The Toronto Blue Jays are your American League East champions.
It has been 22 years since that could sentence could have been written as fact and not just a preseason prediction, but after routing the Baltimore Orioles in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader, the Jays clinched the division title for the first time since they won back-to-back World Series in the mid-90s.
The fact that they lost 8-1 in the second game of the twin bill doesn’t matter one iota because they did what very few people thought was possible at the start of the season: they won the division and punched their ticket to the playoffs.
This felt like a “win or we tear it down” season heading into the year and midway through the season, everyone seemed to recognize that the division was there for the taking; all they needed to do was make a couple moves to shore up some weaknesses and they could make a run.
And then they made those moves. And then they made that run.
On July 29, Toronto was 50-51.
Today, they’re 92-66 and likely all kinds of hung over after celebrating their division win following Wednesday’s night cap in Baltimore.
There are a ton of factors that go into winning a division. Some, like good health, which are mostly out of a club’s control, but there is also a lot of praise that deserves to be handed out in the wake of this playoff berth, starting with general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Not only did he fleece the Oakland Athletics to land MVP candidate and team catalyst Josh Donaldson, but he pulled the trigger on a series of pivotal moves that took this team from being in the race to running away with it over the last two months. In one of them – the David Price deal – he broke his own “No Rentals” rule, knowing that the club needed to strike while the iron was hot.
And now, based on the club’s success since his arrive, Price may not end up being the rental player many thought he would be when he was dealt to the Jays in the first place. Team success, a tremendous atmosphere and a commitment to keeping this group together could go a long way in swaying the impending free agent’s decision on where he plays next year and right now, the Blue Jays look like as good a bet as any to give him a chance to win a ring next year.
While Donaldson receiving praise for his incredible season is obvious, there are a handful of unsung guys that deserve some love as well.
Marco Estrada has been a gem all season given that he was brought in to be a part of the bullpen after being shipped out of Milwaukee in a deal for Adam Lind. He never complained about starting in the ‘pen and when he moved into the rotation, he became a reliable option every fifth day almost immediately.
Aaron Sanchez happily went the other way, moving back to the bullpen after being in the rotation prior to his stint on the disabled list. Ryan Goins stepped in and stepped up when Devon Travis went down early in the season and played really well. Kevin Pillar has had an amazing season that should result in a Gold Glove and no one every wondering when Dalton Pompey is going to take over in centerfield.
Toronto started the year as an “if everything breaks their way and they make a couple more moves” kind of team and here we are on October 1, 2015 and everything broke their way, they made a couple more moves and they’re the American League East Champions.
Drink it in, Blue Jays fans.
It doesn’t get any better than this.