By Rob Ficiur
Friday night I turned off the TV in disgust. The Blue Jays had had runners on second and third base with no one out. One run would tie the game and two would give them the lead (and force Game #7?). Two strikes outs and a pop out later the 2015 season was over. When fans get over the extreme disappointment of coming so close to the World Series, some of their top ten memories will include:
1. Injuries – from training camp on injuries hurt / plagued the team. In April Jose Bautista hurt his arm. When he played designated hitter for nearly a month but his hitting was subpar for him. Brett Cecil struggled for the first half of the season. In the second half he became their most effective reliever. He was missed in the playoffs.
2. Just another .500 team. For the last decade the Jays have been about a .500 team year after year. Good enough to win a few and bad enough to never be close enough. By late July nothing was different – just another .500 team. (See #3)
3. Trade deadline – When the Jays acquired five roster players in less than a week the dynamics of the team changed. Superstars are traded at deadlines all the time – and usually the team continues as it was. The Blue Jays went 43-18 in the last two months of the season. In 2014 Jays’ fans and players complained that no one was acquired at the deadline; 2015 had reset fans’ expectations for what can be accomplished / expected.
4. Home Runs – the 2015 Blue Jays lead baseball with 232 home runs. Their total is 6th best from all teams in the past ten years. (The 2010 Toronto Blue Jays’ 257 home runs is the most in this last decade.) In the last decade the 2009 New York Yankees are the only World Series champion to lead the majors in home runs.
5. Record tying winning streaks – twice this season the Jays had eleven game winning streaks. The Blue Jays were the first team since the 1954 Indians to record two winning streaks of at least 11 games in the same season. The eleven game streak ties the longest in club history. The first such winning streak took place before the trade deadline acquisitions.
6. Never quit comebacks – These Blue Jays never quit. The final game of the season was symbolic of the Jays’ year. Down 3-1, they tied it up. Down 4-3, they came within 90 feet of tying it up. No matter how far down they were the Jays kept trying – and often made improbable comebacks.
7. One Run games – During the season the Blue Jays were 13-27 in one run games. After the trades, when they had the best record in baseball, their record in one run games was five wins and twelve losses. In the playoffs, when games are closer the Jays lost all three games that were decided by two runs or less. The Jays biggest weakness in 2015 was one run games; which makes the upcoming World Series boring. Finding a mentality to deal with close games will be the main task of management, coaches and players in the off season.
8. Playoff Joy – Blue Jays fans (once they get over their current bought of playoff elimination fever) will always remember the 7th inning of the deciding game against Texas. They will remember the Game 4 must win game against Kansas City. Fans got a flavor of playoff joy.
9. Playoff Heartbreak – Being eliminated from the playoffs initially feels as bad as missing the playoffs. In the weeks to come Jays fan will grow numb to the loss. Losing hurts, but it brings hope for another improvement next year. If there is an improvement in 2016 that means that the Jays will be in the World Series 52 weeks from now.
10. Can we start the 2016 season soon – After spending the last seven months following the Canada’s baseball team on a daily basis, fans need their Jays’ baseball fix. There are free agents to re-sign and others to find. We will allow them a few weeks off, but February spring training seems far away to Jays’ fans right now.