Monday, August 31, 2015 | by Ian Hunter
Fans are wary. Fans are skeptical. Fans aren’t sure whether they can trust the Toronto Blue Jays. Expectations have been mounting for decades and many aren’t certain if the Blue Jays can deliver upon those lofty hopes.
As a long-suffering fan of a franchise that hasn’t made the postseason in the past 22 years, one can understand the trepidation. There is some hesitancy to be happy about this Blue Jays team that’s suddenly transformed themselves into one of the best in MLB.
After all, this is a team that shot to the top of the standings last year, only to crash and burn after the All-Star break. The Blue Jays are also a team which raced out to a 27-14 record in 2009 and would ultimately finish 75-87 and finish second last in the division.
It seems as if there are fans who are waiting for permission to be excited about this team. Considering everything that’s happened surrounding this organization in the past month, the wait is finally over – it’s officially time to get excited about the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays aren’t just a team that looks like they could squeak into the postseason; they look like a legitimate playoff threat. The Blue Jays are an American League East juggernaut, and they’re now the one team that nobody else wants to face in October.
This magical four-week run has been some of the most exciting, compelling and meaningful baseball the Blue Jays have played in a really long time. They haven’t done it with smoke and mirrors, either; in the past month, the Blue Jays slayed many of the towering giants within American League East.
The Blue Jays have done so as a very well-balanced team focused on defense, pitching and most of all, offense.
The Blue Jays dispatched the best team in the American League, the Kansas City Royals. The Blue Jays also took care of one of their competitors in the Wild Card race, the Minnesota Twins. The Blue Jays followed that up by sweeping the division-leading New York Yankees on their home turf.
Most recently, the Blue Jays dismantled the Angels and Rangers (two teams they’ve been battling for a Wild Card spot). And this past weekend, the Blue Jays flat-out dominated the Detroit Tigers.
The Blue Jays emerged from all of these series looking like the far superior team. And keep in mind, this wasn’t against bottom-feeding, cellar-dwelling teams, either. The Blue Jays have risen to the occasion against some of the best squads in the American League and currently own a 33-20 record against teams with a winning record.
As a team, the Blue Jays have played phenomenal baseball in the month of August, but they’re putting forth some stellar individual performances as well. Josh Donaldson is stating his case to be American League MVP, and David Price is very quietly having himself a Cy Young-worthy season.
Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are also beginning to heat up at the absolute best time, and Troy Tulowitzki’s defense is worth the price of admission alone.
All of these are great reasons to be excited about the Blue Jays right now. But even with all those great things to cheer for, there are still some very reluctant fans. They won’t be able to breathe easy until the final pitch of the regular season is thrown, and the Blue Jays have locked down a playoff spot.
That’s certainly understandable; fans have been burned in the past. Not just by the Blue Jays, but the long-tortured Toronto sports fan has seen this movie many times before. On several; occasions, the excitement level for Toronto sports teams have reached a fever pitch, only to have their hopes and dreams dashed by season’s end.
Blue Jays’ devotees have experienced a veritable roller coaster of expectations since the team’s last playoff berth in 1993. And after 22 years of missing the postseason and watching perennial doormats like the Rays, Nationals, Pirates and Royals turn their franchises around, cynicism can begin to sink in.
Here’s the way I tend to look at it; it’s like saying goes; “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. By heavily tempering expectations, fans can shield themselves from experiencing any potential meltdowns and thus any heartache.
But at the same time, those few are also preventing themselves from experiencing the elation that comes with watching your team participate in a playoff race.
For followers of the Toronto Blue Jays, meaningful late-season games haven’t even been a remote possibility in a very long time. But as the days and weeks pass and the final date of the regular season draws closer, the potential for playoff baseball for the Blue Jays is becoming more of a reality.
A lot can certainly change in the final month of the regular season for the Blue Jays. There are so many variables at play which will factor into the Blue Jays’ ultimate finish in the standings.
But one thing’s for sure; the city of Toronto and Canada is hungry for the Toronto Blue Jays to win. People have proven this by flocking to the Rogers Centre, tuning into Blue Jays games in record numbers, and by snatching up merchandise faster than staff can put it on the shelves.
It’s a testament to the potential for the Toronto Blue Jays all across Canada. Fans are desperate to see the Blue Jays make it into the postseason. And there’s no telling how crazy things could get if the Blue Jays make it deep into the playoffs, let alone the ultimate achievement: the World Series.
Take a look at the pandemonium that followed the Blue Jays’ blockbuster moves at the trade deadline. Many have remarked this very same excitement in 2015 has mirrored what happened with the 1992 and 1993 World Series Champion teams.
Just remember - it’s okay to get excited about the Toronto Blue Jays. Open yourself up and allow yourself to experience the joy that comes with watching this team; because this may be the beginning of something special.
Image via Cole Burston/Toronto Star
Sunday, August 30, 2015 | by Ian Hunter
That was hands down, bar none of the coolest moments I've ever experienced at a Toronto Blue Jays game; watching hats rain down after Edwin Encarnacion hit his third home run of the day.
This was one of the most spontaneous and special things that's been witnessed at a Blue Jays game. Following Edwin Encarnacion's third home run of the game, the fans showed their appreciation by tossing their caps onto the field in honour of EE's "hat trick".
In all my years of watching baseball, I've never seen anything like that before in my entire life. Sure, it's tradition at hockey games, but Blue Jays fans gave their own Canadian-inspired salute to Edwin Encarnacion after his third home run of the game.
The moment itself was incredibly special, but it's only a small snapshot of what's been a very special season for the Toronto Blue Jays thus far.
Incredibly, the Blue Jays currently sit 17 games above .500 and own a 1.5 game division lead over the New York Yankees. At this point, they're essentially destined to make the postseason and end heir 22-year playoff drought.
This was video I took in the moments following Edwin Encarncaion's grand slam, and if you look closely, you'll see my friend actually throwing his cap onto the field in honour of EE's trio of home runs on the afternoon.
Pandemonium! pic.twitter.com/fSsyuYb9gu— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) August 29, 2015
Encarnacion's 9 RBI was one of the greatest single-game performances in Toronto Blue Jays history. As impressive as that was, it was he fan reaction to his performance which left many in awe.
Honestly, I don't know if I've ever witnessed a cooler or more spontaneous moment than that; people removing their hats and tossing them onto the field as a token of their appreciation.
It happens all the time at hockey games when players score three goals, but almost never does this happen within the confines of Major League Baseball.
When it all started and I noticed the field staff starting to run onto the field, I wondered "what idiot did that?". But as I began to clue in and notice more and more people toss their caps onto the field, it became more apparent this was a sign of admiration.
Edwin Encarnacion definitely appreciated the love from his fans throughout the whole ordeal. In fact, I think it's safe to say he was taken aback by their show of support.
Eddie was very appreciative for all the hats on the field. pic.twitter.com/jmCbkrvDwZ— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) August 30, 2015
It was an afternoon to remember for Edwin Encarnacion in more ways in one; not only did he tie a franchise record by driving in nine runs, but he also sparked fans to throw their caps onto the field as a gesture of appreciation for his big day at the plate.
This will remain of one of my all-time favourite Blue Jays in-game memories. We may never see something like this ever again, and for that ... we should take a moment to appreciate just how special and unique that moment truly was.
Image via Edwin Encarnacion on Instagram and Cole Burston/Getty Images
Friday, August 28, 2015 | by Ian Hunter
Does it ever get old? Does it ever get less impressive to see the Toronto Blue Jays tee off on teams? The definitive answer is "no".
The Blue Jays disposed of the Detroit Tigers in impressive fashion as many of their heavy-hitters went yard. GIFS from the game after the jump featuring Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki and Roberto Osuna.