The Jays shouldn’t have played their last game of the season this past weekend. They should have been playing games in October for the first time in over two decades. Instead, my beloved Blue Jays all went on their merry way after Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the AL East-dominating Orioles. After May, the Jays only had to play .500 baseball to all but guarantee themselves a spot in the play-offs, but they didn’t. They had their lows, and a brutal August, and here we are, trying to choose a different team to root for because the Blue Jays are out.
Am I slightly disappointed in the way this season turned out? Absolutely, but there are a lot of things to be positive about. My overt optimism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I understand why people would want to brood over this season and be cranky, but that’s just not me. There were a lot of reasons why this season was more of a success than most people think.
This is the first year since 2010 that the Jays have ended up winning more games than they lost. Yes, at one point they were 14 games above .500 and they ended the season 2 games above, but it’s better than being 2 games under. I know it’s nothing to set fireworks off over. The Jays were tied for 2nd place in the division until the second last game. They ended up in 3rd place, but that’s their best finish since 2007.
The Starting Rotation
Going into the season, everyone thought that this would be the Blue Jays weakest link. They proved everyone wrong by being the most solid part of the team. The Jays only used 9 different starting pitchers this season, and they are the only team in the majors to have 5 starting pitchers with 10 wins or more. Last year they used 13+. Mark Buehrle and RA Dickey were as reliable as we could have hoped. JA Happ pitched more effectively than anyone could have expected. Drew Hutchison had some bad starts, but overall was stellar coming off of his Tommy John’s surgery in 2012. Marcus Stroman came up to the Big Leagues early in the season after a few starts with the farm-affiliate in Buffalo and just blew everyone away. There are going to be a number of guys competing for one of the starting spots in 2015, so it’s nice to finally have some depth in that area.
This was truly the year of the rookies. Firstly, the aforementioned Stroman dominated the league. As did his good buddy Aaron Sanchez when he was added to the bullpen partway through the season. Ryan Goins didn’t impress with his bat, but boy was his defence outstanding. He made a ton of plays that were highlight reel-worthy. Kevin Pillar also fought pretty hard for his spot in the outfield after a rough start to his season. It’s certainly difficult to not get excited about home grown talent, Dalton Pompey. He only had a few weeks in the Show this season after racing through the minor leagues, but boy did he make an impression. I’m not trying to get too ahead of myself, but I’d like to see him be the Jays’ full-time centre-fielder in years to come. Sean Nolin and Daniel Norris are two more guys who are going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Jose & Edwin
Damn, were these guys good this year. It’s as to be expected from your two biggest stars. Edwin set a franchise record for the number of home runs in a single month back in May, and Jose joined prestigious ranks by hitting home run number 200 with the club. This has been Jose’s best year since joining the Blue Jays back in 2009. He had more walks this season than strikeouts, which is outstanding. He was able to minimize his passionate outbursts this season, and cemented his standing as the de facto leader of the Blue Jays. Edwin missed a number of weeks in the middle of the season right when the Jays needed him most, and it took him a while to heat back up when came off the DL. Regardless, he was exactly the player that the Jays expected, and needed him to be.
I wanted so much more from this season, but I’m happy it was a better season than last year. It’s absurd to expect the Blue Jays to go from a bottom-feeding team in one season to the World Series champs the next. Who do we think they are? The Red Sox? But seriously, it takes patience. Believe me, I don’t want to wait any longer. I was an infant when the pennant last flew north of the border. I want a world series here. The Jays are headed in the right direction. There are a few blatant holes that need to be filled in the off-season, there needs to be more depth at a number of positions, and I think Melky Cabrera needs to be signed. This team truly has an opportunity to contend next year, and I really hope they go for it.
It’s barely been two days since the season came to and end, but I miss my Blue Jays already. Hopefully 2015 will be the year we stop saying ‘well, there’s always next year.’