For the first time in four years, Canada would cheer on their team in the postseason.
After defeating the New York Yankees 4-1 on September 24th, the Toronto Blue Jays officially clinched their first postseason spot in four seasons.
On Tuesday, the Blue Jays were gearing up for their first postseason game since the Encarnacion, Bautista, Donaldson era. By Wednesday, they were already heading home. Despite the early exit, this season was a success for Toronto.
Not Intimidated by the No. 1 Seed
Coming in as the eighth seed and facing off against the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto were underdogs. That wasn’t phasing them.
Despite all the numbers stacking up against them, Toronto wasn’t nervous. As Blue Jays rookie shortstop Bo Bichette put it before the series, they were “zero percent intimidated.”
After being swept in two games, the Blue Jays sure looked intimidated.
Disaster in Game 2
After a close 3-1 loss in Game 1, everything went wrong for Toronto in Game 2.
Blue Jays ace Hyun-Jin Ryu had his worst game of the season, Bo Bichette made a number of uncharacteristic errors, and their offense was non-existent aside from Danny Jansen.
Despite all this, this year’s campaign was still a success for the young Blue Jays.
Step in the Right Direction
The season was never about winning for the Blue Jays — it was about gaining experience for the future. Gaining some postseason experience as well was a bonus.
Although they probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs in a regular season, all that matters to them is that they did.
Even with the new postseason format, Toronto wasn’t predicted to be here. Most experts expected them to be in the basement of the division with the Baltimore Orioles.
Although they came into the playoffs as the very final playoff spot in the American League, Toronto was only one game behind the fifth-seeded New York Yankees.
If Toronto had overtaken New York and faced Cleveland in the Wild Card series instead of Tampa Bay, things could be very different right now for the Jays.
The franchises’ cornerstones for the future, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr, all had successful seasons as well.
Despite only playing 29 games this season, Bichette was one of the club’s best players. Vladdy Guerrero heated up towards the end of the season and showed why he was the No. 1 prospect in baseball last year. Cavan Biggio’s batting average, OBP, and OPS were all up from last season. And Gurriel Jr was arguably Toronto’s best player this season.
Wasted Trades at the Deadline
Despite a relatively successful season, Toronto’s moves at the trade deadline ended up being a disappointment.
Gearing up for a postseason run, the Blue Jays front office shipped away a number of prospects in exchange for some veterans at the deadline.
Among those traded away were #15 prospect Griffin Conine, in exchange for Jonathan Villar and pitching prospect Travis Bergen for Robbie Ray.
Although Robbie Ray was terrific for Toronto and was one of the teams’ best relievers during his time, the 29-year-old is a free agent this offseason and will likely move on from the club.
Jonathan Villar, who the Jays went out and got for his speed and base running abilities, didn’t show either of those in his month on the team. He, too, is a free agent and will likely play elsewhere next season.
Next Steps for the Blue Jays
Although it’s currently uncertain whether the expanded playoff format will remain next season, it doesn’t matter for the Blue Jays. Regardless of which postseason format the MLB decides to go with next year, their goal will be to make the playoffs.
Anything less than a second-round appearance next season will be considered a disappointment for the club.