By JAMES TUBB on October 9, 2021.
The Jays scored a zillion runs, had a lot of fun and played meaningful baseball into September. What more can anyone ask for?
Yes, having a shot at the World Series would be great, but that wasn’t really realistic. At least not with this rendition of the Blue Jays.
Instead of a quick exit from the playoffs, Toronto got exactly what they needed this season: disappointment.
The Blue Jays are a young team and the lessons that come with falling short aren’t always the worst thing. Baseball fans across the country watched along with 22-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as he witnessed, on the Rogers Centre jumbotron, Red Sox infielder Rafael Devers hit a seventh-inning home run to push the Blue Jays out of the playoff picture and put an end to their season.
Toronto swept their final series against Baltimore and had luck falling their way the last couple weeks of the year to potentially get a playoff berth. But as that Devers home run cleared the fence of Nationals Park, Vlad Jr. sat cold and emotionless for a second before slipping into the tunnel toward the Jays clubhouse. The moment of potential bliss of making the playoffs slipped away as quickly as the season did.
This team that was fun to watch every night with antics on and off the field, a gimmicky-but cute home run jacket, and enough personality to fill a reality show, needed to be let down. Just as their fans were.
It’s not often that teams have MLB success without experiencing a lot of hardship first. Clayton Kershaw and the L.A. Dodgers had to lose a lot of big games come playoff time and endure two World Series losses at the hands of literal cheaters before they could enjoy it themselves. The 2015 Kansas City Royals, the team Jays fans love to hate for understandable reasons, went through losing the 2014 World Series before they could dominate and take home the 2015 pennant.
Those two teams had their young stars in Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Salvador Perez and their veterans like Kershaw, Eric Hosmer and Johnny Cueto.
Toronto has their young guns with a MVP candidate in Guerrero, an all-star in Bo Bichette and a potential ace in Alek Manoah. They’ve started adding veterans who have endured the losing grind that is baseball, in Hyun Jyn-Ryu, George Springer and Jose Berrios. They are not done adding to the team as their lack of depth was exposed in the bullpen and the offence went cold at the worst times.
The Blue Jays will enter next season a better, stronger team than they were in 2021 because of their success, but moreso their failures.
Likely, they’ll fail in 2022 as well, and it will hurt even more to watch Guerrero or Bichette watch others win as their own season ends prematurely. But with that loss, like in life, will come a very difficult but needed lesson. As Rocky Balboa said, “It’s not how hard you hit but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
The Blue Jays are a team that could already hit pretty damn hard. It’s only going to get better from here.
James Tubb is a sports reporter with the Medicine Hat News. Feedback can be sent to email@example.com.