If yesterday was indeed Brett Cecil’s last appearance as a Toronto Blue Jay, it will indeed be a journey that has come full circle. At the age of 22, Cecil then a starter, made his MLB Debut against the Cleveland Indians, Cecil pitched 6 innings with a matching 6 strikeouts and only gave up 1 earned run. Now seven years later, Cecil may have finished his Blue Jays journey against the same Cleveland Indians in the 2016 ALCS, pitching 3.1 innings with 3 strikeouts and zero earned runs.
While the potential loss of sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista lingers in minds of Blue Jays’ faithful, the departure of Cecil has been almost forgotten. While Cecil has found himself on the end of harsh criticism over the years, Cecil has proven to be the backbone of the bullpen since his transition in 2013 and for that a proper sendoff is necessary. That sendoff starts with looking what Cecil really was as a Blue Jay for the last eight seasons.
Choosing to believe the fair-weather opinion that Cecil was a lackluster option out of the bullpen due to a slow start to the season really paints a deceptive lie. Cecil finished 2016 with an ERA of 3.93, the first time since 2012 that Cecil has finished with an ERA above 3. Sometimes forgotten due to being a notorious slow beginner is how dominant Cecil becomes as the season progresses.
Cecil’s impressive performances in the 2nd half led to Cecil tying the MLB record with 38 consecutive games without giving up an earned run, a streak that started in 2015 and came to an end this April. Another accolade to Cecil’s resume is breaking David Cone’s Blue Jays record of most batters faced without allowing a hit during the 2013 season. Cone’s record of 36 batters was crumbled when Cecil retired 43 consecutive batters without allowing a hit.
While Cecil was never able to hold on to the closer role, the left-hander was a superb bridge between middle-relief and the closer as his 2.69 ERA in non-save situations will show. Never grasping the closer’s role should not be what Cecil is remembered for, as his 3.9 WAR since joining the bullpen full time in 2013 leads all Blue Jays relievers.
If Wednesday’s 3-0 loss to Cleveland Indians was Cecil’s last as a Blue Jay, then we owe him the respect of remembering him for what he was – the most dominant and consistent bullpen piece since 2013. Through many variables of fan appreciation and role in the bullpen, Cecil has battled through it all to remain a key figure of every Blue Jays season since 2009. The unfortunate potential of a Cecil departure this off season not only represents a huge blow to the bullpen but also the loss of a Blue Jay great.
If this is the time for a goodbye, then thank you Brett Cecil for eight seasons of embodying what it means to be a Toronto Blue Jay.