(Vancouver, B.C.) - With Jose Bautista out at second base in the bottom of the 9th inning, down by three, with the Blue Jays backs firmly up against the wall, sluggers Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki struck out, struck out and popped out in foul territory respectively to see the 2016 season come to an end in one of the most frustrating ways possible.
As Cleveland stormed the field to celebrate its first trip back to the World Series since 1997, fans of the Blue Jays watched one of baseball's best offenses get stopped in its tracks at the worst possible time.
Minutes after Rogers Centre saw the last few fans file out from the ballpark, the baseball insiders began to dissect the season that was, and looked ahead to who might be back and who would perhaps have seen his last game as a Blue Jay still standing out at second base.
But, before we look ahead -- let's reflect on a season that had a lot of positives.
Did you know that the Blue Jays finished 3rd overall in Major League Baseball attendance with 3,392,099 fans in 2016? That's nearly 42,000 fans per game to watch Toronto try to return to its glory days.
Seven (7) former Vancouver Canadians helped get the Blue Jays to the post-season in 2016. Can you name them all?
Roberto Osuna, Kevin Pillar, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Matt Dermody, Bo Schultz and Dalton Pompey all pulled the double blue jersey over their heads this season with some becoming bonafide stars.
Pillar has become one of Major League Baseball's most coveted defenders making highlight reels almost nightly. His efforts in the community have him recognized as one of baseball's bright young lights. Aaron Sanchez was in the American League Cy Young conversation until an innings limit by the team slowed the statistical crutch needed to woo the writers and vote holders -- don't worry, that conversation will arise again in the coming years.
Marcus Stroman might have been a .500 pitcher this past season, but he emerged as a clubhouse leader and took to the mound every five (or six) days to log over 200 innings. Roberto Osuna has become a star, at just 21 years of age. He is on pace not only to become one of the best closers in Blue Jays history, but one of the game's greats remembering how young he actually is.
For Dermody, Pompey and Schultz, the time in Toronto was limited, but the experience was needed. Schultz may see his time with the Blue Jays come to an end now as the former Canadians arm bounced back and forth between Triple-A Buffalo and the big club. Pompey was thought to be perhaps a fourth outfielder, but the emergence of both Michael Saunders and Ezequiel Carrera put his meteoric ascent to the Big Leagues on hold as GM Ross Atkins looked to be in no rush to bring the Canadian-born speedster to Toronto.
Dermody, who pitch with the Canadians in 2013, got called up in September and will be back. A hard-throwing lefty that knows where the strike zone is will always have a place on a Major League roster.
Whether Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista returns remains to be seen. Jose just celebrated his 36th birthday hours ago, while Edwin will see a number of American League teams willing to back up the Brinks truck for his services. Can the Blue Jays afford one or both. The short answer is yes. The more complicated answer is to explain the vision for Mark Shapiro and Atkins as they assemble this team for March of 2017.
Remember, both Bautista and Edwin wanted contracts prior to Spring Training and neither (so we are told) got one.
This team is Josh Donaldson's and the future remains bright with Tulowitzki, Travis, Pillar and Martin all ready to get healthy and ready for another go just a few months from now.
It was a great season! The Wild Card, the sweep of Texas and countless memories from the 162 game battle toward the post-season.
Will Gibby be back? Will the big bats? Time will tell.
For now, here is a tip of the cap from everyone out west to Canada's Blue Jays - who made us all proud in 2016.