Blue Jays have that guy in their minor league pipeline ready to fill his shoes in the future, but for now Josh Donaldson is the star the Blue Jays need in order to have a fighting chance, and it’s good to see him back doing his thing already.