Josh Donaldson is having an MVP-caliber start to his career with the Toronto Blue Jays after coming over from the Oakland Athletics in a shocking off-season trade, but he still can’t shake the sting of how his 2014 season ended.
Said Donaldson to Nightengale about that Wild Card defeat to the Kansas City Royals: "I can’t forget. I know I’m supposed to kind of move on, but I haven’t gotten over it. I try not to think about it. I know I’ve thought about it way too much. But I just can’t stop. Really, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it."
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So far in 71 games with the Blue Jays, the third baseman is slashing .302/.363/.548 with 17 home runs and 46 RBIs (entering play Tuesday). His WAR is 3.9, as well.
The A’s, to their credit, did receive two players in the trade that are currently playing well in Oakland: starter Kendall Graveman seems to be blossoming as a rotation arm and third baseman Brett Lawrie has had a strong month and a half at the plate. Still, the underachieving A’s lack a singular personality or "leader" such as Donaldson was for 2014 and parts of 2013.
He admitted to Nightengale that the trade definitely surprised him, considering he spent the early part of the off-season texting his then-A’s teammates, trying to get everyone focused on their 2015 goals: "My thing was, ‘We need to start believing now so we can be World Series champs’. That was the consensus around the players, that we can win. We felt we were going to be stronger than ever because we went through all of the highs and the lowest of lows. Obviously, the front office felt differently."
Billy Beane has a reputation for trading anyone at any time for any reason, and Donaldson was pursued hard by the Blue Jays’ front office. A deal only materialized after Beane was offered what he deemed a worthy package of players, and it’s one that may pay off for Oakland down the line (as evidenced by Graveman’s development this season, for one).
Donaldson told Nightengale that while the trade was a shock, he doesn’t hold any negative feelings toward the A’s, saying, "Look, I understand this is a business. There’s no reason to be upset. If anything, I owe my career to Billy by giving me the opportunity to continue to chase my dream, which was to play in the major leagues.”
Of his conversation with Beane after being informed of the trade, Donaldson told Nightengale the following: "When I talked to Billy, I told him, ‘I want to thank you for giving me my first opportunity to really play. You gave me a shot. You stuck with me.”’
That ‘shot’ resulted in back-to-back playoff appearances for the green and gold, and Donaldson’s new test will be to see if he can help guide the Jays to their first playoff appearance since they won the 1993 World Series.
As far as the ‘Donaldson’s Revenge’ narrative, the Blue Jays will head to Oakland to battle the A’s on July 21-23.