In Toronto, It’s Out With the Old, In With the New

No team has undergone more of a makeover since last season than the Toronto Blue Jays. Management overturned the majority of the roster at the end of last season as well as at the trade deadline just a month ago. Chemistry is becoming a defining factor of a winning team and is becoming more and more common among teams.

The San Francisco Giants, who are the closest thing to a dynasty baseball has had over the last six years, are the definition of a team that is brimming with confidence and chemistry. Players who play for each other rather than themselves and believe in the larger picture of winning a championship are usually the teams who stay on top.

Another example would be the Kansas City Royals, even though they are one of the most hated teams in baseball due to their aggressive nature and unlikable attitude towards the game, but they are one of the more closely knit teams in baseball. Silly things like players saying “1738” (from Fetty Wap’s “Tap Queen”) in every interview they gave were strange but brought them closer and more inclined to play for each other.

The debate of chemistry in baseball has been around for years. In a sport where there are statistics and numbers to calculate everything from Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in evaluating a player, there is no way to calculate what his attitude towards the team will be, how much of a team player he is, or how much he would add to the clubhouse and atmosphere. Now more than ever, more and more teams are finding players who add value off the field while still having talent on the field. The correlation between talent and off-field personality is rare but essential for a wining team.

Now, going back to the Blue Jays, since last season they have turned over the majority of their roster, bringing in players who have a reputation of being good guys on the field and clubhouse. Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson, Marco Estrada, Chris Colabello, and Justin Smoak are all great clubhouse guys who love to win and want to win. Combined with the subtraction of quieter guys like Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind, and J.A. Happ, the change to chemistry and character players started all the way in Spring Training. The soft spoken, methodical R.A. Dickey started pulling pranks, like driving top prospect Daniel Norris‘s van onto the field in Dunedin, which was out of character for him and showed this team is becoming closer and closer everyday.

Colabello, the journeyman who played seven years in Independent Ball, noticed the presence of team chemistry right away.

“I remember being so happy that first week of camp,” he said, “and going in and telling Gibby [manager John Gibbons] and [general manager] Alex [Anthopoulos], even when they sent me down, I said, ‘I commend you guys on the job you’ve done and the group you’ve put together because it’s special. It has the opportunity to be special.'” (National Post)

That was only the beginning. There was more to come. There were more character guys to be added.

Fast forward to the trade deadline, with the Jays sitting at 50-51 with the most runs scored in the majors and an offense that could come back from any deficit, yet they sat under .500 and eight games out of first place. They needed a spark; they needed pitching. They had the offense, but they needed an extra edge.

Anthopoulos did not disappoint. He got Troy Tulowitzki in a move not many people understood. The Jays already boasted the highest run-scoring offense in the majors by a long shot and did not need to add more, especially at the cost of fan favorite Jose Reyes. But that move provided to be monumental. They added a winner, the best shortstop in all of baseball, and the entire roster got an extra sense of urgency as it showed that the GM believed in this team.

Anthopoulos didn’t stop there, either. He added David Price, one of the best pitchers in baseball, a winner, and a great teammate. Price shows heart and hustle and would put everything on the line for his team. He is the ultimate baseball player and the ultimate team player. Ben Revere added speed and flare and defense, something Toronto desperately needed. His personality and attitude were appreciated and embraced with open arms, and he is already turning into a fan favorite.

With this team full of winners, gamers, and a winning attitude, the Blue Jays have changed the atmosphere in the clubhouse and on the field. They are a team full of winners and it really does add to the debate of chemistry and talent. The Jays got the best of both worlds and are a first-place team that is not slowing down at all. There aren’t many teams full of studs and stars who show up everyday expecting to win. Losing isn’t an option.

The drought since 1993 is looking like it’s over, and it’s because of the chemistry within the team and the expectation to win. There is excitement in the clubhouse, camaraderie and friendship, where players are playing for each other and the name on the front of the jersey. There is also excitement within the fanbase, with TV ratings skyrocketing, sellouts becoming common, and everyone talking Blue Jays. It just shows what a winning team and attitude can spark an entire city, and with Toronto, an entire country.

The Toronto Blue Jays are a fun team to watch right now. With all cylinders clicking, who knows where they could end up. Team chemistry has flowed through the clubhouse and wins have piled up. It shows how powerful that is, and the famous saying, “United we stand, divided we fall,” truly does apply here.

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