Ok, so if we can’t have the Blue Jays in the postseason in 2021, we can have the next best thing: Give us a heapin’ helpin’ of Rowdy Tellez. And our old friend served it up big-time in Milwaukee in Game 1 of the NLDS.
With the game scoreless in the bottom of the 7th, and those familiar chants of “Row-dy! Row-dy!” echoing through American Family Field, Tellez stepped in against Atlanta Braves’ ace Charlie Morton and he took ‘Big Game Charlie’ deep.
His 2-run homer traveled 411 feet and proved to be the game-winning blast as the Brewers drew first blood in the series. “The fans here are great,” said Rowdy after the game, under the thunderous applause of the Milwaukee faithful. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” Ouch. Sad face.
Tellez was a fan favourite in Toronto, for a number of reasons, but a slow start in 2021 saw him getting dealt to the Brewers, and it rejuvenated his career.
Tellez isn’t the only ex-Jay on postseason rosters in 2021. Just maybe the one we’re pulling for most.
The most impactful former Blue Jay, if not Tellez, just might be the Chicago White Sox closer, Liam Hendriks. As a middle reliever in 2014-15 for the Jays, Hendriks was rarely counted on in big moments; with the White Sox, he’s the linchpin of the fireballing Chicago bullpen. Hendriks notched 38 saves with a 2.54 ERA, and a monstrous 14.3 K/9 this season.
His bullpen mate is another former Blue Jay, Ryan Tepera. He holds a crucial late-inning high-leverage role with the ChiSox.
The Houston Astros have some Toronto content as well. The versatile Aledmys Diaz serves as a utility infielder for the Astros; he can play any of the infield positions and has a little pop in his bat as well.
Reliever Kendall Graveman was a Blue Jay for a cup of coffee in 2014, pitching just 4.2 innings in the blue and white.
And if you think that’s a brief stay in Toronto, how about his teammate Michael Brantley, who almost became a Blue Jay this past offseason, but backed out at the last minute.
The other ALDS matchup is much lighter on former Jays, with the Tampa Bay Rays going Jay-less, while the Boston Red Sox feature only Travis Shaw, who looked like might be at the end of the line after his disappointing Toronto tenure in 2020. He latched on with the Milwaukee Brewers to start 2021 but batted only .191. He’s been mildly more invigorated with the BoSox, coming up with a couple of big hits in his 28 games in Beantown.
Rowdy Tellez isn’t the only ex-Blue Jays player on a postseason roster in 2021. Just maybe the one we’re pulling for the most.
Over in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers feature a couple of ex-Jays who each spent about half a season in Toronto, with wildly different results. David Price was one of the blockbuster trade deadline adds in 2015, and all he did in his two months in Toronto was go 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA, helping to lead the Jays to first place, and into the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.
The half-season-plus that Dodgers’ part-time outfielder Billy McKinney spent in Toronto was, shall we say, a little less triumphant. McKinney hit .215 in the 2019 season and then had a mere 3 at-bats in 2020.
For the Braves, 37-year-old reliever Jesse Chavez had a couple of different stints with the Blue Jays, in 2012 and 2016, neither of them very memorable.
One final former Blue Jay in this year’s postseason is THE one who got away, as far as Jays fans are concerned. In fact, he’s a Canadian. And he’s been to the playoffs now for seven straight years. But he wears a suit, rather than a uniform. The man most responsible for the Blue Jays’ last great playoff run, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
AA held the GM job for the Jays from 2009-2015 and made a series of moves over the years (including the aforementioned Price trade) that catapulted the team back to the postseason promised land. He worked his miracles again this year for Atlanta, making up for the loss of superstar Ronald Acuna Jr., and fellow outfielder Marcel Ozuna with a number of shrewd trades, vaulting the Braves to the NL East title.
Blue Jay fans can only sit and stew, watching Anthopoulos’ handiwork from afar.
But hey, Rowdy got the best of him in Game 1 at least.