On Monday evening, in front of a somewhat desolate lost Toronto Blue Jay crowd, Edwin Encarnacion came home.
All Monday morning, you could scroll through your various social media sites and come across a variety of polls and posts that all centered around one common theme?
“How should Edwin be received when he comes to bat Monday evening?”
It’s the conversation sports nations or, maybe just Toronto media, has every time a famed athlete comes back to play at their former home stadium, field or arena. It’s tiring, in a lot of ways, but still it’s important.
That’s because, on Monday night, Edwin Encarnacion received a standing ovation for his eight seasons he spent in a Blue Jays uniform, this time donning the enemy Cleveland logo. A lot has been written about his departure—the decision, the negotiations, the what ifs (oh, the what ifs).
You’d be remiss if you were still a little bit upset that Encarnacion skipped town during the off-season to join a team that eliminated the Blue Jays from postseason contention. You could be mad at EDWIN for that.
Of course, there’s the other side of the misdirected anger too. The, “how could management let him slip through our fingers?” part. He’s arguably one of the best players in franchise history and the Blue Jays were still within a contending window with Josh Donaldson on the hot corner and Jose Bautista coming back for at least another year. Why not add one more superstar that we know all too well?
But let’s get one thing out of the way first. Edwin Encarnacion deserved every clap and cheer Monday night. Period. In 999 games in a Jays uniform, Edwin went from a guy who struggled to make the Jays roster in 2010 to a perennial all-star by the later years of his contract. He hit .268 during that time. He smashed 239 home runs—one of the two largest in the century and arguably one of the top three in franchise history. Edwin was everything you wanted out of a Blue Jay and more.
Edwin was a Blue Jay and then like all of those before him, he wasn’t. He moved on and now it feels weird to watch him wearing another uniform, wondering whether it’s okay to cheer him on for what he did. Like you have to look around at those sitting near you at the Rogers Centre or the comment section of the social media post for some sort of acceptance to feel what exactly it is you’re feeling.
The reason this discussion can be so tiring every time a returning player comes home for the first time is that it’s a totally individualistic experience. Whether you like or dislike a certain player, agree or disagree with a decision made, is something that you should individually stand for. If you are happy with where the Jays currently are, are in acceptance that the Jays shouldn’t have paid him the money he was looking for and want to remember his glory days, by all means, stand and cheer—I know I would. But if you don’t, there’s nothing wrong with that either. Edwin did leave. He is wearing an opponent’s uniform. There’s nothing wrong with you not being totally in love with either of those ideas.
That said, Monday night offered a final sense of grace for Jays fans as the final goodbye to our once hero. It was a chance to remember all that he brought to the team, stand, applaud and thank him for becoming the best version of himself.
But if you chose to sit and stew, there’s nothing wrong with that either. That’s totally up to you.