Blue Jays: Comparing the Demar DeRozan trade to Bautista’s departure

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Jose Bautista
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Jose Bautista /

Wednesday morning, the Toronto Raptors swung a massive trade, acquiring superstar small forward Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for franchise icon DeMar DeRozan.

Much to the chagrin of Toronto basketball fans, the Raptors recently said their goodbyes to DeMar DeRozan, a four-time NBA All-Star and 2009 first round pick. A friendly fan favourite, DeRozan leaves the Raptors a franchise legend, leading their all-time lists in free throws made, total minutes and regular season games played.

In an Instagram post, Torontonian rapper Drake thanked DeRozan, saying that he was “an incredible captain and an even better friend”, going onto note that DeRozan is a “fixture in Toronto forever”. That pretty much sums it up. Despite some occasional subpar postseason play, DeRozan really was a fixture in this city’s basketball landscape, serving as a formidable leader and an excellent face of the franchise.

The player coming the other way in the deal, 27-year-old LA native and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, has reportedly voiced his opinion on the trade, saying that he has “no desire to play in Toronto”. Even if he is a superstar, Leonard’s lack of unadulterated enthusiasm for the city of Toronto is an alarming change from DeMar’s pride and support for the city as a whole.

As a baseball fan first, I was immediately reminded of the exodus of franchise icon Jose Bautista from the Blue Jays in 2017. An anchoring staple for the better part of a decade, Bautista left the Jays not because of a feud with management or because of some unknown, intangible factor, but just because it was time to move on. After all, baseball, just like every other professional sport, is a business.

It’s a truly fantastic thing when professional athletes can serve as positive role models for our youth and create memories that can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, the player and the person often have to be separated for the sake of success for the team in question. Not saying it’s the right thing to do, but it happens, whether we like it or not.

For Bautista, his aging body could not keep up with the youth and speed being injected into the Blue Jays outfield. Thus, it was clear that the best move for him and for the team was to move on. For DeRozan, a consistent lack of concrete success in the playoffs indicated that a changing of the guard could be forthcoming for the Raptors.

Alternatively, DeRozan’s leadership and athleticism could have had nothing to do with the decision to trade him. Perhaps the San Antonio Spurs were only going to trade Leonard if they could get DeRozan back in a deal. It doesn’t really matter why the Raptors traded him, just the fact that they did illustrates the occasionally bleak reality of being a fan of professional sports.

When the news that DeRozan has been included in the trade broke, many reacted in the same way as when they came to the realization that the one known as Joey Bats would soon be leaving this great city. It’s just business, they say, it’s the way it has to be. And maybe that’s true, but it still doesn’t mean it’s wrong to celebrate the athletes that have made a difference in our lives.

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If you’re a Raptors fan, which I know many of you are, then please feel free to celebrate the marvelous tenure of DeMar DeRozan in Toronto. Just the same, I encourage baseball fans to continuously replay the infamous Jose Bautista bat flip to your hearts’ content. They may not be with us physically, but just as the old saying goes, they’ll always be with us in our hearts.

If you’re not a fan of overly romanticized sports metaphors, then consider this – DeMar DeRozan is 28 years-old and has been a member of the Raptors organization since 2009. Just under a third of his life has been spent supporting, helping and working for this team. If that’s not enough to make you praise his devotion to this club, then I don’t know what is.

Regardless, professional sports, just like nearly every other form of entertainment, are fundamentally a business. While it’s too early to truly assess whether or not this was the right move for the Raptors and their fans, it has surely shown us in a rather painful manner that athletes of all shapes, sizes and skill levels should be appreciated and celebrated for their loyal service to a city, because you never know when they could be shipped off to the highest bidder.

Next: Blue Jays weren’t going to trade Kevin Pillar anyway

As Philip K. Wrigley once said: “baseball is too much of a sport to be called a business, and too much of a business to be called a sport.” As painstakingly accurate at this is, it’s not just baseball that this applies to. With that in mind, I urge all sports fans to enjoy what they have while they have it because being a fan is a beautiful thing.