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Photo Credit: Nick Turchario-USA TODAY Sports

Ghoulish Thoughts On Edwin’s Return

Not a single Blue Jays fan is going to boo Edwin Encarnación when he makes his return to the Rogers Centre as a member of Cleveland’s baseball club here on Monday night. The reason for that is simple: anybody who boos Edwin has revoked his or her right to be called a Blue Jays fan. Period. Full stop.

I mean, I know I’m not the arbiter of what does or doesn’t constitute Blue Jays fandom and people can do whatever they want and be fans however they want. But on the other hand: fuck you, no you can’t boo Edwin and still call yourself a Jays fan, you fucking squid.

Not that there will be more than a handful of these half-joking halfwits trying to strip all of the humanity out of their baseball experience by making it not even entirely about clothes and a logo and geography, but — in a distinction as narrow as their dick — about this past month’s clothes and logo and geography, as their pea brains struggle to fight off all logic and their very own memories of what Edwin meant for our clothes and our logo and our geography over the last several years.

Fortunately, if these sorts of garbage people actually do exist, they’ll be drown out by the full-throated ovation Edwin will receive from 99.99% of the crowd.

It will be glorious. And the idea that it would or could be anything else — as has been a question among a fans and media these last few days — is utterly insane.

It will maybe be sad, too. But — and this is where I take a slightly ghoulish turn of my own — um… maybe not as sad as we think it is.

Edwin returning to the Rogers Centre in a visitor’s uniform certainly underscores the end of what ended up an incredible era of Blue Jays baseball. Great eras don’t necessarily need to be followed directly by appallingly shitty ones — for example, the trade of Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez marked the end of a great era and the beginning of an even better one for the Blue Jays, and the changes between 1992 and 1993 (Key, Stieb, Gruber, Winfield, Cone, and Henke out, Molitor, Sprague, Stewart, Fernandez, and Ricky in) could be characterized much the same way — but the way things are going here in 2017, it’s hard not to feel like that’s where we’re at.

The way that Edwin left the organization is another part of it all, of course. The Jays, as we all know, offered him more money than he ended up receiving from Cleveland. They wanted him back, he wanted to be back, but the club (wrongly) felt they couldn’t wait to move on to plan B, and Edwin and his agent (wrongly) felt that better offers were still coming. Monday night will be a requiem for what could have been.

In the sense that the Edwin-era Blue Jays are a team that could have, and probably should have (at least in 2015), been World Series champions, that’s entirely appropriate.

But the truth is that keeping Edwin wouldn’t have saved the start of the 2017 season, and having another four year, $80 million contract on the club’s books — instead of, say, José Bautista’s one-year $18.5 million pact — wouldn’t have made any better the predicament the team is steaming headlong into come the end of July. In fact, it probably would have made things worse.

If we imagine Bautista in a Cleveland uniform making his SkyDome return tonight, how much is different? The love-in may have been somewhat muted by comparison, if only because of the way certain squids bristle at José’s personality, and the fact that his struggles in 2016 would have given those same types what they felt was license to vent. But based purely on the numbers, the Jays’ season wouldn’t be going much differently. Edwin, as is his custom, has started the season slowly, and while Bautista has certainly been worse, WAR pegs them at less than a win apart (though Edwin so far is in the positive, albeit barely; José is at an ugly -0.7), and it’s hard to envision a start as pedestrian as Edwin’s leading to many more Blue Jays wins than they’re currently sitting on.

It’s possible that with Edwin on board instead of José, the Jays would have spent money on guys who’d have started better than Steve Pearce or Kendrys Morales, but I think you get what I’m saying. It’s also possible that with Edwin on board they would have spent on José instead of Morales and Pearce, which would have been much more satisfying than this, but still wouldn’t have made for a much rosier present or future.

I want to say that I’m not saying that they’re better off without Edwin, because that sure sounds dumb, but I guess in a very small way I kind of am. The point of offering Edwin $80 million over four years wasn’t because he’d still be providing good value in years three and four of the deal, it was because he’d help a win-now club win now. If 2017 was going to be way too close to pissed away by mid-May already, that contract wouldn’t look so hot. “Not so hot” would have been fine to me, and a great many Blue Jays fans, because it meant our beloved Edwin was still here. But for a team that even more obviously than this one would desperately need to get younger, having one more guy in his mid-30s locked into a $20 million per year AAV over four years would be a little more ugly than I think we’d all care to admit. Having $60 million over the next three years that now isn’t going to Edwin, provided they use it, is not a bad thing. Shit, even if it’s just the $20 million difference between the Edwin offer and the contracts of Bautista, Pearce, and Morales, the Jays will probably end up better off as is, all told. Y’know, in the cold, grim, soulless light of reality.

All of which is mostly just to say: Don’t be sad that he’s gone, be happy that he was here.

So what if it’s a dumbfuck Hallmark cliché? It, unfortunately, also happens to be apt.

  • This is very, very well put and more or less where I am.

    I’m not going to imagine that EE here makes the record better, the same or worse, because it’s impossible to say if he’d be his Jays self or his very new CLE self. It is another bat in the line up on a team that can seem short on offense. But it is what it is. He doesn’t heal Josh Donaldson’s calf.

  • Rob Ray

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This team is in transition from being AA’s and Beeston’s team to Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkin’s team. There will be growing pains and decisions made we won’t like, but three years down the road we’ll be better off.

  • A Guy

    At the risk of sounding like a shill for the FO, I think EE and his camp are more to blame for the “non-signing” – if blame is the right word. He says he wanted to come back, he got a more than a fair offer, but EE & his team wanted more. I understand why the FO moved one – they had to. To wait on EE could have resulted in getting neither player. Evidently even the sainted EE has to extract the last dollar to be happy.

    • El Cabeza

      You can understand why the Jays needed to immediately lock up Morales after the offer was declined, but you don’t understand why an allstar level player would want to see what offers he might get from the rest of the league given this is his only and likely ever opportunity to be a free agent?

      • A Guy

        I guess I go back to what Vernon Wells said when he was asked why he accepted the Jays huge extension back in the day rather than testing FA, to paraphrase he said “I asked myself, how many generations of Wells do I have to look after?”. In effect, that was plenty of money for him and his family. Evidently EE needed more than the Jays offer.

        • El Cabeza

          I don’t know for sure, but I would wager that if the Jays offered him the sixth largest contract in MLB history, he would have accepted it without testing free agency. Let’s compare apples to apples.

  • Knuckle Balls

    The one thing over looked if you look at from a scientific point of view. If EE was resigned it changes everything since the future with EE on this team does not necessarily needs to match what the Jays are currently doing on the field right now without EE. If multiverses exist and with EE signed who knows the Jays could be in first place right know in a alternate universe. Thank god for theoretical physics, so I will close my eyes and dream. AHHHHHHHHH!

      • Mule or etc...

        It’s interesting that ZiPS had them putting up similar numbers this year and so far: Edwin: .746 OPS, Kendrys: .739 OPS. Of course there is still a lot of baseball to play but considering park factors (Progressive Field [How am I just realizing the irony of calling the Indian’s stadium “Progressive Field” This is like last year when I just realized out of the blue that White Snake is a euphemism for penis] suppressing right-handed power vs. Rogers Centre giving it a boost) it should be an interesting story to follow unlike this sentence which just keeps going and is a goddamn mess.

    • Mule or etc...

      Or they are just as bad with another albatross contract and in a couple years when some of the Jays prospects are ready for the bigs and the Jays can compete the payroll obsessives will complain that there is too much money tied up in old players.