On Monday July 27, 2015, the Toronto Blue Jays were a middling baseball team in the midst of a 22-year postseason drought. They had just suffered a gut wrenching 6-5 walk-off loss in Seattle to drop to 50-50 on the season, 6.5 games back of first place and seemingly destined towards another dark October.
But then came crazy news, news that blew up Twitter and made Jays fans giddy. In four wild, spectacular, and mind-blowing days, GM Alex Anthopoulos swung for the fences and made four separate trades. Ben Revere and solid reliever Mark Lowe were great pick-ups, but the acquisition of two legitimate superstars had fans across the nation pinching themselves. Troy Tulowitzki and David Price! David Price and Troy Tulowitzki! What was happening??!?!?!?
Of course, Jays fans know the rest of the story. The team went on a 43-19 tear, won the AL East for the first time since 1993, and rolled all the way to Game 6 of the ALCS. It was the rebirth of baseball in Toronto. The Blue Jays were back on the MLB map, and seemed set to contend for years to come.
My-oh-my do those days seem very, very long ago. Price left that offseason, and after a return to the ALCS in 2016, the bottom fell out. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, R.A. Dickey, Josh Donaldson – gone, gone, gone. With Sunday’s trade of Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets, all that remains of those teams that promised so, so much are Justin Smoak, Aaron Sanchez, and Ryan Tepera (and who knows if Smoak and Sanchy will still be Blue Jays by the end of the week).
As a fanbase, Toronto loves to live in the past. Perhaps it’s in our nature to remember things fondly and not want to let go. Perhaps years of perpetual losing has conditioned us that good times are never ahead, only behind. For years, we all ignored what was happening in front us, instead letting our minds drift to the days of Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark, Vince Carter and Chris Bosh, and Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter. Slowly, however, this has been changing. The Raptors are NBA Champions (!!!), the Leafs have a young core of Matthews and Marner, and the Jays…..well, then there’s the Jays.
Marcus Stroman was a rare player, one who was both a dominant force in today’s MLB, but also a bridge to the not-so-distant past. Who can forget when he tore his ACL in Spring Training but vowed to return during the year? Then he actually did come back, went 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA, and was on the mound for Game 5 in the ALDS, not to mention 2016’s AL Wild Card game. He might not have been a superstar, but he was to us. He pitched with emotion and he pitched with fire, and we loved it. It didn’t hurt that he loved us too – the fans, the city, the country.
While the major core of those playoff teams were already long gone, the trade of Stroman officially severs the ropes that bound us to the past. This team is now officially in the hands of the next generation. Vlad, Cavan, Lourdes, Danny, and Bo will have to step up and become the next Josh, Jose, Edwin, Russ, and Troy. Somebody, several bodies, will have to step up and become the next R.A., Mark, Marco, David, and, sadly, Marcus. One would have thought keeping Marcus would have already filled one of those empty slots.
But there’s no sense looking back, and no sense bemoaning management’s decisions. We all ripped Masai when he dealt DeMar for Kawhi, but now we can call ourselves champions because of it. Who knows if the two arms the Jays got back for Stroman will help propel Toronto back into October, but the cards have been played.
All that’s left to do is tip your cap to the man we all loved seeing on the mound and move forward. 2015 has never felt further away but better days are (hopefully) ahead.