By Bob Elliott
Even though it has been a while the Blue Jays know how to throw a celebration.
It would have been 22 years next month, but they had previously hosted nine champagne celebrations since 1985.
And then along came Saturday.
The lockers were not covered by protective plastic.
Manager John Gibbons toasted his team, congratulated his players and said “we aren’t finished yet ... we have tons of business left to go.”
“We didn’t want to make too big a deal of it, we wanted to save for a later day in the near future -- hey is that a Yogisim?” said Gibbons on how his team reacted after the final out.
Yet once the Jays got behind closed doors ... instead of being a quiet buisness-like celebration most Jays were spraying champagne and feeling no pain, like the George Strait song goes.
“We had a little talk before the game that we weren’t going to do a big celebration because even though getting to the playoffs means a whole lot, especially for our fan base that has been waiting for so long,” Jose Bautista told reporters, “we want to win the division and that’s still the goal.
“We got in here, the emotion, the excitement, everything took over. I don’t know where they were hiding the champagne but someone went and got it and it got a little crazy. We expect to have another one of these when we win the division.
“That’s our goal and we’re going to get it done.”
The magic number is now five, they own a four-game lead over the New York Yankees with eight games remaining.
And so they sprayed Veuve Clicquot fine French champagne -- at $69 a bottle -- supplied by Rogers Communications.
Now, maybe that the Jays have clinched a post-season spot Rogers will clear up the future of the man with the magic wand (general manager Alex Anthopoulos), their resident Yogi (Gibbons) and his staff (coaches DeMarlo Hale, Luis Rivera, Brook Jacoby, Pete Walker, Dane Johnson, Tim Leiper and Jay Owens).
Players sprayed each other, they sprayed the roof of their space-age clubhouse, took pictures and they sprayed each other’s clothes.
And then they sprayed each other all the while smoking cigars almost as long as Barry Davis.
Off to the side sat veterans Russell Martin and LaTroy Hawkins. Martin has lived through 10 celebrations.
He dressed and left. Hawkins has been through eight. He sat at his locker smoking one of those large stogies.
Mark Buehrle, who has won a World Series, headed to the kitchen for a bite to eat.
Clinching the second wild-card berth was no big deal to them.
But to the younger types ... David Price was doing a TV interview in the customary spot where starter’s go discuss their games when from on high he was sprayed with beer and champagne by Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and others.
Kevin Pillar soaked Ryan Goins during an interview.
A swarm soaked Bautista, who was wearing a head bank with a camera inside it. He’d shown Edwin Encarnacion the gadget when Encarnacion arrived earlier in the day.
Menenori Kawasaki, Bautista, Encarnacion and Stroman appeared to be the midst of most celebrations, no matter what end of the clubhouse things were happening.
“It’s worth some sort of celebration,” Pillar told reporters. “If you think this is crazy, wait until we clinch the division. This is more for the franchise, this is more for the city.
“We haven’t lost track of our goals, we want to win the AL East. That was our goal from Day 1 and it feels good, putting this shirt on and putting this hat on, knowing we’re going to the postseason.
“We still have some work to do. You think we’re wet now, wait until we win the division.”
By that time the Jays will have the protective sheets of plastic in front of each locker and the cheap bubbly will be on hand.
The Seattle Mariners now own the longest drought in baseball at 14 years.
Man, is that ever a long time.