Times are rough for the Blue Jays. What was supposed to be a middle of the pack team that was a serious contender in the wild card race turned into one that now looks lost against a computer-generated Tampa Bay team. They feasted on weaker competition in April and started their season 13-6, then fell off a cliff, an extended slump that buried them in the American League playoff picture. While they aren’t as bad as their 17-31 record over their past 48 indicates, they’ve had moments that made Blue Jays fans wonder why they even waste their time watching this team. And to make matters worse, we can’t even take solace in praying for an unlikely Vlad Jr. call up now that he’s sidelined for at least a month with a knee injury, probably crushing any chance of seeing him at all this year.
But we’re still in June, and until the all star break and the imminent fire sales begin, everybody not named the Baltimore Orioles are still in the race. Recent memory has taught us that even an uninspired team can flip a switch that they didn’t even know they had and make a charge up the standings.
Before we begin, let me just state the obvious: Just like the rest of you, I really don’t think this is going to happen. Anybody that calls the Blue Jays pulling a 2007 Colorado Rockies and immediately going 14-1 in their next 15 is either a new-age sports Nostradamus or out of their fucking mind. But this is baseball, and as we know, this sport has its way of surprising people.
This is also a pretty cool way to identify those that respond with paragraphs claiming to have all of life’s answers without actually, you know, reading the article.
2015 Toronto Blue Jays
Okay, this one doesn’t really count because it felt like just a matter of time before it happened and also, I just wanted to mention it. Blue Jays fans remember a lot about a magical 2015 season, but what felt the most special was the fact that on July 28th, the day the team traded for Troy Tulowitzki and three days before acquiring ace David Price, the Blue Jays sat fourth in the American League East at 50-51, eight games behind the New York Yankees. Exactly four weeks later, they sat in sole possession of the division lead. They didn’t look back, capturing their first AL East crown since 1993.
2012 Oakland Athletics
In 2011, noted choke artists Texas Rangers were one strike away from a World Series title and came away with nothing. Looking for redemption in the four-team American League West the next year, they had a comfortable lead throughout the summer and into the home stretch. The Oakland A’s spent a healthy part of the year on their tails, but just couldn’t get within striking distance. Surely with nine games left and a five game lead, not even the Rangers could find a way to piss that away, right?
Oakland won five in a row to pull to within two going into the final series of the season, a three-game set at home against none other than the Texas Rangers.
With the division on the line and a consolation prize of the chance to play in the inaugural American League wild card game, the Rangers dropped the first two games, setting up a winner-take-all game 162. Both Ryan Dempter and AJ Griffin were chased in the first few innings, and the A’s bullpen prevailed with 6.1 scoreless innings to give them a division crown that didn’t even seem possible ten days prior.
As for Texas, Yu Darvish made the start against Baltimore Oriole Joe Saunders in the wild card game and Texas lost 5-2. Against Joe Saunders. Joe fucking Saunders. LOL Rangers.
2005 Houston Astros
On May 30th, 2005, a 42-year-old Roger Clemens started for the sixth place Houston Astros against the Cincinnati Reds. The Rocket did his job and pitched eight shutout innings, only allowing five base runners all night. The problem was, the Reds couldn’t get anybody in and the game went to the ninth scoreless. Once Clemens exited, it took three Astros relievers to pitch the ninth and combined, they surrendered seven runs. Why does this matter? It dropped Houston to 14 games below .500 at 14-32 on the year, well out of the six-team NL Central race and 10.5 back of the lone wild card spot. Two days later, the Houston Chronicle ran this on the cover of their sports page.
How did the Astros fare after that? From June 1st on, Houston went 70-41 – a 102-win pace over the course of a full season – and captured the wild card spot three months after having their season declared dead. They went all the way to the World Series and were swept by the White Sox.
2013 Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals
2011 had the wildest ending to any baseball season I’ve ever seen. On September 1st, the hopes of both the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals looked bleak. Both teams were 8.5 games out of their respective league’s wildcard spot and were running out of time to make up ground. Cardinals sluggers Allen Craig, Lance Berkman, Albert Pujols, and Yadier Molina helped close the gap on the Braves with monster months. Each of those four had their wRC+ range from 150-190 over the course of September. In Tampa Bay it was Rays legend Evan Longoria as well as Melvin Upton doing the damage for them. It all came down to the final day of the regular season. The Cardinals won big in Houston and Braves lost to the Phillies, ending Atlanta’s wild card hopes, and the Rays overcame a 7-0 hole to walk off the Yankees moments after the Red Sox lost to the Orioles. It was an all time couple of hours in baseball history, and was eventually immortalized with this MLB the Show 12 intro.
The Cardinals eventually went on to win the World Series.
It’s going to take a lot of work for the Blue Jays, but crazy shit has happened in this league. There’s a lot of September magic on this list, so if you’re a glass half full person, at least the Jays have a two-month head start to make their magic happen.
If not…at least the trade deadline will be fun.