Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman is evolving into the leader this team needs
There is excitement around this Blue Jays’ team again, and while you can point to many reasons, the performance and leadership of Marcus Stroman have been a huge key to their early success.
The Blue Jays managed to sweep their weekend series, and their season series against the Oakland A’s on the weekend, and it was a combined effort to get it done in all three games.
Brandon Drury was great, the arrival of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was productive and ridiculously exciting for the fan base, and nearly the entire team chipped it to do away with the A’s for the second straight series. The team is now 14-14, and reached .500 for the first time this year, a mark the 2017 version of the Blue Jays was never able to reach.
This team is going to go through some exciting highs and frustrating lows this year, but it’s been a lot of fun to see them riding a hot streak lately, winning in nine of their last 12 games. As I said above, there are many reasons for that, and it’s been encouraging to see the progress especially after the franchise moved on from valuable veteran leaders like Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Jose Bautista, and several other key contributors over the last few years.
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However, there are a few veterans left from the last version of the 2015-16 playoff teams, and the best of them has been Marcus Stroman so far. He’s leading the American League with a sparkling 1.43 ERA, and has already been worth 1.5 bWAR through just six starts. He won’t keep up this level of production forever, but he could still be a Cy Young award candidate even if he takes a step or two back.
His performance on the field has been especially encouraging because of the disappointing campaign he turned in last year. He started the season with a wonky right shoulder and eventually hit the injured list, and was sidelined again later in the year with a pretty severe blister. All told his ERA was over five, and people questioned whether or not the Blue Jays should just cut bait and get what they could for him on the trade market this past winter.
As good as his performance has been on the mound, it’s also great to see the way he’s focusing his attention on social meida lately. He’s a polarizing figure online, as some fans love him for his involvement and frequent activity, and others are rubbed the wrong way by it. Regardless of how you feel about him, I’ve noticed a focused tone from him lately, and one that I find very encouraging as a key player on a young and developing team.
He’s been tweeting things like “Great team win! Love where we’re at! @BlueJays” on Saturday, and again on Sunday with, “Smoak. Drury. Freddy. Thornton. Sogard. Vladdy. Unreal team win!” after the series-sweeping comeback. Those are just a few examples, but he’s effort to support his teammates, and try his best to bring some positive energy to a team that struggled in the early part of the year.
For a player who has repeatedly stated that he’d like to stick around for the long term, Stroman is doing exactly what he should, both on and off the field. For one reason or another there have been folks who have questioned his character over the years, but as long as he keeps up this type of production he could probably be a complete jerk and it wouldn’t matter much. The fact that he’s taking even more ownership of this team and encouraging his teammates on the regular is a significant bonus, and I’m sure it’s been noticed by the front office.
Stroman has always celebrated his teammates throughout his career and shown respect to the veterans that showed him the ropes, especially Jose Bautista. But for one reason or another it just feels like he’s making an extra effort to show positive energy, support for his teammates, and the type of leadership qualities that will likely land him a significant extension at some point.
Things are going about as well as you could ask for the former first round pick in 2019, and hopefully he can continue to stay healthy and pitch to the best of his ability. When he does that, he’s one of the best pitchers in the American League, whether you like it or not.