It’s ironic isn’t it? The way it ended?
A season that began under a storm cloud of change and uncertainty ended exactly the same way as last year.
Think about it. All winter, all spring, even all summer, rumblings of change were everywhere. Anthopoulos was gone. Price was gone. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion were facing the end of their contracts, and either might have potentially been moved at the deadline. There were questions about Aaron Sanchez (starter or reliever? shut him down or let him pitch?), questions about the future of John Gibbons, questions about what Shapiro and Atkins would do to the team’s future.
But despite that constant uncertainty, the Blue Jays season ended with a loss to an AL Central team (Cleveland instead of Kansas City) that they theoretically should have beaten, a team that used suspect starting pitching (Tomlin / Bauer / Merritt instead of Volquez / Ventura / Young) to shut down their much vaunted offense, and a dominant bullpen (Miller / Allen instead of Davis / Herrera) to keep Toronto a few wins short of the World Series.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Tonight, Game 1 of the World Series will be played without the Toronto Blue Jays for the 23rd consecutive year, and there are still a few more weeks before we have to seriously consider what the future brings. So let’s reflect on what happened this season.
The 2016 season was a disappointment – it has to be. Every single season ends in disappointment for the 29 clubs that don’t win the World Series. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be proud of what took place.
As mentioned, there were so many question marks heading into the year. Yes, on paper the Jays looked just as strong as last year, poised to be a contender. But the games aren’t played on paper, and there were very real threats.
First there were questions about Shapiro and Atkins. They were vilified before they even started, and then proceeded to let David Price walk. But they delivered with several shrewd moves: the Happ signing, the Grilli and Benoit acquisitions, and the trade for Upton for basically nothing.
The rotation was a major question mark. Could Stroman stay healthy for a full year? When would Sanchez be shut down? What, if anything, could they seriously expect out of Happ, Estrada, and Dickey? The answer was the best ERA in all of baseball.
Then there was the lineup. Would impending free agency loom heavy over Jose and Edwin? Would Saunders make an impact? Could Tulo stay healthy? The results were up and down to be sure, but through it all Edwin put up MVP level numbers, Bautista struggled but still finished with the 9th best OBP in the American League, and Toronto finished 5th in runs scored. Not too shabby.
Sure they struggled early, and sure they struggled late, trudging through a horrendous September that forced them into the Wild Card game. But when it was all said and done, the Toronto Blue Jays made baseball’s version of the Final Four for the second year in a row. They also provided two of the most memorable moments in franchise history along the way: the Edwin walkoff and the Donaldson Dash.
That is something that everybody – players, coaches, management, and fans – should be proud of.
So as we get set to watch the Indians face the Cubs tonight it’s OK to feel a plethora of emotions.
We can play the what-if game, and think about how the Jays might have fared against Chicago. We can be jealous of Cleveland. We can be angry that our team isn’t there.
But as we exit one tumultuous season and brace ourselves to enter another tumultuous winter, it’s also important that we be thankful for what transpired in 2016.