When the Kansas City Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 in Game 6 of the American League Championship series, the Blue Jays were eliminated from the 2015 postseason to end their most exciting season since 1993.
With a 50-51 record at the All-Star break, the normally trigger-shy Alex Anthopoulos and tight-fisted Rogers Media Group did something no one has seen in years: they went out and got star players to add to an already solid team. The Blue Jays acquired David Price, the best starting pitcher on the market who went on to go 9-1 after the trade, and also picked up the best shortstop in the game in Troy Tulowitzki, who had the most RBIs in a single postseason in Blue Jays history. They had a team of stars, a team that was one good winning streak away from blowing the division wide open.
An 11-game winning streak followed those huge acquisitions, putting a charge into the city of Toronto, the players, and frankly, all of Canada. They were back to being contenders, back to being a respectable team in an impossible American League East. Torontonians and Canadians alike had more of a hop in there step, more of a swagger, wearing jerseys that had ‘PRICE’ or ‘TULOWITZKI.’ Jays merchandise took priority over regular shirts and hats. It was time to believe, and this time it wasn’t about being hopeful, it was about expecting to win every time your boys went out there. Every loss was shocking and upsetting and watching baseball became fun again.
Record TV audiences, 17 straight sold-out games, and a second-half record of 40-18. They were good; honestly, they were a team that looked impossible to beat. Their hard-nosed, team-first attitude and star players shone under the big lights and 50,000 strong every night in Toronto. This pushed and propelled the players to perform even better than they thought they could.
After grinding and battling through August and September to erase an eight-game lead the Yankees had over them in the division, the return of star pitcher Marcus Stroman instilled passion and pride and made people believe this was something they had never seen before. They were watching a team that was phenomenal. Watching a 24-year-old come back from an ACL tear in five months and pitch in the biggest games of the season — and win — really makes the hair on your skin stand up.
The Blue Jays were AL East champions, and everything felt like a dream. It didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel real that we had the best third baseman, shortstop, starting pitcher, catcher and defensive center fielder in the game. It didn’t feel real we had David Price and Marcus Stroman pitching on back-to-back days, and it definitely did not feel real that the Jays ended their 22-season playoff drought. The city of Toronto was bustling with a sea of blue, even on their off days. Buses had “Go Jays Go” streamed across their ticker. If you didn’t end emails with “Go Jays Go” you were being absurd. It felt surreal around a city where baseball comes second to the Maple Leafs, and sometimes third to the division-winning Raptors, but now it was all Blue Jays.
This was a team you will tell your kids about. You will tell them you got to see highlight-reel catches by a guy who was destined to be on the bench. You will tell them you saw a young kid tear his ACL and come back and be better than ever. You will tell them you saw David Price in a Blue Jays uniform. You will tell them you witnessed one of the greatest moments in Blue Jays history, the bat flip. You will tell them your pride in wearing Toronto Blue everywhere. You will tell them what it felt like to see an entire nation unite as one and watch the best in the business do what they do best.
The Jays did not win the World Series, nor did they win the American League. But they instilled pride and love of baseball and united a country. They caused tears of happiness and heart break. This was one of those seasons where everything goes right. After a three-run blast in the eighth inning of the ALDS Game 5, Jose Bautista let loose for a bat flip that was seen across the world. Everyone in Toronto was singing the old “Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose.” After that moment, the belief was they would not lose another game. They had a shot of energy from their undeclared captain.
These moments were all something out of a fairy tale, something that happens every once in a long while. This was a team that captured the hearts of Canada. There were kids playing catch more than shooting a puck. There were mini Donaldsons and Bautistas. Everyone wanted to be Kevin Pillar and steal catches and hearts, and everyone wanted to imitate that bat flip.
This team is going to be good for a long time. They came close, and that’s all Toronto really wanted. Competitive baseball in September. They wanted the nail biting, the crying, and the pride, and did they ever get it.
Fairy tales are nice but they don’t always have happy endings. See you next year Toronto.