Skip to main content

This is how the moments after should and did feel – a sense of satisfaction leavened with a pinch of rage.

Twenty minutes after the American League Championship Series ended, the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse was more weary than wounded. Starter David Price, functionally a free agent once the game ended, hurried out to do his media availability so that he could leave.

Will he back?

"I don't know," Price said.

Is he open to the idea?


We've seen the last of him.

Jose Bautista slumped in a chair in his underwear, drinking a light beer, staring at the empty space four feet in front of him. Josh Donaldson was flitting about, getting all his gear packed.

Everyone else tried to get through the usual postgame routine – shower, change, get on the bus – while trying to avoid catching the eyes of packs of reporters. It didn't look or feel much different from any other getaway day.

Ben Revere, the victim of a bad, called ninth-inning strike, seethed for a bit, but it was hard to get worked up about it. The Jays weren't cheated out of anything. They had it taken away while they stood there and watched.

Postseason baseball is chess to regular-season checkers. Toronto lost to the Kansas City Royals because it was the lesser team. Perhaps not individually, but certainly collectively.

The Jays weren't able to elevate their tactical nous or expand their threshold for risk. It might have been the first series in history won by a third-base coach. His decision to exploit a poor choice of cut-off man in the ninth inning won Game 6.

Bottom line – the Jays made a few small mistakes; Kansas City capitalized on every one.

While it may sting now, it couldn't have ended any better for the Toronto baseball club and their fans going forward. You're left with a sense of anticipation of what's to come and, for the first time in two decades, a clear idea of how to get there.

Here is one of the unspoken realities of sports – winning eventually gets old. When you look back on it, the real thrill of a championship run is the run rather than the championship.

How do you keep that feeling rolling over, year after year? You do it by getting close to the final destination, but stringing out the arrival.

When the Atlanta Braves transformed themselves from a beaten mule to a regular contender in the early-90s, their attendance jumped. Once they'd lost their second consecutive World Series, it began to decline again. They made their breakthrough in 1995, and people started to get tired.

A decade later, the Braves were still a perennial playoff team, but a third fewer fans were going to games on the regular. Excellence, even with a payoff, only holds our interest for a while.

The Jays' last (and only) sustained run started in 1983. Average attendance immediately increased 50 per cent. Crucially, they didn't make it right away. They teased you, promising just a little more every year.

There were times in there when you thought it wasn't meant to happen. And then you beat yourself up for defeatism. It was an ugly, virtuous circle.

When it did, the feeling was something more than satisfaction. It couldn't have felt like any more of a miracle than if a single ray of light had landed upon Joe Carter as the ball hit his glove.

After another one in '93, everyone stopped caring all at once. The '94 strike had something to do with that, but I suspect it was more about the soporific effects of sudden mediocrity. Having visited the top, the middle doesn't look like a fun place to spend a night out.

Winning a World Series this year, out of the clear blue sky, would've been great. It'll be a lot greater if it takes a little while longer.

Baseball has three seasons – regular, post and off. The third of them might be the most important.

The first order of business – re-signing general manager Alex Anthopoulos. You don't let the builder take another job when the structure's only half-finished.

This is not a done deal. Anthopoulos wants assurances from incoming Jays president Mark Shapiro that he will have the final word on baseball moves. If Anthopoulos doesn't get it, he's prepared to leave.

The two don't know each other with any more than a nodding acquaintance. Unlike outgoing president Paul Beeston, Shapiro is a baseball guy and a former GM. You can see how that might get prickly in a hurry.

What about all of Anthopoulos's guys? Does Shapiro want to replace any of them with his own guys from Cleveland?

It is unimaginable that Shapiro's first notable act would be letting Anthopoulos move on, but a lot of unimaginable things happen in baseball. The next week or so will be more crucial to the club's future than anything that happens until April.

On the positional front, there isn't much to do.

No one has more 'middle' to the middle of their order than the Jays. All those players are still under contract – Donaldson, Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin.

Sudden star Chris Colabello will be extended. Kevin Pillar will improve because there's competition for him in the form of Dalton Pompey. He has to. If Ben Revere doesn't return, Michael Saunders steps into his spot. Second base – a perennial positional pit – now has two able, controllable contenders, Ryan Goins and Devon Travis.

However good the Jays looked offensively by the end of 2015, they should be better in 2016. And without really having done much about it.

It's the pitching that will need careful attention and, in a best-case scenario, a lot more money.

Price will almost certainly sign elsewhere. Mark Buehrle will retire. As of now, your best starter is Marcus Stroman. There is no world in which free-agent breakout Marco Estrada is allowed to leave. The club will pick up R.A. Dickey's $12-million (U.S.) option.

That's not a bad start. It's also not good enough. In a perfect world, Stroman, Estrada and Dickey are your 2, 3 and 4 pitchers.

Aaron Sanchez will be extended as a starter. Closer Roberto Osuna might get the same treatment. This would leave gaping holes in an already iffy bullpen.

When you hear the Jays talking about those possibilities, you get the shudders, because it sounds as though they're preparing to be disappointed in the hunt for a true, veteran ace. Without a Price or a Price-ish sort of starter, it will be difficult for the Jays to duplicate 2015.

Maybe they'll follow the same template – see what they've got over the first half of the season and trade for someone at the deadline. Or maybe they'll take their chances.

That's what the offseason is for – second-guessing and fretting. Enjoy! As we transition from what might have been to what could still be – this is the perfect moment.

The Jays have their fans where they want them. They've consumed a lot, but they aren't full yet. They want more. Any little positive development will exponentially enhance their excitement.

The journey toward 2016 and something just a little better can be taken with baby steps. The key is ensuring that that momentum and those emotions – happiness, hope, rage – don't begin to dull.

It's easy to lay out in the paper, and very hard to do on the field.