The Don­ald­son dilemma a pain for Blue Jays

How soon they for­get the months that Josh kept the ship afloat

The Niagara Falls Review - - Sports - RICHARD GRIF­FIN Toronto Star

TORONTO — The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Josh Don­ald­son and the Toronto Blue Jays gets stranger and stranger by the hour.

The fi­nal min­utes prior to the Sept. 1 cut­off for play­ers be­ing eli­gi­ble for the post-sea­son is un­fold­ing like the Apollo 13 of trade dead­line crises with the Jays hurtling to­ward mid­night des­per­ately try­ing to un­buckle the safety har­ness and push the ejecto-but­ton to jet­ti­son the un­wanted su­per­star.

We even heard one of the Sport­snet TV folks on Wed­nes­day night sug­gest that if Don­ald­son can­not be traded and stays the rest of the year and if the Jays make a qual­i­fy­ing of­fer — around $18 mil­lion — and if he ac­cepts that one-year deal “it could get in the way of “what the team is try­ing to ac­com­plish.” Huh??

It is sad for fans if that is the of­fi­cial view of own­er­ship re­gard­ing a player who was Ma­jor League Base­ball’s Amer­i­can League MVP a mere three years ago and when healthy helps win games.

Does it mean the team’s goal in 2019 is not to win games?

The Jays seem very ob­vi­ously up­set at the way Don­ald­son seems to have slow-played his re­hab from calf in­juries.

But you have to trust the ath­lete.

It is down to the 11th hour and a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion be­cause any player on the DL is un­able to be in­cluded on the trade-waiver list un­til he has be­gun a re­hab as­sign­ment and proves he is back to be­ing ma­jor-league healthy.

The MLB waiver period lasts for two days and the ex­piry time is 1 p.m. EDT, which means the ear­li­est Don­ald­son can clear waivers and be traded is Fri­day af­ter­noon leav­ing 10 hours, 59 min­utes and 59 sec­onds to ne­go­ti­ate a deal and have the new club give him a phys­i­cal.

Don­ald­son played five in­nings in Tues­day’s game, with Wed­nes­day’s game in Dunedin be­ing rained out.

Even be­fore that post­pone­ment, Bringer of Rain was ru­moured to be un­avail­able be­cause of sore­ness, bring­ing into play the judg­ment of ma­jor­league base­ball and whether five in­nings in a game fol­lowed by sore­ness and rain is good enough for Don­ald­son to even be on waivers.

If MLB rules no, that he is still in­jured then he can­not play for any­one ex­cept the Jays in the post-sea­son. Not!

That doesn’t mean the Jays can’t trade him to some­one who just wants to win in Septem­ber and feels J.D. can be the dif­fer­ence, but the most in re­turn that could then be ex­pected would be for the Jays to pay the re­main­der of the salary, about $3.7 mil­lion, and re­ceive the equiv­a­lent of a 90-100 pick in the June 2019 draft, which would be the range of the com­pen­satory pick should Toronto make a qual­i­fy­ing of­fer.

No won­der GM Ross Atkins and pres­i­dent Mark Shapiro are up­set. But to say that it gets in the way of ’19 plans if Don­ald­son hap­pened to ac­cept the $18 mil­lion is lu­di­crous.

A healthy Don­ald­son would only help the bot­tom line of win­ning and surely there is room for both him and Vlad Guer­rero Jr.

But for those that are quick to for­get, the Josh Don­ald­son legacy should for­ever cen­tre on the im­pact he had in 2015, not just in the run to the di­vi­sion ti­tle snap­ping a 22-year play­off drought for the fran­chise, but how im­pact­ful he was in GM Alex An­thopou­los’s de­ci­sion to roll the dice at a time they were one game un­der .500 and even Rogers own­er­ship had to be con­vinced.

Of­ten over­looked or for­got­ten in the men­tal re­play of ’15 is that the pri­mary rea­son cited by An­thopou­los as to why he be­lieved this team that had been play­ing hop­scotch with .500 the en­tire first half through the all-star break was bet­ter than the pub­lic per­cep­tion was the plus-mi­nus run dif­fer­en­tial that was hugely in­flu­enced in the first 93 games by the Bringer of Rain.

On July 18, 2015, just about the time the Jays were qui­etly de­cid­ing on a trade dead­line ag­gres­sive­ness, the team was 46-47, but had outscored its op­po­nents 494-409, by 85 runs.

An­thopou­los un­der­stood that they needed an ace for the ro­ta­tion (David Price), an up­grade over Jose Reyes at short­stop (Troy Tu­low­itzki), a lit­tle speed at the top of the or­der (Ben Re­vere) and to shore up the mid­dle re­lief in the bullpen (LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe).

None of that hap­pens with­out Don­ald­son keep­ing the ship afloat through the first half.

It seemed while the Jays were strug­gling into July that ev­ery ac­tual win in­volved a huge hit by Don­ald­son.

From Open­ing Day through July 18, he ham­mered 22 home runs, with 12 of those giv­ing the Jays the lead and five oth­ers that tied the score.

He hit four in the first in­ning and had walkoff blasts on April 18 vs. the Braves and May 26 against the White Sox.

Don­ald­son kept up his tor­rid pace even af­ter the cav­alry ar­rived to lead the sec­ond half charge.

In the Jays 92 wins in ’15, Don­ald­son hit .377 with a

1.167 OPS, driv­ing in 94 and scor­ing 97 with 34 dou­bles, a triple and 31 homers.

In his three Jays sea­sons prior to 2018, Don­ald­son fin­ished first, fourth and 22nd in MVP vot­ing.

But in the case of Don­ald­son vs. the fans and Rogers own­er­ship, it has be­come a case of “What have you done for me lately?”

It’s a shame Don­ald­son’s legacy will end up be­ing one of an in­jury-rid­dled re­luc­tant star around whom man­age­ment made an hon­est mis­take think­ing they could com­pete in 2018, but turned into a ma­jor mis­cal­cu­la­tion, ush­er­ing in a painful re­build.

GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO

Josh Don­ald­son of the Toronto Blue Jays tosses his bat af­ter hit­ting a solo home run dur­ing the fourth in­ning against the In­di­ans in the sec­ond game of a dou­ble­header at Pro­gres­sive Field in Cleve­land on May 3.

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