"2014 ... it was quite a ride."
If I had to summarize how this season transpired for the Toronto Blue Jays, that statement would encapsulate it. It had its highs, it had its lows, but ultimately the season ended the same way the last 21 have, and that's without playoffs for the Toronto Blue Jays.
The whole playoff drought itself is something I'll devote more time to down the road; but it's kind of funny that if you polled most people at the start of the season, an eventual 83-79 record would have far exceeded their expectations.
Frankly, the bar was set fairly low for this team right out of the gate. After the entire "failing to sign Ervin Santana" debacle, it was apparent the Blue Jays were going to grind out the 2014 campaign with the roster they had.
When the Blue Jays jumped out to a 38-24 record and a 6 game lead on the Baltimore Orioles in early June, there wasn't a sense of this being a precursor to success down the road. After all, it was early June and there was still the entire second half of the season left to play.
Perhaps there was some underlying cynicism caused by 20 years without a sniff of the postseason, maybe it was just the plight of the typical Toronto sports fan, but there was this "wait and see" approach rather than the "plan the parade route" mentality.
Looking back at this past Blue Jays season, I think the most frustrating part of it all was the division (and a playoff spot) was there for the taking. They had a stranglehold on the division into late June; and even then, Toronto occupied a Wild Card spot on August 1st.
2014 was unlike any other Blue Jays season that I've experienced in recent memory. The peaks and valleys alternated on a bi-weekly basis, with a stretches of either supreme success, incredible luck, bad bounces, or just overall poor play mixed in.
2013 was a season where expectations were astronomical and the team just crashed and burned. Conversely in 2014, expectations initially began so low, but due to their success in May and early June, the forecast drastically changed.
There was a strong sentiment from the fan base that the Blue Jays missed a golden opportunity this year and failed to capitalize on the weakness of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. All indications pointed towards 2014 being the window of contention for the Blue Jays.
Those opposing teams all uncharacteristically bad this season, which undoubtedly means they'll all go out and bolster their respective rosters this offseason. The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays will get better this offseason, and I'm not sure I can say the same about the Blue Jays.
In retrospect, considering how mightily they struggled in August (against poor teams, mind you) and at points in September, I don't know if there were a number of trades that could have prevented the Blue Jays from losing their playoff spot.
If anything, I hope that this season served as a lesson to the front office that depth is paramount; bench players might plug holes temporarily, but guys like Juan Francisco, Munenori Kawasaki and Danny Valencia cannot match the production of an average everyday player.
Drew put it quite simply in his latest at Ghostrunner on First; the other teams in contention were just better.
In many ways, the early to mid-season success of the Blue Jays was viewed as the organization just playing with house money; not much was expected of this team in the first place, so as they rose to the top of the standings, they were just going to ride it out and see what happened.
From an organizational standpoint, there was never really any sense of urgency to bring in reinforcements or make any moves. Alex Anthopoulos did more of the same as previous years; attempt to cobble together small trades or minor league signings and hope they strike gold.
And like previous years, many of those deals did not pan out; or at least, those deals worked for a short period, and then failed miserably afterwards (ex: Juan Francisco).
Speaking of said man, Juan Francisco kind of became the unofficial whipping boy for the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays, and in many ways he symbolized what went right and what went wrong for the team this season.
Much like the team itself, Francisco played above his head in May and much of June. But shortly thereafter, the weaknesses in his game became exposed, and it was all downhill from there.
The progression of Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris gives Blue Jays fans a lot to look forward to in the way of young pitching next season.
Melky Cabrera may be wooed by the bright lights of free agency, but for the most part, the best parts of this Blue Jays lineup will stay intact next season. The combination of a healthy Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are enough to make any fan salivate.
As this season came to a close, there are several reasons to be weary about what might be for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, but there are also many (if not more) reasons to be hopeful. And after 21 years, it's all that Blue Jays fans can continue to do ... is hope.
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