BUFFALO — Dr. George Berkeley, an Anglican Bishop and philosopher in the 1600s once said, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
For the past few weeks, with the proverbial tree being the Blue Jays and the proverbial forest being the city of Buffalo, the answer would be no.
While for many, the prospect of having professional baseball in Buffalo was intriguing, it hasn’t translated into any sort of tangible excitement outside of those of us in the media enjoying a return to live, in-person coverage of a professional sporting event.
With that being said, the test of that excitement and whether or not it will carry over to the city and its sports fans will be if the Blue Jays, who currently sit in the eighth and final American League spot in MLB’s newly expanded 16-team playoff structure, make the postseason - or as fellow BDN sports reporter, Nate Rider wrote a few weeks ago, win the World Series.
Presently sitting at 14-14 and one game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles for the eighth spot in the American League, there is a realistic chance that the Jays advance to the playoffs and with the way they’ve been hitting the ball out of the ballpark, who says they can’t make a run toward a championship?
Although they hit just one homer in their loss to the lowly Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night, the Jays have been blasting longballs at a torrid pace that ranks up near the top in the AL and entire MLB.
Currently, with 47 round-trippers, the Jays come in at fourth overall in MLB, just behind the national sensation ‘Slam’ Diego Padres (55), Chicago White Sox (55) and Los Angeles Dodgers (59), doing so in three fewer games played than SD and LA and two fewer than Chicago.
Blue Jays pitching has been almost as impressive as the team’s offense, ranking inside the top-10 in team ERA (3.89, 7th) and as a top-five staff in home runs allowed (31, 5th).
For a team that many believed at the start of the season maybe a year or two away from competing for a playoff spot, although aided by the expanded structure, this team appears destined to make a push toward playing more than the scheduled 60 games during the pandemic-stricken 2020 regular season.
One sign that the team also believes that to be true was Sunday night’s acquisition of 2019 all-star slugger Daniel Vogelbach from the Seattle Mariners, which many considered a zero-risk move for the Jays. The Jays have also been rumored to be searching for improvements to their pitching rotation, which has taken multiple hits in recent days with injuries to Nate Pearson, Matt Shoemaker, and Trent Thornton.
According to FanGraphs, before the season was shortened to 60 games the Jays had a 15 percent chance to make the playoffs. As a team that carried low expectations to begin the year, now discussing potential additions with the trade deadline approaching is certainly a positive development.
“We obviously think we have playoff-caliber players on our team,” said Jays’ outfielder Cavan Biggio during his team’s series split with the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this week. “It’s all about putting it together. We’ve been slowly putting it together from the beginning of the season. Our bullpen has been as good as it can be all year long. We started off slow with the bats and now we’re able to put some consistent at-bats together and put runs up on the board.”
As it stands right now, Biggio sees no reason why the Jays can’t extend their season.
“I believe that we have a really good chance of making the playoffs,” he continued.
If the Jays do extend their season, will the excitement of a postseason run extend to the city that the team has played their home games? It’s unlikely, but it appears as if we’re about to find out.