The Toronto Blue Jays look set to build a disappointing yet promising 2021 onwards

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It would always take some time to digest how a season of 91 wins would not be enough to qualify for a shot at extra baseball in October.

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The crushing last Sunday of the season at Rogers Center was bad enough for the Blue Jays, a hungry group that in 2021 attracted attention from the baseball world as one of the most promising teams in the sport.

Of course, the reassurance did not get any easier for the Jays as the Atlanta Braves with 88 wins won the World Series, a result that put further impetus in the disappointment.

But instead of dwelling on the unbearable near-miss, Jays general manager Ross Atkins has been determined to build on the momentum of 2021 and capitalize on what has been a quick and impressive turnaround for his team in the previous two. seasons.

“For the most part, what I’m focusing on is the desire and what we can do to make sure it does not happen again,” Atkins said days after the regular season ended, and a sizzling rise was not enough to ensure an American League wildcard slot. “I spend all my time and energy on how we are in those matches next year.

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“I am confident that we will be able to build on that (the success of 2021).”

The lockout imposed by MLB has curtailed these attempts so far, but if anything, the rapid development of the players convinced management and owners Rogers Communications that the future has arrived.

It was definitely there in September and October when the Jays ripped a record of 22-9 for an AL-best .710 victory percentage.

It was certainly evident in the evolution of young stars like Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. And with enough complementary pieces to keep up, there is plenty of incentive to jump to the next step.

“Of course we’re not where we want to be yet,” Atkins said. “We have to play deep into the playoffs to take the next step. But we feel we are in a better position than we were a year ago.”

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And it can be argued, the promise of 2021 has the Jays in a better place than the previous entire season, resulting in a trip to the playoffs.

As he moved away from Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson post-season 2015 and 2016, Atkins mostly stuck to his plan for an aggressive rebuild.

However, it should never happen from one day to the next.

So even with the additions of pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and star player George Springer in each of the last two low seasons, there was work to be done.

Especially the early season of bullpen matches was a clearly sore thumb when analyzing the games that slipped away. But Atkins addressed the weak link with some important acquisitions with deadlines to provide support for closer Jordan Romano. And as he noted in the wake of the conclusion: “We finished much stronger than we started.”

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The Jays began the low season with aggression, extending starter Jose Berrios by seven years and adding right-hander Kevin Gausman to the rotation as a replacement for Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray.

The lockout, which began Dec. 1, interrupted Atkins’ off-season work order, but came with a promise that more was to come.

“It keeps getting a little more exciting for us and hopefully for the fans as well,” Atkins said. “The feeling among our clubhouse and our staff and certainly our front office is exceptionally optimistic as to where this team is headed and the potential to continue to build on the progress that has been made.”

The highlight of 2021 was a productive one for the Jays, one that included four players – Bichette, Guerrero, Ray and Marcus Semien – on their way to Denver to play all-star.

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Returning to Toronto after more than a year away offered a huge boost – for the city and for the players. The Jays’ .694 victory percentage (25-11) at Rogers Center was their best in a season, albeit over a shortened schedule.

Wherever they went, however, the Jays brought a powerful show of entertainment. Their MLB-high 262 homers were the most in the team’s history and 19 free of their closest competitor in that division, the San Francisco Giants.

In assessing 2021, Atkins is struggling to get past Bichette and Guerrero’s performances in what was their first full 162-game season.

“When we think of this year’s development for us, we think of having two of the best young players in the game in Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero – they were expected to be that a year ago, and this year they were .. just remarkable what they achieved. It’s a really good starting point. “

And a big positive result from a 2021 end that only fell short.

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