I’m sorry. Too soon?
Yes, the Blue Jays season ended Sunday. Yes, it’s unfair to focus on the negatives in a year where a 22-year-old Blue Jays phenom will be AL MVP runner-up, a Jays starter could win the AL Cy Young, a young core blossomed, records were broken, new Toronto baseball heroes were born, and memories were made.
But, frankly, it’s just too darn easy. This roller coaster season was ripe with parody, and, after the Blue Jays fell one lousy game short of a Game 163 tiebreaker, the mistakes sting even more.
If your heart still aches from Toronto just missing out, look away. If you can stomach it, here are the Blue Jays’ six most costly moments of the season:
In a vacuum, Rafael Dolis allowing three hits, including a walk-off single, in the ninth inning of this mid-June loss to the Red Sox seems like a minor misstep. But the preceding events made it so much worse.
In the top of the ninth and down to the final out, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. raked one of his most heroic longballs of the season to tie things up.
As luck would have it, Toronto’s messy relief core contrasted the timely homer with immediate, and almost comical, misfortune.
This moment perfectly encapsulated Toronto’s 10th bullpen loss since May 1, and frustration boiled over when manager Charlie Montoyo was asked about bullpen usage a day later.
“It seems like everyday I get a question: ‘What’s wrong with [Anthony] Castro? What’s wrong with [Tyler] Chatwood?’ Now it’s Dolis. … It’s been every fucking month, the whole month about the same thing,” Montoyo said.
It’s not easy to pick just one bullpen collapse from the Dunedin-era Blue Jays, but the ninth inning of a late-May loss versus the Rays was a real doozy.
Tyler Chatwood entered with a two-run lead, but departed with the bases juiced, two outs, and his team up by one, before reliever Travis Bergen walked three consecutive batters in the most painful fashion.
That moment guaranteed the Blue Jays’ fifth straight loss and removed all faith in Bergen, who never pitched for the club again in 2021.
The meltdown feels like ages ago—at this point in the year, names like Ty Tice, A.J. Cole, and Joe Panik were still on the roster—but it was a consequential one, given how Toronto’s season unfolded.
The name Brad Hand is likely to trigger Blue Jays fans for years to come, and this game will be remembered as one of the reasons why. With the bases loaded, two outs, and the game tied, the left-hander uncorked four straight balls to gift the Mariners a walk-off victory.
The loss wasn’t exactly all on Hand—fellow reliever Adam Cimber allowed three straight baserunners after getting the first two outs of the inning—but he took the brunt of the blame and etched his name in the books of Blue Jay infamy when he was designated for assignment just over two weeks later.
Hand was brought in to shut games down for Toronto, instead he consistently blew them up, making his trade deadline acquisition—which cost catching prospect Riley Adams—one of the bigger flops in recent memory.
Folks always say baseball is a game of inches, but when center fielder Josh Palacios took an ill-timed dive in the eighth inning of this one, the ball fell a foot or two in front of him.
By the time Jays left fielder Corey Dickerson grabbed the ball and tossed an awful throw into the cut-off man, the Tigers’ Víctor Reyes was well around third and scored easily for an inside-the-park home run.
Perhaps a lack of experience factored in, perhaps it was just a poor read, but Palacios’s split-second decision cost Toronto a late-game run—and ultimately the game—at a point in the season when the Blue Jays’ bats were cold and every run mattered.
On the last day of September, in the final game of a crucial series against the Yankees, the Blue Jays turned to their ace—and likely AL Cy Young winner—Robbie Ray.
Things looked good, until a nightmare sixth inning left the Rogers Centre crowd in utter disbelief. Anthony Rizzo and Aaron Judge hit back-to-back home runs to tie the game and give New York the lead, respectively.
Then came the big blow—a game-clinching two-run bomb on an 0-2 fastball by Gleyber Torres, which added a cruel twist of the knife and booted Ray from possibly his last start as a Blue Jay.
Ray’s Cy Young bid was likely untouchable at that point, but the five earned runs represented a season-high and capped off the most recent entry to Toronto’s top hellish moments.
With two-outs in the ninth inning, Blue Jays reliever Tayler Saucedo induced a routine groundball to the second baseman and—oh my goodness.
Instead of ending the game, Marcus Semien’s throw short-hopped Guerrero Jr. at first base, allowing the tying run to race home from second. The Blue Jays ultimately lost when reliever Kirby Snead allowed a pair of runs in the 11th inning.
“That was the play,” Montoyo said afterwards. “Marcus will tell you the same thing. He’s been playing Gold Glove-caliber second base. He just made an error.”
Once that miscue happened, the Blue Jays were toast; Rogers Centre went dead silent as Toronto became destined to lose for the seventh time in 10 games.
A truly inconceivable mistake and one of only a few blemishes on Semien’s stellar defensive season, the costly error against the Tigers stands out as perhaps Toronto’s most devastating missed opportunity of the season.