There is only one thought going through Toronto Blue Jay fans’ minds as the 2018 season approaches — will we see the Jays in the post season again, or is going to be another crash and burn season like in 2017?
As a Blue Jay fan, the past three seasons have been the most vivid for me.
In 2015, the Boys in Blue impressed fans across the league by making their first playoff appearance since 1993, when they took their second World Series win in as many years.
From controversy on the field, to the backflip heard across the baseball world, the Jays ended up losing in the second round to the eventual World Series Champs the Kansas City Royals.
Fast forward to 2016, coming off their best season in more than two decades, and an MVP title to third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Jays seemed to be unstoppable. The team traveled up and down the standings, but found themselves in a wildcard spot on the last day of the 2016 regular season.
An extra inning home run from star slugger Edwin Encarnacion got them pass the wild card game, and into the running for the coveted hardware. After beating the Texas Rangers in the first round for the second year in a row, the Cleveland Indians shut them down in the American League finals.
Three months later, Cleveland broke Jays’ fans hearts all over again.
On Jan. 5, 2017, Encarnacion signed a three-year with Cleveland, leaving Jays’ fans wondering what was going to happen to this team?
Well, the Jays didn’t make it to post season last year as they went 76-86 and came in fourth in the American League East.
We can’t just blame Encarnacion’s exit for the Jay’s failure in 2017, as the team was injury-riddled throughout the season.
Starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez struggled with a blisters and nail issues on his middle finger on his precious pitching hand, allowing him to only throw 36 innings for the entire season.
Along with Donaldson’s strained right calf and short stop Troy Tulowitzki strained right hamstring, the once star-studded team struggled to keep up to divisional rivals Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
All of the above would make any Jay fan cringe, and I haven’t even got to José Bautista’s lack of effort in the 2017 campaign.
Once a 50 home run hitter in 2010, Bautista slacked this past season by hitting only 23 homers. Still a respectful amount, but for $18 million USD a year? Not so much.
Despite the big boys being injured and not playing to their full potential in the 2017 season, there was one underdog on first base who produced at the plate.
The 2017 American League all-star, Justin Smoak hit a career high 38 home runs last season, surprising all, as the year before he stood in the shadows of Encarnacion by only playing 65 games in 2016.
Smoak gave the Jays a glimmer of hope, but it wasn’t enough to get back in the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
During the offseason we learned that our once star player Bautista would not be returning, which was a bittersweet goodbye for fans.
Fast forward to now, we’re in the middle of spring training down in Dunedin, Fla., with a bunch of fresh faces.
Veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson has joined the team and 2017 World Series champ Teoscar Hernandez is projected to start in right outfield on opening day.
Even though more power has been brought to the line-up there will always be injuries haunting the team.
It was announced that ace pitcher Marcus Stroman is experiencing elbow issues again, and is questionable for opening day against the Yankees.
It was also announced last week that Tulowitzki will not be ready for opening day, and with the departure of Ryan Goins during the off season, there is a hole in their infield that needs to be filled.
As a Jays fan I would love to say I’m confident they’re going to kill it this season, and that they’ll be in the post season again, but with last year’s performance and this off season’s personnel changes it may be difficult to achieve that success again this year.
We’ll just have to wait and see how the Boys in Blue will do until the home opener March 29.