By: Nikolas Theodorakidis | @nikolastheo
October 14, 2015 holds a special place in the hearts of Toronto sports fans. It was on this day that Jose Bautista took a 1-1 pitch from Texas Rangers reliever Sam Dyson deep into the left field seats, lifting the Blue Jays to a series win in the American League Divisional Series. He paused and watched it leave the park for a moment before throwing his bat in the air and rounding the bases. When speaking to anyone about it, you just have to say “the Bat Flip” and they know what you’re talking about.
That moment meant a lot to a franchise that had not seen the postseason or much of any important baseball since the back to back World Series wins in 1992 and 1993. Fans who were in diapers or had yet to be born—like myself—finally had a memory to tell future generations about.
What was even better about that game was that it numbed the pain of Toronto’s eventual elimination to Kansas City in the following round. Toronto blew a lead in Game Two of that series and got shellacked in Game Four at home. But who cared? That could not take the Bat Flip away from us.
And here we are, a year later, with the Jays in a similar position. Having eliminated the Texas Rangers once again, they kick off the American League Championship Series tonight against Cleveland. Already this year, we have new stories to tell. Edwin Encarnacion’s walk off home run in the American League Wildcard game and Josh Donaldson’s dash for home plate in Game Three of the Divisional Series were incredible finishes to incredible games. However, one would have to imagine that they will not be enough to get the fan base through the long, hard winter this time around.
There is too much uncertainty surrounding the team to have fans react the same way they did last year.
At least eight members of the Blue Jays will be entering free agency this offseason, including Bautista and Encarnacion, two players that have been mainstays in the Jays offence for years and are regarded as two of the franchise’s all-time greats.
There is a very real chance that all eight of those players will be gone next year, leaving this team looking a lot different and quite possibly a whole lot less competitive. If that happens, and this team fails to play at the level they did this year, those great moments and warm feelings might not be enough to escape the feeling that this was a wasted opportunity.
With that said, there are enough positives with this team to think that they won’t squander this.
For one, the troubles the team ran into in the playoffs last year have come and gone already. The team went 13-16 in September and lost their lead in the American League East, but have bounced back and gone undefeated in six October games. The starting pitching has fewer questions than it did this time last year, and the offence looks as potent as ever.
Coupled with that, their opponent is hurting. Cleveland will be without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, two starting pitchers that would have made the Jays road to a championship a lot more difficult.
A lot of things are going the Jays way at this point, even more than when they were setting the baseball world on fire last year. And for the sake of the fans and a franchise that does not know what coming years might look like, hopefully the moments we have been given in the past will not be the final ones.
Featured image via SB Nation