The calendar has turned to August, and sadly for Blue Jays fans it is August of 2017 and not 2015 or 2016. In those years, of course, the Jays were captivating the city as they charged (2015) or scraped (2016) their way towards playoff spots and eventual births in the ALCS. This year the team is limping to the finish line, dead last and left for dead.
Yes, you can look at the standings and find a glimmer of hope. They’re only five games back of a Wild Card spot with 54 to play! Even better, they are still only 8 games back in the AL East, and trail four flawed teams that can all self-destruct at any moment. All this team needs is one hot streak and contention is possible!
But take off the dreamer’s glasses for a second and a much murkier picture emerges. Toronto would need to leapfrog seven teams to capture a Wild Card birth and four to win the East. Their middle infield will not consist of Travis and Tulo, but rather Barney, Goins, and Refsnyder moving forward. The rotation has been weakened by the loss of Sanchez and the inconsistency of Estrada, with still nobody penciled in to replace the departed Francisco Liriano, and journeyman Cesar Valdez still tossing for Sanchez. They just traded their second most dependable reliever. Do you see a sustained hot streak coming?
In short – it’s done. Even the most hardcore and optimistic fan has to admit that.
So the question now, especially for the casual fan, is why bother tuning in to the rest of the year? Why spend dwindling summer evenings watching a losing team flail their way towards an empty October? Well, here are 8 reasons why:
- The Bautista Farewell Tour
Nothing official has been said, and it is all speculation, but it certainly appears that the Jose Bautista era is coming to an end in Toronto. Mired in a dismal season (.706 OPS, -1.1 WAR) there is virtually no chance that his option for 2018 is picked up by the club. There is a slight chance that he would agree to be dealt to a contender before the August 31 deadline, but in all reality Jays fans have another two months to watch, recognize, and appreciate one of the franchises greatest players and biggest icons. Get out and cheer for him before he’s gone.
- The End of Donaldson?
Toronto management has made it clear that they are all-in on 2018, suggesting that additions will be made to the core during the offseason rather than subtractions. But, as has been made obvious in years past, you never know what will happen. With another year of team control, Josh Donaldson remains Toronto’s most significant, appealing, and tradeable asset, and he has also finally gotten hot. If he ends the season on a huge hot streak, and with his value at an all-time high, what’s to suggest that Atkins won’t move him for a prospect haul and fill the gap with a free agent signing (Moustakas anyone)?
- The Stro Show
Marcus Stroman is putting together an outstanding season and has become must-watch TV. You simply never know what you’re going to get. Two starts ago he was ejected; last start he was in the middle of a bench clearing altercation. Through all his antics he continues to dominate. He ranks 5th in the AL in wins, 5th in ERA, and 2nd in WAR, just a tick behind Chris Sale.
- The Future
There is no indication as to what is in the mindset of Toronto’s front office, but September is just around the corner, which means roster expansion, which in turn usually means an influx of young prospects to the big leagues – especially for teams out of contention. Does this mean we will see the return of Pompey, Smith, and Alford? Maybe the debut of Teoscar Hernandez? Or maybe, just maybe, the ultimate treat: Bichette and Vladdy Jr.?
- Smoak Bombs
For all the talk of Aaron Judge taking the baseball world by storm it would be easy to assume that he had already locked up the HR crown. Think again. With 31, Justin Smoak is only three bombs behind Judge for the AL and MLB lead. A Blue Jay has won the home run crown four times in club history (Barfield in 1986, McGriff in 1989, and Bautista in 2010 and 2011). Smoak has a chance to make it five.
- Osuna the Save King
Similar to Smoak, Roberto Osuna also has a chance to make some history. Only twice in franchise history has a member of the Jays finished with the most saves in the league: Tom Henke in 1987 and Duane Ward in 1993. With 27 saves, Osuna trails Alex Colome by 5 and is closing in fast.
- Pressure Free Viewing
Let’s be honest: nothing can ever replicate the feeling of being in a pennant race. But raise your hand if you experienced any of the following symptoms during the stretch run of 2015/2016: anxiety, stress, heartburn, fear, nausea, anger, depression, exhilaration, sweat pouring from every pore, jitters, and intense uncertainty. Sometimes it’s fun to watch the games in peace…
Yes it’s been a bad year. The Jays have run us all through the gamut, from the high hopes of Opening Day, to the crushing disappointment of a 6-17 start. There have been losing streaks (too many), winning streaks (too few), injuries, errors, awful pitching, terrible hitting, and too many moments of anguish to count. But think ahead to November. Think ahead to December, January and February. Picture the freezing temperatures, the blowing snow, the howling wind, and the eternal darkness. Now realize how thankful you should be that you can flip on the ballgame each night. Even though it’s been a rotten season, it’s still better than what’s coming. Enjoy it.