Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion may seem to be an unlikely duo to have turn out to be mates.
One among them is flamboyant and boisterous, the opposite one is discreet and introverted. One hails from Alabama (by way of close by Pensacola) and was a standout All-American with the Auburn Tigers. The opposite moved to Puerto Rico at age 14 from his childhood residence within the Dominican Republic, which on the time didn’t have the spectacular farm techniques we all know right now, to pursue his dream of enjoying main league baseball.
Donaldson would go on to have a standout profession that noticed him dealt from the Oakland Athletics to the Toronto Blue Jays after the 2014 season, a yr earlier than he was topped American League MVP. And very similar to his character, Encarnación flew principally underneath the radar with the Cincinnati Reds, proper up till he was picked off waivers by the Blue Jays in 2010 and went on to determine himself as top-of-the-line and most constant power-hitters within the recreation.
When Donaldson arrived within the Blue Jays’ clubhouse, he got here armed with the Athletics approach, reaching throughout the proverbial Latino gamers’ aisle in making an attempt to determine a successful clubhouse tradition that he believes in to today. Encarnación was skeptical at first, however finally grew to belief and imagine within the good intentions of that brash, quirky child.
“Once I got here in to Toronto you had Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Navi [Dioner Navarro] and Edwin, a fairly large Latin tradition. I all the time wish to speak to everyone, so I made it a degree that I used to be making an attempt to speak with everyone, so I allow them to know,” mentioned Donaldson, laughing.
“I performed within the Dominican and I do know what it feels wish to be a part of a smaller group,” he mentioned. “So I made it a degree to allow them to know I used to be focused on them and wished to indicate that I’m right here that can assist you guys win. So we began constructing a relationship. And sure, some folks surprise how, however a few of my finest mates have been extra of the quiet sort.”
“Once I first met him in Toronto, you might inform straight away what sort of man he’s. Sure, we’re utterly totally different. However that does not matter; everybody has their very own approach. He does issues his approach and I do issues my approach, however that did not cease us from changing into good mates,” Encarnación mentioned. “It is all primarily based on respect in direction of one another. That is the primary factor between us. The respect and belief we’ve got developed in one another. He trusts and believes in me and I belief and imagine in him. We’ve an in depth relationship on and off the sphere.”
Alongside José Bautista, they turned not solely good mates, however top-of-the-line power-hitting trios in baseball, combining for 221 residence runs between them in 2015 and 2016. That Blue Jays staff would go on to make back-to-back American League Championship Collection in these two seasons, successful the AL East the primary yr and incomes a wild card within the second whereas making the playoffs for the primary time since successful the World Collection in 1992 and 1993.
Meaning each Donaldson and Encarnación have some unfinished enterprise in October, having gotten to the ALCS however no additional than that. And whereas neither would brazenly admit it, there’s a chip on each of their shoulders to indicate the Blue Jays what they might have completed with some extra time collectively.
Encarnación has all the time taken the excessive highway in his feedback after his departure as a free agent from Toronto, however it’s unclear how arduous the Blue Jays tried to re-sign him earlier than he determined to go to Cleveland within the winter of 2015.
Donaldson’s departure from Toronto was messy, with loads of reviews of the mishandling of his most up-to-date calf harm and contract negotiations. The 32-year-old had been restricted to simply 36 video games for Toronto, and nobody knew when or if he’d play once more in 2018.
The Blue Jays ended up getting a paltry return for the 2015 AL MVP, along with his commerce worth diminished by his harm and pending free company.
After he was traded to Cleveland he proved he was wholesome sufficient to contribute, hitting .280/.400/.420 with three residence runs within the season’s closing month to safe a spot within the Indians American League Division Collection lineup.
“In Toronto, it was a kind of conditions the place it positively wasn’t the way in which I wished it to finish,” Donaldson mentioned. “I want it may have been totally different simply so far as me being on the DL and never having the ability to really play. I did not need it to finish that approach. I used to be working my ass off to get again as fast as potential as a result of I knew sooner or later one thing was going to occur.”
Getting again in motion, and doing one thing within the time he has wherever he is enjoying, has turn out to be Donaldson’s greatest precedence.
“The free agent stuff, I did not care,” Donaldson mentioned. “That is going to deal with itself. My focus has by no means actually been about [free agency], my focus has been, ‘Hey how can I assist my staff win?’ And when I’m not on the sphere, I clearly, I am unable to actually do this. I’ve made sufficient cash. It is about successful for me.”
Now Donaldson and Encarnación discover themselves collectively within the postseason once more, this time as a part of the Indians’ successful tradition, surrounded by aggressive athletes who’ve already confirmed rather a lot on the large stage of playoff baseball.
“Eddie and I, we’ve got superb reminiscences of enjoying with one another. And that is one other alternative. And if you happen to look across the room, many people have had related experiences,” Donaldson mentioned.
“You recognize, Eddie was type of bouncing forwards and backwards after which actually made a reputation for himself in Toronto,” Donaldson mentioned. “Yan Gomes, type of the identical factor, bouncing round, they have been making him a utility man after which type of finds his approach right here. I used to be up and down 5 instances with the A’s. Look what occurred with Melky [Cabrera]. So you have got some guys who’ve been examined and failed. [Corey] Kluber I keep in mind when he first got here up he was type of fringy after which seems to be a Cy Younger Award-winner. And I simply assume it is the attribute of the blokes and the folks which can be within the locker room make the group.”
“It damage. We have been so shut and it damage,” Encarnación mentioned. “It damage as a result of all we dreamt about [with that Blue Jays team] was making it to the World Collection and successful that ring. And now we’re again right here collectively, and we’ve got to maintain transferring ahead and hope to God that we’re wholesome so we are able to accomplish nice issues, all of us Indians collectively.
“Issues did not go the way in which we wished earlier than, however that is baseball,” Encarnacion added. “And private accomplishments do not imply as a lot as what you are able to do collectively, like successful a World Collection championship. That is what all of us attempt for. It is not straightforward; not straightforward in any respect. But it surely’s not unattainable. And we discover ourselves on the playoff stage once more and something can occur.”
And for Donaldson particularly, sharing the playoff stage along with his pal Edwin might be a approach of closing a chapter of his life that he nonetheless feels stays very a lot open-ended.
“You attempt to not get too far forward of your self, however sitting right here speaking about it, I imply, I feel it could be cool,” Donaldson mentioned. “We made some actually good reminiscences, and I’ve quite a lot of good reminiscences of Edwin within the postseason. For us to proceed to construct that, it could be like slightly little bit of some unsettled enterprise that we had began. We have gotten shut earlier than. And if I used to be in a position to come right here then assist out, and clearly Edwin is doing his factor, perhaps we’ll be capable to obtain one thing that we all the time strived to do.”