Back in November, when the Blue Jays rushed to the front of an empty queue in order to sign Kendrys Morales, quashing all but the most delusional hopes that the club would reunite with beloved DH Edwin Encarnacion, fans were in no mood to hear of all the positive things their new cleanup hitter would bring.
As the winter progressed, with Edwin languishing on the free-agent market and it becoming clearer by the day that the Blue Jays had made a franchise-defining misstep by refusing to wait, that mood didn’t exactly change. At least for those long and bitter months, Morales seemed like he might forever stay “Not Edwin,” a pariah doomed simply because he took the money the Jays put in front of him.
You can’t blame fans for having difficulty getting over Edwin. His smile was as big as his bat. He was always loose, exuberant, always having fun on the field. “He hang it, I bang it,” he famously said after a 2014 walk-off home run, which was as perfect an Edwin quote as you were likely ever to get, and one of the rare ones in English. He was polite in his manner, but ferocious when he needed to be—a contrast perfectly fitting to the wild-eyed fans in MLB’s lone Canadian outpost.
More than Jose Bautista, more than Josh Donaldson, I think Edwin embodied the true spirit of baseball’s resurgence in Toronto. It’s hard not to have fun when Edwin is in the building, bounding around the bases with an imaginary parrot on his arm, or accidentally launching his bat into the 14th row.
These are not easy shoes to fill.