The Toronto Blue Jays wake up this morning only 1½ games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East Division race. The Blue Jays are a ½ game ahead of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the top wild card spot.
Those trade deadline moves: yea, they've worked out well.
The Blue Jays have won 8 in a row, all since Troy Tulowitzki became the new Toronto shortstop.
Tulowitzki and relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins were obtained from Colorado for SS Jose Reyes, RHP Miguel Castro, and 2 other pitchers.
David Price came from Detroit at a very high price. Daniel Norris, the left-handed pitcher who lived in a van during spring training and one of baseball's best prospects, goes to Detroit along with 2 other minor leaguers.
Relief pitcher Mark Lowe came from Seattle and outfielder Ben Revere arrived from Philadelphia.
In the relatively new playoff system, winning the division is vitally important. For Toronto, this means beating up on the New York Yankees. The Jays just swept the men in pinstripes over the weekend. The Yankees only scored a single run on Friday in the series; the team suffered its first back-to-back shutouts since 1999.
The teams have 10 games remaining against each other; 3 of them next weekend at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays are 7-2 against New York this season.
Toronto's starters have now allowed 3 earned runs or fewer in 14 consecutive games.
After 22 years of no playoff appearances, the Blue Jays just want to be in the playoffs, preferably as the division winner.
When MLB introduced the single wild card, that team got to play a full playoff series. Now teams make drastic trades in the hopes of playing a 1-game playoff essentially to get into the playoffs.
There are 4 scenarios for the Blue Jays in 2015:
1) Win the division. This requires mostly beating up on the New York Yankees in head-to-head matchups down the stretch. There are 10 more Blue Jays games with the Yankees. Possible, but not likely. Or a collapse by the Yankees. Less likely.
The good news in this scenario is the Blue Jays are guaranteed to play more than a single playoff game with guaranteed home playoff games.
2) Host the wild card game. Being the best wild card team allows you to host the wild card game. The Blue Jays finish in Tampa so they would have to travel back to Toronto. A loud Rogers Centre crowd would look wonderful on U.S. television and would force U.S. TV to show a game in Toronto.
3) Be on the road for the wild card game. The Blue Jays might have to travel from Tampa to the West Coast for that game, depending on the other wild card opponent.
In either wild card case, you have to use your best pitcher. And even if you win, you then have to pitch your 2nd-best pitcher against a division winner's best pitcher where the team has had a chance to get more rest.
4) Not make the playoffs in any form. David Price won't come back. LaTroy Hawkins will retire. A lot of good prospects will be gone. And the streak will be 22 years and counting.
Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders said it best: "Just win, baby."