What makes an all-time great?
Every so often in this city, you see a player come along and dominate, only to move on way too soon. Just last month, we got the honour of sending long time Blue Jay Jose Bautista off into the abyss, or wherever aging sluggers without bat speed go.
As send-offs go, it was rare to see a Blue Jay get his due at what looks like the end of their career. Usually, due to the state of the team, financial reasons, or a mixture of both, marquee players in Toronto head for greener pastures. Acquiring talent wasn’t the problem – the Robbie Alomars, Carlos Delgados, Roy Halladays, and Jose Bautistas of the franchise didn’t seem that hard to come by for this team – it was keeping it. Fans would watch in dismay as they were forced to cheer for their heroes as they chased greatness (or money) in a new uniform, wondering what could have been.
Now with Bautista gone, the attention turns to Josh Donaldson.
Josh Donaldson is entering his final arbitration year and will head into free agency at the end of the 2018 season, we know that. Tammy Rainey has already talked about the risks and what a Donaldson deal would look like. For a team that looks like it wants to keep competing, and for a team that made a lot of money the past three seasons, keeping the star third baseman seems like a no brainer.
There’s something special about Josh Donaldson. His first impression went well in Toronto. He and that .297/.371/.568 slash line in 2015 were good enough to make him the second MVP in franchise history after George Bell took it home for the 1987 season. From him telling reporters that he plays in the Get it Done League to the mad dash that eliminated the Rangers in 2016, everything about Josh Donaldson has been synonymous with success.
So, does he qualify as an all-time Blue Jay yet?
It’s easy to tell what the gold standard is for Blue Jays fans when it comes to franchise legends, it’s having your name enshrined on the Level of Excellence. It’s crazy to think that far down the road, but you can argue that in a short amount of time, Donaldson has already made a solid case to be put up there with the rest of the greats.
Donaldson has jam packed iconic moments and elite play in the short time he’s played in the city. In just three years, he’s amassed quite the catalogue of greatest hits, a myriad of plays that have left countless fans stunned. And he’s found different ways to do it. While he may not be a typical five tool player, he’s good enough to use each of his tools to his advantage. Remember when he dove into the Tropicana Field crowd to preserve Marco Estrada’s perfect game bid? How about lighting up the Twins for three home runs in a game in late August last season? From the walk-off home runs to the tough throws, the sliding stops to the slides that win series’, the man can beat you in so many ways.
Donaldson has the ability to make highlight reel plays with his glove, bat, and legs, and no matter where the team is in the standings, or if it’s game 1, 162 or in the postseason, a ticket to watch the Blue Jays is ticket to watch the Josh Donaldson show.
Talking about clubhouse culture and playing the game the right way is usually marred by thinly veiled racist language and criticism of players that have too much fun. You want an example of playing the game the right way? Josh Donaldson’s first three years in Toronto are a blueprint of that.
Of the 13 players that have been worth at least 20 wins above replacement as a Blue Jay, six have done it in under 1000 games. Only one, Josh Donaldson, has done it in under 500. As a matter of fact, Donaldson has played 230 fewer games than the next guy on the list, Devon White, and is only 1.1 wins behind him.
We’re at the point that he’s already up there with the rest of the greats, given the personality he has and being an integral part of a Blue Jays team that went to the ALCS in back-to-back years. Barring him asking for too much money, going into a full blown rebuild, or a team like the Cardinals offering the moon, Donaldson should be part of this team going forward.
Toronto should be wary of any deal that exceeds seven years, but jumping the gun and getting their superstar inked should be at the top of their list going into this offseason. Despite an OPS of .944 in 113 games this year, it was seen as a down year for Donaldson, but unlike Jose Bautista, Donaldson is still 31 and will have many productive years ahead of him.
Get it done.
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