Blue Jays duo familiar with culture shock, pressure of joining new organization
By Jamie Ross
TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson knows how Troy Tulowitzki must be feeling. When the Blue Jays acquired Donaldson in an offseason blockbuster deal with the A's, the move caught everyone off guard, but perhaps no one more than Donaldson himself. After earning fan-favourite status over three seasons in Oakland, Donaldson was shocked when he was shipped north of the border.
So in some ways, Donaldson can relate to Tulowitzki's surprise when the Rockies dealt their star shortstop to the Blue Jays on Tuesday, and the challenges that come with joining a new team in a new city and different country.
"Our job as a team is to make him feel comfortable, to make him feel like he hasn't missed a beat," Donaldson said ahead of the series opener against the Phillies. "At the end of the day, when you go out there and you play a game of baseball, that's something he's very familiar with and comfortable with doing. I'm sure he'll ease into it very nice."
Tulowitzki spent his entire career -- the last nine seasons -- in a Rockies uniform, becoming the club's franchise player and a fan favourite along the way. That kind of pedigree can bring with it a lot of pressure when joining a new team, something pitcher R.A. Dickey knows all about. Dickey, the 40-year-old knuckleballer, was dealt to Toronto following his National League Cy Young Award-winning season with the Mets.
"I think the hard part is the expectation," Dickey said. "There's an awful lot of expectation. Whenever you're traded for something, there's an expectation -- and there should be, rightfully so. I think that's probably the hardest, managing an expectation. And the great thing is you get to start anew. He's inserted onto a team that on paper should win, we should get to the postseason. So I'm sure he's excited about that opportunity."
There were initial reports that Tulowitzki was unhappy with the trade, which is nothing new to the Blue Jays. When veteran hurler Mark Buehrle was dealt to Toronto back in 2012, he wasn't thrilled to leave Miami for a foreign country. But after experiencing all the city and organization had to offer, he changed his tune, said Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
"We're a contender, good lineup, great city, country, ballpark," Anthopoulos said. "And you have guys like Buehrle, who didn't know what to expect, and he loves it [now]. He told me many times he'd tell many free agents to come here, and I know Josh Donaldson has adored being here, too. I think there's just a lot of unknown, and when they get there, they love it. And I think Troy will be the same way."
Still, the adage that Anthopoulos often clings to -- that you have to give to get in the trade market -- fully applies in this scenario. In acquiring an elite shortstop, the team had to give up Jose Reyes, a beloved teammate and favourite to many Toronto fans. Several players -- including Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion -- expressed their sadness at losing a friend and what they viewed as a key part of the Blue Jays' clubhouse.
"I've been around long enough now to experience a few of these, and it [stinks] letting some people go, but it's always good to get great players back," said Bautista.
Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.