The man who made it rain homers and doubles at the Rogers Centre for three-and-a-half seasons makes his fateful return to Toronto. For the first time since the Jays whisked him away at the 2018 non-waiver trade deadline, the “Bringer of Rain” is back.
Josh Donaldson — the player who authored several of the Blue Jays’ signature moments — will take the field at Rogers Centre tonight as a member of the visiting Atlanta Braves.
The circumstances of his exit in August 2018 remain shrouded in mystery; a player who arguably wasn’t healthy enough to take the field somehow found himself traded to the Cleveland Indians. In return, the Blue Jays received a player to be named later, who turned out to be pitching prospect, Julian Merryweather.
The marriage between Donaldson and the Blue Jays crashed and burned, but what remains is Donaldson’s indelible mark on the franchise. He was like a comet; Donaldson burned brilliantly for a fleeting moment, then he disappeared in an instant.
Nearly one year removed from the trade which sent him to the Cleveland Indians, Donaldson still owns many of the Blue Jays’ franchise records for the best seasons in franchise history.
His 2015 American League MVP campaign and his equally impressive 2016 season with the Blue Jays stand as two of the top four overall seasons in the Blue Jays record books.
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According to Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, Donaldson owns the best and fourth-best overall seasons according to the Wins Above Replacement metric. His 2015 MVP season stands head and shoulders as the best campaign in club history.
Donaldson not only helped legitimize the Toronto Blue Jays that year, he became a household name across baseball after he won the AL MVP award. Even though he only played for three-and-a-half seasons, his impact on the Blue Jays franchise cannot be understated.
Outside the pure numbers, there are signature moments; the “Donaldson dash,” his dive into the stands at Tropicana Field and his walk-off home run during the final regular-season home game of the 2015 campaign.
Donaldson was the driving force on those 2015 and 2016 playoff rosters, and had it not been for catastrophic injuries in 2017 and 2018, one wonders whether he could have kept the Blue Jays on top for a few more years.
Lo-and-behold, after a 2018 season where injuries limited him to only 52 games split between the Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians, Donaldson is back to his old self, posting All-Star calibre numbers with the Atlanta Braves.
They aren’t quite MVP-calibre numbers, but a 32 home run season with 29 doubles and a .910 OPS is an impressive bounce-back for someone who hadn’t played a full season in the majors since 2016.
For the first time in three years, he’s playing for a playoff-bound team, hoping to bring some of that Blue Jays magic from 2015 and 2016 over to the Braves this October.
According to Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun, the Blue Jays will play a video tribute to the former Blue Jays third baseman ahead of Tuesday’s game.
It’s the least they can do for a man who helped extinguish a 22-year playoff drought and put the Blue Jays back on the map for the first time in over two decades.