By Bob Elliott
The Toronto Blue Jays drew 2.795 million fans to the Rogers Centre this year.
That’s an average of 34,504 for 81 home dates.
And the 34,504 had it right ... long before the decision was turned over to 30 voting Baseball Writers Association of America writers were asked to determine the American League Most Valuable Player.
Fans knew all along:
“MVP!, MVP! MVP!”
They chanted at-bat after at-bat and night after night when Josh Donaldson came to the plate.
And on Thursday night, Donaldson captured 23 of 30 first-place votes to out point Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 385-304.
After being serenaded by Jays fans for roughly four months -- five if you count post-season play -- he heard the words again when BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell made the call:
“Josh Donaldson ... 2015 American League MVP.”
We don’t remember the first time the chants started. The first story in Toronto Sun library mentioning both Donaldson’s name and the term MVP is June 21.
The third baseman, acquired 356 days ago by general manager Alex Anthopoulos from the Oakland A’s, becomes the second player in franchise history to win the award. Despite going 2-for-26 down the stretch left fielder George Bell beat Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell 322-311.
Before he brought in the best shortstop available (Troy Tulowitzki) and the best hired gun (David Price) at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and after he signed free-agent Russell Martin, Anthopoulos added Donaldson for Brett Lawrie and minor leaguers Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin.
“I remember the first time I heard the chant,” Donaldson told reporters on a conference call. “I remember thinking these guys are starting to get pretty serious, I recognized I was starting to have a pretty good season and understood there was a lot of season left. My goal wasn’t to win the MVP.
“They would do the same chant in Oakland and I let it become a distraction, almost putting too much pressure of on myself.
Donaldson was a 9-to-1 choice to win the AL MVP in June, behind even-money choice Trout.
“I have a lot of respect for Mike Trout, what he goes through on a daily basis,” Donaldson said. “It’s hard for me to say I beat him -- it’s not like we’re in a basketball game.
“That being said I have a lot of respect for him, have played against him for a long time.”
When the two went head-to-head Aug. 21-23 in Anaheim, Donaldson went 8-for-13 (.615) with nine RBIs and surpassed the 100-RBI mark for the first time. Trout was 3-for-10 (.300) with one RBI.
Donaldson earned $4.3 Million US this year -- or $200,000 more than Ben Revere -- will double his salary in 2016 unless new president Mark Shapiro locks him up with a long-term deal.
The night of Nov. 28, 2014, Donaldson was playing video games when he heard of the trade Donaldson wasn’t sure what lay ahead.
“After two of three weeks getting over the shock, my family, my agent, we all saw what an opportunity it was to play in Toronto and the AL East. I knew it would be a better situation for me,” said Donaldson. “It always was my favorite city to visit.”
He made his debut April 30, 2010 striking out against Jason Frasor. The next day he hit a two-run homer off Dana Eveland in a 4-3 Oakland win. He spent 2011 in the minors.
“This year’s team got over a lot of thresholds, it had not won in the last 20-odd years, we won the division, advanced past the first round,” he said. “Coming back after being down 0-2 against the Texas Rangers was big. Our team never laid down.”
The third baseman joins Roger Maris, Frank Robinson and Rollie Fingers as players to win the MVP the first year after being dealt.
Both Toronto votes went to Donaldson -- Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star and myself.
Lorenzo Cain of the Kansas City Royals was third with 225 points. Jose Bautista finished eighth (82), David Price was next (62) Edwin Encarnacion was 12th (62) and Russell Martin had two points.
Donaldson made the final out in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series with two men on base.
This night looking into Donaldson’s living room on MLB Network and watching the hugs was a better ending.
Walking it off: Donaldson hit 41 homers this season, 28 either tied the game including three walk-off bombs and 20 game-winning RBIs.
“I felt like I was part of the team after the one against Atlanta,” Donaldson said.
The walk off homers
May 18, Jays 6, Braves 5, bottom of the 10th, 1-0 pitch, solo shot to deep left
May 26, Jays 10, White Sox 9, bottom of the ninth, 1-1 pitch, three-run homer down the right-field line
Sept. 27, Jays 5, Rays 4, bottom of ninth, 0-1 pitch, solo homer, line drive to left.