“Touch ‘em all, Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!”
It has been a long time — 22 years, to be exact — since Joe Carter hit a walk-off homer for the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies, the last time the franchise appeared in the postseason. After winning back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993, the Blue Jays have failed to make it back to the playoffs since.
Until now, that is. On Saturday, the Jays officially clinched a postseason berth, as they lead the AL East by four games over the New York Yankees, with eight games to go in the regular season. Cue the champagne.
Currently the only Canadian team in the MLB, the Blue Jays have inspired a nationwide fanatical craze, adding band-wagoners by the hundreds with each step closer to the postseason.
At the trade deadline in late July, the Blue Jays, whose record hovered at about .500, decided to go all-in. With the division up for grabs and a front office shake-up possible at the end of another postseason-less season, Toronto started making moves.
Looking for a spark to propel the team to the top of the division, the Jays completed a trade with the Colorado Rockies for the dynamic but injury-prone shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, in return for shortstop Jose Reyes. In addition, Toronto bolstered its pitching staff by acquiring David Price, one of the best starting pitchers in the MLB, from the Detroit Tigers, Mark Lowe from the Seattle Mariners and LaTroy Hawkins from the Rockies as part of the Tulowitzki deal.
Led by MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, star outfielder Jose Bautista, power-hitter Edwin Encarnacion, veteran catcher Russell Martin and veteran pitchers like R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, Toronto has seized control of the AL East and will enter the postseason among the favorites to reach the World Series.
The front office, including General Manager Alex Anthopoulos and President/CEO Paul Beeston, nailed it. Following the deadline, the Blue Jays have gone a combined 37-14 in August and September. David Price has been stellar, with a 9-1 and a 2.30 ERA; Troy Tulowitzki, though injured for some of his Jays days already, has been tremendous when healthy, while Donaldson and Bautista have guided a strong core to prominence.
The Rogers Centre has been buzzing, teeming with more and more enthusiastic supporters as the end of the season draws near. Typically a ballpark with more empty seats than filled ones, the stadium has experienced a revival as a result of the team’s successful 2015 campaign. Packed crowds have witnessed history in the making over the course of the past couple months, cheering loudly, waving towels and sporting rally caps, creating a raucous atmosphere reminiscent of the days of the early ’90s.
This home field advantage will play a role in the postseason, as Toronto currently sits tied for the lead in the American League standings.
Though their fans are ecstatic to finally be back in the postseason, the question now is how high these Blue Jays can fly, and whether Canada’s team can capture the championship of America’s national pastime.