For the first time in 22 years, the Toronto Blue Jays (92-67) are playoff-bound.
Needless to say, Jays fans are pretty happy right about now.
“Yeah, they’re pretty excited,” Sportsnet 590 “The Fan” radio host Jeff Blair said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “They haven’t had a lot to cheer about when it comes to sports in this city – and it’s actually kind of true across the country. I think the last Stanley Cup (that) Canadians have had a chance to celebrate was ’93. So it’s kind of a national craze with this team right now, which is kind of cool actually.”
The Blue Jays have without question the best offense in baseball. Toronto is one of just two teams in the majors with a run differential greater than +100. The Cardinals have a +134. The Jays? They’ve got a +227.
Toronto, which was 53-51 at the trade deadline, has since gone 39-16.
“I guess it goes without saying that the biggest acquisition was David Price,” Blair said. “This was a team that hadn’t had an ace since Roy Halladay. It’s had some pretty decent starting pitchers, but it really hasn’t had that lockdown ace, that guy that just kind of takes the whole team on his back or stops a losing streak – all that good stuff. That’s exactly what David Price brought to the equation, and it’s interesting because for the past couple of years, there’s always been this drama at the trade deadline with this team that management and ownership didn’t go out and do anything to address the needs of the team. Well, this year not only did they get the best starting pitcher at the deadline, they also brought a guy in who has had a transformative effect in this clubhouse.
“It’s kind of a weird dynamic here,” Blair continued. “Josh Donaldson and Russ Martin are both kind of the big dogs on this team, and they both got here in the offseason. So there was this whole kind of sense of newness of guys like Jose Bautista and Edwin (Encarnacion) trying to find their way, and you had Martin and Donaldson – two alpha males – added to the mix. And here comes Price. He’s like everybody’s best friend. He’s a guy who absolutely loves what he’s doing. He can be happy anywhere doing anything, and he’s really kind of brought everybody in the clubhouse together.”
Price is 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and has 87 strikeouts in 74.1 innings for Toronto. Those numbers are great, but the five-time All-Star and former Cy Young winer has been just as indispensable in the locker room. After arriving in Toronto, Price bought scooters for each of his teammates and then surprised them with customized designer bath robes.
“It sounds kind of trite, but for the guys on major league minimums, the younger guys, it was really quite a gesture,” Blair continued. “This is a guy who basically is only going to be here for like two months and he’s acting like a guy who has been here forever. That was really important to what’s gone on with this team. It was kind of the thing that brought everything together. It’s kind of the guy that made everything gel.”