I write on behalf of an entire generation of Blue Jays fans. I’m part of a group that never saw the World Series banner fly north of the border or got the chance to see Joe touch first, let alone “‘em all”. But it’s not just World Series glory this generation has missed out on; we never saw Roger Clemens take home his two Cy Young Awards, or got the chance to be captured by the magic of Carlos Delgado’s four homer game. Many of us are even too young to have appreciated Roy Halladay’s dominance of the American League for the better part of a decade. For us, you are Blue Jays baseball.
The night after the Jays were eliminated from this year’s American League Championship Series, I created a Twitter thread. It was a trip down memory lane, recounting some of your greatest moments in a Jays uniform. If anyone has any remaining doubt about your significance to this franchise, I encourage them to check it out. As I was creating the thread, I realized something important: The compilation required no research. I did not feel a need to crowdsource for forgotten moments, or look up intricacies on Baseball-Reference; I was tweeting memories from as far back as 2010, when I was just 11 years-old, and yet I needed no refresher whatsoever. You are the only player for whom I could do this. Most everything else from those seasons is a blur, and yet my memories of your play shine through with vivid, colourful detail.
In the eyes of my generation, you are more than just the Bat Flip. You made your mark in our hearts long before there were any banners to show for it. For half of a decade, you were our constant. No matter how dismal the team around you was, no matter how many Fred Lewises and Emilio Bonifacios were penciled into the lineup above you, we could always look forward to your electrifying plate appearances. Whether it was Usher’s “OMG”, or A$AP Ferg’s “New Level”, your walk-up music was a sign of good things to come. Even without the Bat Flip, you would still be the king of the “boss” home run. And hey, in case anyone forgot, according to the numbers, you’d still be the king of the home run. Continuing to look at the numbers, you’re also damn-near the king of on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and owning Steve Simmons.
The great thing is; we don’t have to take away the Bat Flip. That makes this all the better, because man, was it glorious. We’re more than a year removed from that moment, which means I’m approaching the point where I can speak about it rationally instead of spewing my heart out onto an unsuspecting keyboard. But I’m not sure if rational thought serves my point very well. Instead it’s probably best to return to the day after Game 5, when I could barely form a sentence, let alone a well-constructed article (shoutout to editors). This is what I managed to get down on a page:
“These were the feelings that create nostalgia. These were the feelings that create irrational thought, and I’ll fully admit to guilt of that right now. In 2030, when the “young whipper-snappers” on whatever social media platform that replaces Twitter are trying to convince me that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the greatest Blue Jay of all time after putting up historical numbers during a rebuilding phase, the chances are, I won’t even entertain it. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will never make me feel the way I felt on October 14th, 2015. You tell yourself that you’re never going to give in to the narratives, until you live through a narrative that is impossible to ignore.”
With one swing of the bat you went from my personal greatest Blue Jay of all time to the undisputed GBOAT. No one can ever tell me otherwise. Unfortunately, many people passionately disagree with me. They say you are simply a great player who was lost in an era of mediocrity. They claim that you were “no Alomar, no Fernandez, no Carter.” One swing of a bat completely dispelled that notion. That home run was the validation of the bond my generation shares with you. I’ve never been happier for a baseball player in my life.
Sadly, that validation appears to be wearing off. I’m seeing it happen even now, as I write this letter. “He and his attitude can go”, “I’m glad to part with him”, “He’s overstayed his welcome”. This misguided sentiment is precisely the reason why I needed to share my thoughts. The generation I speak for is still quite young; we don’t have a prominent voice in the fanbase. Those of us who write about the team are few and far between. We don’t call into the local radio stations, and our social media presence is somewhat insignificant. And so it is my fear that those who have forgotten about your legend have begun to overshadow those who cherish it dearly. So this is it. My personal, heartfelt thank you to a generation’s hero. I don’t think I could have put it any better than when there were tears streaming down my face following what may have been your last game as a Blue Jay. So here it is; my final goodbye.
Whether you're back or not, just know you've made an impact. And I'm not the only one. Thank you, @JoeyBats19. For everything.
— Isaac (@IB_BlueJays) October 20, 2016
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports