Toronto Blue Jays celebrating a victory earlier this season against the Baltimore Orioles.
(Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)
For fans of the Toronto Blue Jays, was 2016 not the most agonizingly painful season of baseball you’ve ever seen from a team that actually ended up making the post-season? I still can’t get over what we’ve experienced these past six months (especially most recently in September) from the Blue Jays, only for them to miraculously still find themselves in a 1-game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles this Tuesday in the wild card game. I promise not to complain much about how poorly the Blue Jays offense has performed at times this season, but whatever happened to this ball club for them to go from division leader in early September to a team that couldn’t even beat the Tampa Bay Rays better be in the past. Because if it isn’t, Toronto’s season won’t likely continue beyond Tuesday’s wild card game.
The craziest thing to consider about this season for Toronto is that they’ve been playing must-win, nerve wracking ball games going all the way back to early June when it was apparent that the Orioles, Red Sox, and Blue Jays all had an equally good shot of winning the division. Never before can I remember three teams going back and forth like that for the division lead over such an extended period of time. Imagine how physically and mentally exhausting it must have been for the players…that with close to 100 games remaining in the season and they had to approach each of those games with the mind-set that they can’t lose or it could mean the difference between playing in the post-season or watching it from their couch.
Now that the regular season has finally come to an end, it’s only fitting that these three teams who’ve been battling it out for the AL East since early June have all qualified for the playoffs.
I think a lot of us (I know I was one of them) were kind of expecting things this year to go as smoothly as they did last season when Toronto annihilated the competition (especially teams from the AL East) and coasted into the playoffs. But truth be told, the competition in the division this season was a lot tougher than it was last year, with the Red Sox, Orioles, and Blue Jays all being more than good enough to have won the AL East. Another thing, and I’ll save the bulk of this for later after the season has been completed, is that Toronto, despite most of the players being the same as in 2015, looked at times like a team that had no interest even being out there competing and playing for a playoff spot. It wasn’t until the series in Seattle that began on September 19 that Toronto finally realized that enough was enough, and it was time to actually start getting serious or their chances of making the playoffs would have slipped away for good.
Given all that the Blue Jays have endured this season, it now all comes down to one silly little wild card game. Considering all the highs and lows that the Blue Jays have battled through, is the reward of at least one playoff game even worth it? Most certainly. That being said, could Toronto have gone about their business on the field much differently and not made the final six weeks of the regular season so hard on themselves and complete torture for us to watch? Heck Yes! The remarkable thing about this ball club, is even after putting themselves through a near collapse that almost ended up costing them a chance at the playoffs, at the very end of it all, they were still able to win the final two ball games of the regular season in Boston and still make the post-season for only the second time in 23 years.