Q&A: Josh Donaldson talks AL MVP race, Blue Jays' off-season and more
Josh Donaldson's first season with the Blue Jays was a banner year for the 29-year-old. After coming over from the Athletics in a trade last winter, the third baseman put himself in contention for the American League MVP award in 2015, exploding for a career-high 41 home runs and an AL-best 123 RBIs in 158 games. His efforts helped Toronto reach the postseason for the first time since 1993 with an AL East title, as the team got all the way to the ALCS before falling in six games to the eventual World Series champion Royals. Now Donaldson waits to see if his brilliant season will be enough to beat out defending MVP Mike Trout of the Angels and earn him his first ever MVP nod when the Baseball Writers' Association of America's voting results are announced on Thursday night.
As he recovers from the long season and prepares for 2016, Donaldson will also try his hand as a pitchman this fall, as he will star in an upcoming commercial to promote the Philips Norelco Shaver 9000 as the 'bringer of shave.' It will be available on YouTube on Nov. 25.
Donaldson recently spoke to SI.com about the MVP race, his first year with the Jays, his hopes for Toronto's off-season, the unexpected departure of general manager Alex Anthopoulos, trash talking with teammate Jose Bautista, his hair and more.
Kenny Ducey: How difficult an opponent in this MVP race has Mike Trout been?
Josh Donaldson: Playing against Mike Trout, you understand how dynamic he is and what a great player he is. I don’t necessarily consider him an opponent as far as the award is concerned. It’s definitely been interesting throughout this process.
KD: He did win last year; do you think you’ve done enough to unseat him?
JD: I’m confident in the season that I had and the numbers that I was able to put up. I’m sure he is too. But at the end of the day, it’s just not something that I’m voting on, so it’s kind of out of my hands.
KD: This year's Blue Jays had scooters, music, Munenori Kawasaki ... have you ever had as much fun in a clubhouse as you did last year?
JD: We had some fun, and we definitely had some fun in my years in Oakland as well. But ultimately, I think winning breeds having fun and the enjoyment of coming to the yard every day. I think we had a bunch of guys that had great character on our team and that were willing to sacrifice things for their teammates. Part of coming to the yard every day is enjoying being around your teammates, and we had a lot of extra things that we were able to do to help bring that excitement.
KD: The Blue Jays made some significant moves at the trade deadline. Were you almost surprised at how quickly you were all able to gel and make a run in the playoffs?
JD: I remember the first day that we got everybody in the clubhouse together and just seeing the faces and what had transpired. We understood that we had a really good team, and it wasn’t only a good team on paper. We had a good team as far as character guys were concerned, whose focus was on the right things—going out there and winning ball games and trying to pick your teammates up at all costs. It was pretty special to be a part of.
KD: You exploded last year from a production standpoint. Was that something that happened as a product of playing in Toronto, was it an adjustment, what was it?
JD: Through the past two years, especially, I’ve tried to make adjustments throughout the course of time and tried to improve to be able to be a more complete hitter. The environment I was in, versus playing in Oakland ... obviously Oakland is more of a pitcher-predominant park. Going into Toronto, it’s a little more hitter-friendly. And the guys I’m surrounded by in the lineup are great players of their own. All those factors are shaping more of the type of hitter I am. The ballpark, the hitters around me—I think it all had a factor in there at some point.
KD: You finished behind Jose Bautista in MVP voting last year when you were in Oakland. If you finish ahead of him this year, are you going to let him know about it?
JD: Nah. Throughout the course of the year I would let him know that I was beating him in homers throughout the entire season. He came on strong at the end, [and] I was able to hold him off. There is definitely smack talk throughout the course of the season, but the MVP voting, that’s probably not going to be one thing that I throw in his face.
KD: What were other things you would smack talk him about?
JD: Just the homers, going out there and maybe being able to steal a bag, although I think he stole more than I did this year. Maybe next year I’ll get him in that. There were a bunch of random things.
KD: The team has already brought back Marco Estrada. How happy are you about that, and what else do you think you guys need to do?
JD: Marco was stupendous for us this year, especially the first month of the season, in the bullpen, [then] becoming a starter, and then really down the line he was probably—him and [David] Price were probably right at the top of our pitching order as far as who you’d want out there each and every day. That’s not taking anything away from David, but that’s just really complimenting what Marco did for our team at the end of the year.
Obviously, if we’re not able to bring back David, losing [Mark] Buehrle ... I know the team is going to have to address a few starting rotation spots. And we’re going to lose a bullpen arm with LaTroy Hawkins retiring. Hopefully we can sign back Mark Lowe. I think those are really the areas we’re going to have to address, because as of now, all of our starting position players are coming back.
KD: Did Alex Anthopoulos's departure as general manager catch you by surprise? He was the guy who brought you to Toronto.
JD: It definitely caught me by surprise, especially with what we were able to accomplish throughout the year. But obviously this is a business, and it was in his best interest to part ways, and all I can do is support his decision. But at the same time, I was definitely surprised that he wasn’t coming back.
KD: What’s next for your hair? You’ve been known to change it up.
JD: I’m trying to grow my hair out right now like the guy on Vikings [Ragnar Lothbrok], where it’s really long and it’s kind of got three big braids going down the middle of it. That’s what I’m trying to get it to right now. My hair can be fully braided as of right now, but I’m trying to get the braids thicker. So I’ve got to try to find a way to do that.
KD: How have you liked the partnership with Philips Norelco?
JD: I have partnered up with Philips Norelco, and on Nov. 25, in a way to show my appreciation for the fans, and not only the way they supported the team but also myself throughout the year, they're going to have an opportunity to win a Philips Norelco 9000 shaver by tweeting at Philips Norelco with some raindrops or with the hashtag #BringerOfShave. [Donaldson's Twitter handle is "@BringerOfRain20".]
I think what sets them apart is they’re going for the clean-shaven look. I’ve had a beard, I’ve gone clean-shaven, and my beard can kind of get a little long at times. I think what’s great about this shaver is that it has 72 rotating blades, and it’s going to be able to give you a 30% cleaner shave. It’s pretty neat. I’ve had a chance to experience it personally, and it really gets you a closer shave, especially in those harder-to-reach places underneath your jaw line. And the irritation is very minimal, to say the least.