Finally, the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays season has come to its sweet, merciful end. Finishing with a 73-89 record, the Blue Jays tied for their eighth-worst record in franchise history. Not since 2012 has this team lost 89 games or more. At many junctures this season, it felt like this club would easily surpass the 100-loss threshold.
Although many players suffered “lost seasons” (Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Josh Donaldson, Roberto Osuna), at least the Blue Jays didn’t stoop to the 47-115 Baltimore Orioles’ level of on-field ineptness. This year painted a clearer picture where the deficiencies lie on the Blue Jays; namely starting pitching, defense and basic baserunning.
It’s difficult to glean many positives from an 89-loss season, but the Blue Jays had some bright spots this year … even if they were sparse throughout the schedule. These are the moments that made the Blue Jays watchable in 2018.
Vlad Jr. walks it off in Montreal
It’s kind of sad to say this was the closest we ever saw Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to the Major Leagues this year. Yet, this walk-off home run during the Jays’ exhibition game Montreal had the baseball world buzzing about the 19-year-old phenom.
Smoak’s grand slam from Opening Weekend
Who has the single-highest Win Probability Added in a single game this season for the Blue Jays? That would be Justin Smoak’s two home run/six RBI performance against the New York Yankees back on April 1st of Opening Weekend.
He capped off his stellar day at the plate with a go-ahead grand slam off David Robertson in the bottom of the eighth. It happened way back in April, but doesn’t this feel like it was years ago?
Lukey Barrels saves the day
Luke Maile had a decent season behind the plate in 2017, but his .407 OPS was among the worst in the league last year. In 2018, Maile found another gear offensively and his OPS shot up to .706. He only had three home runs the entire season, but two of them came in one game.
His second was an opposite-field shot which helped the Blue Jays walk off the Red Sox in extra innings back on May 11th. Thus, the legend of “Lukey Barrels” was born.
Morales takes the mound
Along with giving Russell Martin the manager’s keys, this was one of John Gibbons’ quintessential “why the hell not?” moments of 2018. Apparently, Kendrys Morales expressed an interest in pitching a game and he received his wish on May 20th in the midst of a 9-0 blowout against the Oakland A’s.
Grichuk brings one back in Houston
With ten-foot-high walls in the outfield, very rarely are balls ever brought back from the brink of escaping at the Rogers Centre. Most other stadiums, it’s commonplace to see outfielders make home run-robbing grabs on the regular.
Randal Grichuk made arguably the most impressive defensive play of the year by a Blue Jay, robbing this game-tying home run away from George Springer. Grichuk even had to fend off the gloves of Astros fans, but timed his jump perfectly and performed home run larceny.
Jansen goes yard for his first MLB home run
#BlueJays' Danny Jansen hits his first MLB home run with family and friends in the crowd. 👏
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 15, 2018
In total, the Blue Jays called up 25 rookies during their 2018 season. Danny Jansen was one of the many new faces to wear a Blue Jays uniform for the first time this year. Jansen made his MLB debut on August 13th against the Royals, picking up two hits.
The very next night, he went deep for his first big league home run. The best part? He had his family and friends there in the stands to witness the special occasion.
Tellez with the feel-good moment of the year
Let's get the firsts out of the way!
First pitch ✔️
First hit ✔️
First XBH ✔️
First pinch hit ✔️
First RBI ✔️
You're officially a big leaguer, Rowdy! pic.twitter.com/W8jHBhVlD6
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 6, 2018
If the 2018 Blue Jays season made you more cynical than ever, this is the moment that melted your cold, dark heart. Rowdy Tellez was an unexpected call-up for the Blue Jays and was rewarded with significant playing time in September.
But it was the very first pitch he saw in the big leagues that had people talking. Rowdy wasted no time whatsoever, swinging and connecting for a double to the gap in his MLB debut. By now, everybody knows the gravity of the situation with his family, which made this moment even more bittersweet.
Sometimes, the game is irrelevant; it’s merely a backdrop for what’s happening in real life. Through his own personal tragedy, Tellez provided one of baseball’s feel-good moments of the year.
The comeback of all comebacks
So, about last night…
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 21, 2018
This may not have been the biggest comeback in franchise history (that would be the 1989 Blue Jays 10-run comeback in an eventual 13-10 win), but it was one of the most impressive. With the Rays holding a 99.6% chance of winning this game entering the ninth inning, the Blue Jays did the unthinkable by putting up a seven-spot and walking it off.
It’s the second consecutive year when the Jays have erased a six-run deficit and had a 0.4% win probability as they came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. They did the very same thing last year in that improbable 11-10 win over the Los Angeles Angels on July 30th, 2017.