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With the year almost at an end, I thought this was as good a time as any to revisit the magic that came before.

The magical run of the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays came to an unfortunate (and perhaps controversial) finish on the Friday night of October 23rd. Even these couple months later there is still a lot to digest from that eventful Game Six of the ALCS, not to mention the much debated direction of the team beyond that point. But I want to take a step back from anything like that and look at what actually transpired for those seven months there in the summer.

Because frankly, it was incredible.

I've only been writing on Da Box for a couple of years, but one of the more interesting dynamics I've noticed on this site is that wide spectrum of age amongst the posters. Some of you can vividly recall George Brett bopping balls deep into the night at Exhibition Stadium in 1985, and thus the emotions that ran through your mind at that moment. For others, it is hardly more than words and numbers in a boxscore, or perhaps a grainy YouTube clip of a game played decades before with an outcome long decided. For one who never saw a moment like that in the moment, to watch footage of it is enjoyable as a historical curiosity but any emotional connection isn't really possible because frankly, you just weren't there.

I personally fall into that second group. When Joe touched em all I'd just turned six and the memories of those times are as blurry as my first day of school or the first time I ever played Nintendo. (Actually, I remember that last one really well. Kids, um... those days). Anyhow, the point is that there is an entire generation of baseball fans here in Toronto and all across the country for whom the idea of the Blue Jays playing postseason baseball was just one of those grainy, far away video clips that only affects you in the present because words and numbers say it happened. You know, the kind of thing your parents talk about when claiming they were young and hip. Well, it's different now. Everything has changed.

The Toronto Blue Jays did not make the postseason for 21 straight seasons. They went through nine managers (two of them twice!), and watched other team after other team reach October baseball. Some of these squads had never even made the postseason before (Texas, Seattle), others reached the big final dance despite having never previously won a playoff round (Astros, Angels), and a quartet of teams that either were barely in their initial existence (Colorado, Miami) or that didn't even exist (Tampa Bay, Arizona) when the Blue Jays last played a postseason game. When the Kansas City Royals won a berth in the 2014 AL Wildcard Game, these Bluebirds had the sudden and unfortunate distinction of owning the longest playoff drought in any major North American sports league. Even the Cleveland Browns (!) appeared in a playoff game more recently than the Blue Jays. I don't follow football at all, but even I know that's a very, very bad thing. 

Toronto (and all of Canada for that matter) had suffered through a long period of low-stakes baseball. This season Toronto employed a pitcher who hadn't even been born yet when fans of the Blue Jays last enjoyed playoff baseball. When Toronto took on the Texas Rangers in the ALDS, they were the thirtieth and final team to ever participate in that specific playoff round. That's because the last time the Blue Jays made the MLB playoffs, the LDS didn't even exist yet.

Needless to say, this had been a long time coming. And there were a whole bunch of Toronto baseball fans that just practically went through a customs checkpoint in a foreign country. The concept of the Toronto Blue Jays in the playoffs(!) was difficult to grasp in many, many ways. I remember watching the first game at an old buddy's house, nursing a brew while Jamie Campbell interviewed Don Cherry about baseball for some unfathomable reason. But most important was that feeling of eagerly awaiting that first pitch to kick off the series, like a pinch to prove to yourself you're not actually dreaming. These guys had finally done it, finally made it to the big stage. The new formula from this point on was equal mix satisfaction, confidence, and fear. This was an excellent team, but the playoffs are always an unknown. A big, scary unknown.

After the Bluebirds dropped the first two games against Texas, the discussion and attitudes changed again. It all seemed over too quickly, too cruelly, even though it technically wasn't. But it felt like it. Out came the usual quotables like "inexperienced in the playoffs", "no leadership" and everyone's favourite "Toronto sports curse" trope. Seeing as Paul Pierce was nowhere in sight, I reasonably hoped for just one victory. If the Blue Jays went down in four, okay fine grumble grumble. But to wait for so long through countless seasons of underwhelming mediocrity, only for it to end so underwhelmingly, didn't seem fair. Just steal one in Texas and see what happens tomorrow. And they did. Then, they did it again.

Ah. Game Five.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about the Blue Jays not winning the World Series in 2015, or at least making it there, is that Game Five won't quite get the notoriety it deserves in baseball history. Consider the events comparatively: you have something similar to Merkle's Boner (Martin throwing the ball off Choo's bat), Buckner's famous error (twice! twice!!!), a big go-ahead home run to effectively win a series (always a classic), and if you wanna stretch it, a Kirk Gibson-lite performance by a guy not even expected to play at all in 2015 (the Duke college guy). Nevermind the bench clearing stuff, Pompey's somewhat questionable slide into home (he was so trying to take out Gimenez), Edwin Carbo with the game tying blast, and the guy who can't legally drink in most US States finishing off the deal. Some sharp Canadian sports writer is going to write a book about this game one day. It wasn't so much a game as it was an opera, with twists and turns and even betrayal (I mean, how else can you explain Elvis Andrus and his glove in the 7th inning?)

But what really made this past season so magical wasn't only that game. Rather, that game encapsulates what 2015 was all about: exciting baseball from an exciting team. Ninth inning wins, dramatic comebacks, absurd comebacks (that million run inning in Boston), crazy winning streaks, walk off moon shots, dazzling catches, rain being brung; all commonplace for this squad. This was a fun team to watch even before the big trades, because despite the middling W-L record there was always the potential for something magical each and every game. Nobody knows what 2016 will bring (I still think this is a pretty darned good looking team, For What It is Worth) but whatever concern or frustration with that carnival shouldn't diminish from the exhilarating ride called "The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays".

After fifteen-plus years of following this team, it was indescribably great to finally be there for something meaningful. To share in the excitement and feelings of a big moment. And there's an entire generation of fans feeling the same way.

2015: Requiem Of A Run | 33 comments | Create New Account
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jerjapan - Tuesday, December 29 2015 @ 01:39 PM EST (#317532) #
Thanks Eephus, a fun read indeed and I agree with you that game 5's place in baseball lore might not be that prominent, but that it truly was one of the most remarkable games you are ever likely to see.  Probably the most exciting game I've ever watched, and I AM old enough to remember KC in 85, the Detroit series in 87, Gibson vs. the A's, etc ....
SK in NJ - Tuesday, December 29 2015 @ 01:59 PM EST (#317534) #
It's a shame they couldn't win the World Series. When it comes to making a playoff roster, AA did about as good a job as anyone could have hoped for. That team was arguably the most talented team in the league (the August-October version of the roster). Really illustrates how much of a crap shoot the playoffs are.

I wish the Jays could have made the playoffs with Halladay and Delgado, but seeing Bautista/Edwin get there with the Jays was pretty sweet.
Mike Green - Tuesday, December 29 2015 @ 02:56 PM EST (#317537) #
Thanks, eephus.  "Requiem for a Run" reminds me of Updike.  Somehow I don't think that his sons are named Richard Allen Updike and Reginald Jackson Updike but youneverknow. 

The 2015 and 1985 Blue Jays were probably the best clubs in the organization's history.  The  losses to (what I consider to be) lesser Kansas City clubs who went on to win the World Series leaves us with some kind of a score to settle.  It might take another three decades until they get a chance...

CeeBee - Tuesday, December 29 2015 @ 03:10 PM EST (#317538) #
Thanks Eephus. I'm from the first group, the one that remembers the day MLB came to Canada....Le grande orange, Coco Laboy, Ron Fairly and all the rest but man, it was the big leagues and we had our own team, well 3000 miles away team but this side of the 49th. Then the rumours of Toronto getting a team and yes! a team in my favorite league so I could still be an Expos fan as well. Lots of tough times, lots of good times but ALWAYS baseball time!
When does spring training start? I'm getting antsy.
Magpie - Tuesday, December 29 2015 @ 04:00 PM EST (#317539) #
Game Five was the greatest Blue Jay moment of my life as a fan. And I remember 1992. I was in the freaking house when Joe Carter took Mitch Williams deep. Game Five was the best.

And I'm not the only one. All kinds of people who were around the early 1990s championship runs (Jerry Howarth comes instantly to mind) also commented that the spirit around the team and the fans was just way, way more exciting and intense in 2015 than it had been twenty years earlier. I think I know why.

By 1992, the team and the fans were extremely wary. The Blue Jays had been serious contenders every season for almost a decade. But they'd provided the post-season collapse of 1985 and the regular season collapse of 1987. After satisfying seasons, they'd been quickly blown away in the 1989 and 1991 post-seasons. They'd gone into seasons regarding themselves as favourites only to spin their wheels pointlessly for much of the season (1986, 1988, 1990.) The fans had been burned, over and over and over. Hearts had been broken. Fans still wanted to believe, but had grown reluctant. There had been too many disappointments.

Then a generation came and went, by which time all of that had become history rather than shared experience. After two decades of medicority, just being in the the hunt was exciting. Everything about it was new and fresh. And the 2015 team came out of sub-.500 land to provide the most remarkable run of play in franchise history.
ISLAND BOY - Tuesday, December 29 2015 @ 05:53 PM EST (#317541) #
While I agree this year's game 5 win was very dramatic, my favourite memory was the Jays first World Series win because ... well, because we were champions ! I absolutely loved this year's August/September run, but wonder if the current regime will make similar daring trades if the team is in the playoff hunt at next years trade deadline. I somehow doubt it.
Richard S.S. - Tuesday, December 29 2015 @ 06:09 PM EST (#317542) #
I'm waiting for "That Incredible Inning" to get out on DVD. It could be a massive sell-out in just hours.
What did that incredible run teach us?
1) Never, ever give up on this team. I don't think they see any games as unwinnable any more. Nor do I think they see any pitchers as unbeatable any more.
2) The Team wasn't good enough. The Bullpen was the Achilles' heel for this Team. They were one top LHP and one top RHP away from having enough arms, and still are. Might be worse now.
3) Gibby wasn't a fast enough learner. What your players did in the Regular Season does not matter. There are too many off days to need to pitch extra innings. Players sitting at third base MUST ALWAYS SCORE.
4) Do not trust your Pitchers any more, they pitched a full season and might be out if gas. Be ready with a quick hook as each run is precious.
Dave Till - Tuesday, December 29 2015 @ 06:30 PM EST (#317543) #
I rank the Bat Flip game second all-time, behind the final game of the 1992 World Series. That game was dramatic too: recall that the Jays were one strike away from winning before giving up the tying run in the ninth. And the 11th inning was quite tense. (#3 on the all-time list is the first game of the 1989 showdown series between the Jays and Orioles on the final weekend of the season.)

The post-game celebrations in 1992 were pretty awesome too - there were thousands of people walking up and down Yonge Street, exchanging high-fives with random strangers and shouting incoherent joyful things. I know this because I was one of them!

But I think 2015 was special because the fans had waited so long - there are people who are legal adults and have families and suchlike who were either too young to remember 1993 or weren't even born yet. So there was a lot of pent-up anticipation and excitement.

As for how I rank the teams: the 2015 Jays were really two teams - the .500 team that they were until the end of July, and the team that they became after the trades. With Price, Tulowitzki, and Revere, they might rank as the best Jays team of all time, but I'm not sure how to pro-rate that over a full season. Certainly, the 2015 team's run in August was the best winning streak I've ever seen.
wdc - Tuesday, December 29 2015 @ 09:03 PM EST (#317544) #
Magpie.  I would just like to thank Magpie for his thoughts comparing the 1992 BJs run and this past year.  I think that we are about the same age.  I attended the fourth game in the 1992 Series, the last one that Jimmy Key pitched for the Jays.  It was a wild time and the Jays came through to win the game.  As a boy I grew up in the Okanagan Valley, Penticton, and dreamed about the World Series but never thought that I would ever see a game live.  So that 1992 game was the fulfillment of a boy hood dream (although I started following baseball using my father's team, the Cardinals.  No BJs existed when I was a boy.)

But I do also agree with Magpie that this year's 5th game matched the 1992 game that I attended.  Although the fans were loud in 1992, this year's game was just beyond anything that I have ever seen.  The fans were going crazy before the first pitch was thrown and it never stopped.

As for Magpie, when I come on the blog, I always look first to read what he says.  It is always good, always helpful, and always well written.  Thanks to you, Magpie.

uglyone - Wednesday, December 30 2015 @ 06:31 AM EST (#317546) #
I actually do think that The Inning will find its rightful place in baseball history. It already won the internet in a way few things do. There is no baseball fan alive who will ever forget the Bat Flip, and thus that inning. I bet this gets more mileage in the end than Carter's Blast.
John Northey - Wednesday, December 30 2015 @ 09:29 AM EST (#317547) #
Carter's blast had a big advantage in being the end of the last world series for a couple of years thanks to the bloody 1994 strike that killed the Expos.
Richard S.S. - Wednesday, December 30 2015 @ 02:19 PM EST (#317548) #
...but I'm not sure how to pro-rate that over a full season...

I don't think you need to pro-rate it. Every player, after about 450 games played, establishes career averages which form a good benchmark for what we can expect from that player. Baring injuries, this is pretty close to what they'll do. Much better numbers are either a breakout year or a career year, but it takes a year to know for sure.

I expect Jose Bautista, Ben Revere, Michael Saunders, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin to have at least career-average years. That's well above the norm right there.
Kevin Pillar has figured it out and I expect a breakout year from him in 2016.
I think it's very possible that Josh Donaldson is that good, and a continual top MVP candidate.
Devon Travis looked on his way to winning Rookie Of The Year until injured, so I think his numbers are/will be real.
R.A. Dickey beats his Catchers up, so I don't expect much from Josh Thole. I do expect his numbers will get much better if he must take over for Russell.
I believe Chris Colabello hits, no matter what, because that's who he is. Otherwise his defense doesn't play if he can't hit.
I think Justin Smoak hits better with more consistent playing time. Not losing ABs to Navarro is a huge gain.
Ryan Goin will hit, just not well enough to take a job away from Tulowitzki or Travis. That I'm sure off.

I don't think you have to pro-rate the Number One Offense in all of Baseball.
Richard S.S. - Wednesday, December 30 2015 @ 03:31 PM EST (#317550) #
Dodgers give Kazmir 3 years at $16.0 MM per with opt out after 1 year. Just shows what a bargain Estrada and Happ were.
Mike Green - Wednesday, December 30 2015 @ 03:51 PM EST (#317551) #
Dodgers give Kazmir 3 years at $16.0 MM per with opt out after 1 year

It's a weird player and age for an opt-out.  Let's imagine that Kazmir has a good year- throws 175 inniings with an ERA of 3.5.  I guess he can opt out and maybe get a new contract for $17.5 million over 3 years.  Maybe....There certainly is more money around MLB as of the end of 2015 than there has been in a long time.
JohnL - Wednesday, December 30 2015 @ 10:48 PM EST (#317552) #
Great write-up of the season, Eephus. I agree with Magpie and others that the impact this year was so huge because of those 20+ years. I was at the first WS game in 92, and the last one in 93, but those happened after a decade of winning/contention.

I will however take issue with your "age range" comments though. Going "back" to those who remember Brett in 85? I went to Maple Leafs (AAA) games at Maple Leaf Stadium in the 60's (and even owned $20 worth of stock in the team). Dewey has posted memories on BB of Don Larsen's perfect game. The range is bigger....

And in unrelated news, look out for for Doc Jr, coming to a team near you...?
Jeremy - Wednesday, December 30 2015 @ 11:05 PM EST (#317553) #
If the Jays can go 100-62 this year, they'll be back over .500 as a franchise all-time.
Mike Green - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 09:46 AM EST (#317555) #
My New Year's resolutions:

1.  see more live music and baseball
2.  try to follow two of Satchel's rules for long living- don't look back and avoid red meat (not only does it jangle the spirits but it's murder on your carbon footprint)

I got my first flex pack this year, so I've got a head start on #1.

Happy new year, bauxites.

ComebyDeanChance - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 09:58 AM EST (#317557) #
MLBTR links to a great John Lott piece on Mark Shapiro. Toronto's lucky to have Lott.
SK in NJ - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 11:31 AM EST (#317561) #

Sickels top 20 Jays prospects for 2016.
ogator - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 12:01 PM EST (#317562) #
The Shapiro piece was a very interesting piece. While he doesn't say so explicitly, my reading is that he is planning on taking apart and then rebuilding the team and that it might take eight years before they are again competitive and that he doesn't much care if people like him or not. If he is saying that in eight years the team may once again be competitive, it is a very good thing that he doesn't care if people like him or not. I don't think people will give him eight years. Toronto isn't Cleveland and while some people maybe be generous enough to cut him some slack, eight years is a helluva lot of slack.
jerjapan - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 12:19 PM EST (#317563) #
Ogator, I read that piece too but I don't get where you see the rebuild plan in Shapiro's comments? The whole "I don't care if people like me" approach seems reasonable, although more of a necessary skill when you field perennial losers due to budget issues.  we aren't in that situation, so if people still dislike Shapiro this time next year, I'd say that means he's off to a poor start.  I've been one of his most vocal critics but if we make the playoffs and build for the future at the same time, all is forgiven.  
SK in NJ - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 12:25 PM EST (#317564) #
Shapiro's main moves this off-season involved re-signing a 32-year old starter (Estrada), signing a 33-year old starter (Happ), and trading for another 32-year old starter (Chavez). Safe to say he's not planning a rebuilding effort in 2016.
jerjapan - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 12:40 PM EST (#317566) #
Sure SK, but not safe to say for 2017.  I don't think those moves are indicative of a long-term plan in either direction - somebody has to start for the team, rebuild or not, and none of those commitments are legit. 

In other words, even if Shapiro wants a rebuild, those moves fit.   
SK in NJ - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 12:53 PM EST (#317567) #
He kept the offense in tact (keeping/adding depth to it) while adding inexpensive (in terms of the market) short-term SP options to fill out the MLB and minor league rotations. I think that's more of a sign of going for it (within his "payroll parameters") rather than setting up a rebuild. If he wanted to rebuild, I don't think Sanchez and Osuna would be relievers in 2016, and it looks like they will be. He's trying to win in 2016.

I do agree that he could take a step back in 2017 depending on what happens in 2016 (and with Bautista/EE), but the way he's built the team since taking over has left many different possibilities as far as direction. I don't think it's fair to say he wants to rebuild. Maybe he would have if 2015 ended up differently, but that's clearly not the case now.
jerjapan - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 01:57 PM EST (#317569) #
I don't think he wants to rebuild either - that was Ogator's take on the John Lott article.  I just think he had no choice but to go for it in 2015 - the team was damn close to the WS and Rogers wasn't going to cut payroll / move out position players after promising to spike the budget if the fans showed up.

But none of those moves you cite are evidence that Shapiro will go for it in 2017.  $50 million plus is a lot of money - and talent - heading into FA.  one year of estrada and two of Happ aren't going to prevent a rebuild.  Again, I don't think this is his plan. 

ComebyDeanChance - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 03:41 PM EST (#317571) #
I read that piece too but I don't get where you see the rebuild plan in Shapiro's comments

I don't think that's a reading that flows from the article either, but that said, the farm system is now going to have to be rebuilt after last July's trades. It's obviously not going to be rebuilt without acquiring additional draft picks through qualifying offers, which may not bode well for re-signing JB and EE.
Richard S.S. - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 04:00 PM EST (#317572) #
Look at last year and what this Team almost did and the Magic it created. The lineup needs nothing, Pitching is much better but still a work in progress. I can't believe anyone thinks the Jays are not going for it in 2016. Prices are ridiculous so filling any holes just takes much, much longer. Players start getting concerned after January 1 and start signing less than their best deals, so paying attention is necessary.

It's very possible Shapiro wants to get younger in 2017, so R.A. Dickey, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will not be back in 2017. They might be blocking younger talent. Dalton Pompey might not be more than a 4th Outfielder, but he needs his chance. It might be possible Anthony Alford and Rowdy Tellez move faster than we think, so they need their chance.

Isn't the MLB/MLBPA agreement up after the 2016 season? The whole question of the 2017 Season just might be moot.
Richard S.S. - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 04:19 PM EST (#317574) #
Blue Jays have an extra 2nd Round Pick (#57) for 2016. They'll be able to sign INT. Free Agents starting in July 2016, although with a $300 K limit per player. Beyond that, the New MLB/MLBPA agreement might chance things.
jerjapan - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 05:53 PM EST (#317577) #
I dunno that we need comp picks to rebuild the farm - I could see us moving from the 19th/20th or so ranking that we have now to top 15 just based on our young prospects aging.  I quoted Sickels in the other active thread on this, but he also sees this system taking steps forward based on how much of our prospect talent is in the lower levels. 
SK in NJ - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 05:56 PM EST (#317579) #
"I don't think he wants to rebuild either - that was Ogator's take on the John Lott article. I just think he had no choice but to go for it in 2015 - the team was damn close to the WS and Rogers wasn't going to cut payroll / move out position players after promising to spike the budget if the fans showed up.

But none of those moves you cite are evidence that Shapiro will go for it in 2017. $50 million plus is a lot of money - and talent - heading into FA. one year of estrada and two of Happ aren't going to prevent a rebuild. Again, I don't think this is his plan. "


I was also responding to Ogator's point about Shapiro wanting to rebuild. That's simply not the case in 2016, and nothing he has done points to that conclusion.

They are clearly going for it in 2016, but Bautista, EE, Cecil, and Dickey are free agents after the season. Those are/were big pieces from AA's "run". Chavez is a free agent after the season. Smoak and Saunders, assuming they work out positively next season, are also free agents. There will be significant change one way or another. What Shapiro did this off-season is try to win in 2016 while keeping all the prospects and maintaining flexibility for 2017-beyond. Signing Estrada and Happ won't prevent them from rebuilding, but it won't prevent them from going for it in 2017 either. The moves were made to improve the team short-term.

I don't think the Jays will rebuild regardless because that's not how Rogers operates. A full scale rebuild is both unnecessary and likely to hurt revenue so it's probably not a feasible way for them to go. More likely scenario is building around Donaldson/Stroman/Tulo with a consistent payroll ($130-140M??) and hoping to avoid the dreaded "good but not good enough" type of teams that plagued the Jays through the previous 20 years.
scottt - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 08:27 PM EST (#317580) #
Shapiro is not rebuilding, that would imply moving older players for younger ones and he hasn't done that.
He's not going for it either. That would imply trading prospects or signing free agents to contracts that are likely to hurt the team in the long run.

He's just spending as much as he has to field a complete team.
It's likely that none of the guys he added will be All-Stars.

Richard S.S. - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 09:23 PM EST (#317581) #
Assuming everyone who might be a Free Agent after 2016 actually is, creates $59.45-ish Millions in workable space. But after 2016 is the time to worry about after 2016.
jensan - Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 10:43 PM EST (#317582) #
Jays team is offensively stronger than 2015, and their defense is stronger. Injuries will predicate the future. Another RP for the 7/8 th inning would be beneficial.

Still believe if the Jays between now and end of July can trade for a young SP, that for 2017 either Joey Bats or EE could be re-signed by the TBJ.

If Ben Revere is to be kept past this season Jays should work on a 3/$24 MM deal or let him be part of the trade for improvement and Michael S in the alternative 2/9 MM.
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