The road to return to the baseball playoffs for the Toronto Blue Jays has been long, winding and treacherous. It has been 22 years since the Blue Jays were playing in October and its good to see this organization finally find the right recipe to success. The road prior to this season has been filled with questionable trades, free agent signings that didn’t pan out and basically they became an afterthought of a franchise. This is unfortunate if you remember the high flying days of 1992 and 93 season when the championship flag was hoisted. They would fill Sky Dome with 4 million fans and was the envy of the league.
Then came the 1994 year of transition. The team was struggling to get to .500 then the great strike shut down the season and the downfall began. Longtime general manager Pat Gillick resigned and was replaced by Gord Ash. The Jays began an era of big free agent signings such as Roger Clemens, promising prospects but no super stars and mediocre seasons. It was like the city Toronto was enraptured with the plague and players did not want to come there.
In the past three years the Jays have been involved in some big trades and some good signings that have finally clicked. Mainstay Juan Bautista got some help in the lineup when a big trade with Oakland landed third baseman Josh Donaldson. Donaldson is hitting .300 with 41 HR’s and 123 RBI’s, huge numbers that are MVP like. Then you have Bautista pounding out 40 bombs with 113 RBI’s followed by Edwin Encarnacion hitting 37 and 108. That is a lot of firepower that is going to be troublesome for any pitching staff. The Jays got a great year out of Russell Martin and have a roster of good young players such as Devon Travis and Kevin Pillar. I also like the veterans that are key to any playoff run such Chris Colabella, Ben Revere and Troy Tulowitzski.
Teams will not win a five game playoff series without at least two good pitchers and solid bullpen. The Jays have a very good staff composed of Mark Buehrle, David Price, Marco Estrada, RA Dickey and Drew Hutchison. Then you have to make the case for Marcus Stroman, who has finally made his way onto the pitching staff in September after a long rehab with a knee injury. This kid is the Blue Jays secret weapon and will probably earn a start in the playoffs. He has won four games in September with1.67 era, their hottest pitcher as of now. Will the ball go to Buehrle for game one, the most experienced playoff pitcher on the staff? Probably, but he has not been that successful in his playoff career and hasn’t pitched in a playoff game since 2008. The bullpen is anchored by Roberto Osuna, the closer and Brett Cecil whom are respectable and there will be an appearance by the ageless wonder Latroy Hawkins.
The pieces are in place for the Blue Jays to make a run in the playoffs with the good mix of talent. Can their pitching staff shutdown in the first round? This will be the ultimate key. Their bats can be ferocious and will be a challenge for any staff to contain. The Toronto fans are out of their mind right now and hopefully this brings back a tradition of winning Blue Jay baseball. Salute the Jays!
Photo 1 – Zimbo.com
Photo 2 – Jaysjournal.com