About fifteen empty minutes ago, the Toronto Blue Jays were officially eliminated from the playoffs by the Cleveland Indians.
For the second year in a row, I sat on my couch and watched as another team celebrated a berth into the World Series at the expense of my beloved Blue Jays. It hurts.
But I feel different this year than I did last year. Last year was so disappointing. I was numb for hours after the Blue Jays were eliminated.
This year, although it hurts, I’ve already accepted defeat. Maybe it’s because Cleveland took a 3-0 series lead and I had already started to come to terms with another year without a World Series championship.
Or maybe it’s because I went to Cleveland in August to see the Blue Jays play the Indians and left there with a new found respect for their team and fans. Underneath the obvious rivalry between home and away fans, there were fun conversations and interactions that carried throughout all nine innings.
Stockholm syndrome, anyone?
I can’t say a bad word about their team. I kinda like them. A lot.
They are the kind of team I would cheer for if my team weren’t in the playoffs.
After over twenty years without a playoff appearance, it’s hard to scoff at back-to-back playoff appearances and be bitter about the results.
I’ve been able to attend two playoff games over the last two years and they were two of the best atmospheres I’ve ever been apart of. I know that Toronto is often seen as an afterthought in baseball conversations, mainly because they’re located in Canada.
The argument is made all the time – “They don’t like baseball in Canada. They like hockey.”
It should be: “They like baseball in Canada. They also like hockey.”
I think that is a misconception that should be dead after this season. The Blue Jays were third in the league in attendance this season and I’m willing to bet they had the most fans travel to away games than any other team.
Everywhere the Jays went, their fans followed. That’s the benefit of having an entire country support the team.
Just look at the September series in Seattle. The stadium was full of blue. You’d think it was a home game.
Were there bandwagon fans? Absolutely. But what team doesn’t have fans who are only around to take selfies in the stands when the team is winning?
Were the crowds a bit too rowdy and sometimes stupid with their actions at games? Absolutely. There is no excuse for throwing a beer can on the field and it has happened two years in a row, when the entire baseball world is watching.
It’s embarrassing. We know that. We’re sorry.
Is Jose Bautista outspoken? Absolutely.
Did I like that he said Cleveland’s starting pitcher, Ryan Merrit, should be “shaking in his boots” before today’s game? No. I don’t believe in saying things like that. What’s the point?
Do I think Cleveland got extra motivation from that? No! Don’t be ridiculous. Twitter is jumping down Bautista’s throat for those comments. As if his words were the reason why Cleveland won today, or the series.
These are professional athletes. It’s the playoffs. They don’t need any more motivation. They already have it.
Cleveland was just the better team. Neither team could hit the ball this series, but the Indians scored more runs, in more games, than the Blue Jays. So it goes.
What does the off-season bring for the Blue Jays?
Well, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are free agents.
If Edwin leaves, everyone in Canada might need to visit their local Dairy Queen and camp out there for a few weeks, just to feel better.
Encarnacion arrived in Toronto in 2009 as a poor fielder and a hitter who didn’t have it figured out yet. Slowly, but surely, he turned himself into one of the best hitters in the league.
If Edwin leaves, who is going to walk the parrot?
Jays fans will understand that last sentence.
I think a lot of us have come to terms with the fact that Bautista probably won’t be back.
He arrived in Toronto in 2008 as a utility infielder, and then he starting hitting home runs. A lot of home runs. And just when it felt like we were wasting his best years, the Blue Jays made the playoffs last year.
And what did he do there? He hit a huge home run, flipped his bat, sent a country into hysteria and the rest of the baseball world into an ignorant and whiny frenzy on social media that is still going strong a year later.
Are these two of the best players in franchise history? Yes. Sadly, it could be an end of an era.
So as the Indians go on to the World Series with their pitching staff – who all seem to be facial hair fanatics – the Blue Jays go away for five months until optimism is renewed at Spring Training.
As for the fans, it’s the end of another wild ride. And, yes, it was wild.
From the one-game wild card elimination game, to the three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers, to all the ups and downs and should-Aaron-Sanchez-move-to-the-bullpen debates on talk radio, it’s been a memorable year.
As a fan, I want to see my favourite team win a championship. Who doesn’t? But that’s hard. Really hard. So I can take solace in the fact that this team has played deep into October, two years in a row, and given me something to be excited (and nervous) about almost every day for three hours at a time.
We won’t win the World Series this year – and I don’t mean to sound like a “just happy to be here” fan – but at least we went far. It’s much better than knowing that playoffs aren’t even a possibility, on the first day of September.
Even though the Blue Jays touted this season as #OurMoment, they couldn’t quite make the moment theirs.
This year is not our moment. It’s someone else’s. But who knows, maybe next year is our moment. And if it is, I can promise you that I’ll be there for the entire ride. So will Canada.
Because believe it or not, Canada loves baseball. And Canada loves the Blue Jays.