Troy Tulowitzki is a Torontonian now. Well, he’s a Blue Jay full-time, and while he’s still a born and bred American, he now calls Canada home for the time being. That’s not where Toronto and Tulowitzki stop connecting though. Tulo has also been a sufferer, a hopeful contender and someone who has seen glimpses of great team success, but never been able to achieve the ultimate. Of course, personally, statistically, he has very few equals. It is more than safe to call him the best shortstop defensively and offensively in baseball today. He’s a career .300 and above hitter with 30 home-run power and has two gold gloves and two silver sluggers to join five all-star appearances. So, his personal game has not suffered, but let’s take a look as to why Tulowitzki may be an even better fit for Toronto this year and beyond than people even realize.
For starters you need to better understand the connection between the two sides that they share. So here is a quick history lesson on the two. The Toronto Blue Jays have been without a playoff berth since their last World Series title in 1993. The streak has become grueling for fans, especially considering the hope placed upon the city’s faithful over the past few years with continued movement during the off-season to bolster a mainly mediocre and low budget team that was fielded from about 1995 through 2012. Not to say they didn’t have a few teams with competitive rosters and a few seasons of success almost cumulating in a post-season berth. A couple runs in 1998 behind ‘the rocket’ Roger Clemens and 1999 with Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green were close but fell short just as the 2003 season stumble in the final weeks cost them another shot at the playoffs. Since then its been just above .500 or below for the Jays and the fanbase is getting anxious considering empty promises of contention the past two seasons after roster overhauls during the winter. So this year had very little hope and promise for more than what we have seen for the past 21 seasons, but then something took place that changed the script of course. Now, lets talk Tulo.
Troy Tulowitzki was drafted with the 7th overall selection in the 2005 draft by the Colorado Rockies. A year later, he was making his MLB debut and in his first full season following that, he set the single-season record for rookie shortstop fielding percentage at .987, not bad. His 24 homers and 99 RBI’s were terrific for a rookie, plus .291 batting average. Then of course, Tulo was a winner on top of it all. That year he led the Rockies on a late season run thrusting into the the wild card spot in the National League for the post-season. Then he rode them through the NLDS and NLCS to the World Series as just a 23 year-old. Albeit they lost in a sweep to the Boston Red Sox, he proved he could excel, but it didn’t go as planned around him in Colorado in the years to follow. Aside from his injury riddled following season in 2008 and his almost entire year lost to injury in 2012, Tulowitzki put up consistent offensive numbers of 25+ homers and 90+ RBI. His last two seasons since his return from injury saw his numbers slightly dwindle in power and RBI’s due to more injuries but still his average has consistently been right around the plus side of .300 through it all. Yet, from 2008 through the end of last season the Rockies failed to make the post-season, leaving the all-star shortstop frustrated and wondering whether his career would be spent with a bottom dweller never able to once again reach the heights he did as a 23-year old.
Now, enter 2015, the Rockies continue to play below .500 baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays continue their hover at the mark, rarely moving more than 5 games above or below. They are two non-playoff teams that are both long shots at the two respective wild card spots in their league, and then a switch comes. A player in Tulowitzki with the desire to win right now, because his chances every year start to get slimmer and slimmer, is united with a team, playing for a fan base so starved for success as the player they gain its unbelievable the two are coming together. So, Tulowitzki has ignited a fire and passion amongst his teammates that has not been seen around these parts since of course the days of the late 80’s early 90’s. He wants to win, we want him to win, and the Jays best players understand they may not have too much time or many opportunities left to do so together or themselves. Therefore, we have cooked up quite a storm north of the border. We have mixed a bunch of offensive talent together, all of which is as hungry to reach the post-season as possible, only Donaldson and Tulo have, and they both haven’t achieved their goals. Mix this bag with a city that will back anything that has a win with it, considering Toronto has seen very little Leafs post-season action in the past 10 years, the Raptors heartbreak of this past April/May and as mentioned the Jays overall lack of contention for 20 odd years, and boy we may have something here.
The city will be out in force, its not an uprising or a surprise or a bandwagon movement. Its just simple knowledge of sports; if you lose, you stink, you win, your great. You win, people will watch, you lose, not so much. That’s life in a sports market, especially one as vibrant as Toronto. People have always been attending Jays games, for the purpose often times of getting a little crazy with friends or just having a good time at the ballpark with family, but what people have been waiting for, is something to watch. Now we have something to watch, we have a team that isn’t stellar, but is hungry. We have a mediocre to bad pitching staff, boosted by the best left-handed pitcher in baseball, and he is just as hungry to win and return to the post-season, so he helps lift them a bit. Then we have Tulo, alot of people say we need to win to make sure he will even think about us as his full-time home, and the same could be said for David Price. My guess is the deed is already being done and set in motion in front of us all on a daily basis, with each win and every step closer to giving him his chance at the ultimate prize. However, we are not just luring him to stay, we are showing him, the entire clubhouse and all of Major League Baseball that the beginning of what could be a dynasty is amongst us, the fire has been started and the question now is how long will it stay lit. Well, with three years left on Tulo and three on Donaldson, I say till 2018 at least is a good bet.