- Feb 23, 2021: Last season marked the first time in Josh Donaldson's career in which he was unable to appear in the playoffs for his team. It's not a feeling he's eager to relive.
"It was tough to watch the guys," he said.
At 35, Donaldson has had to come to terms with the fact that he can no longer expect himself to be the grind-it-out, play-through-things guy to push through issues in the name of staying on the field. Not if he wants to be there when the games matter most for the Twins, and not if he wants to make sure his calves will allow for a productive tenure with Minnesota as his age continues to creep up.
So, after his recurring calf issues held him to 28 games last season, Donaldson enters camp ahead of the 2021 season knowing that he'll have to approach things differently. Things still look similar to the eye: He still moves well, his glove is sure, and his swing mechanics and plate discipline strong as he took live batting practice against Griffin Jax and Devin Smeltzer.
But once games start, the focus could turn more to the big picture and the marathon of the season.
"I'm understanding that in order for me to be out there and help our team throughout the season, that there's going to have to be some adjustments made," Donaldson said.
The third baseman and former MVP said it took him a month following the 2020 season to recover from the calf issues that flared up again at the end of September and kept him out of the American League Wild Card Series. There isn't one solution to this, and in addition to working with the training staff to maintain strength and mobility in the legs, there has also been an added focus on Donaldson's running mechanics and easing into his usage in games.
It hasn't been easy for Donaldson to change up his running form this deep into his career, but his gait has been too reliant on using his feet and calves to drive himself forward, he says. He's instead focused much more on trying to generate that acceleration using hip drive. He felt good about his progress in 2020, and hopes that the challenges of ramping up more quickly for games due to COVID considerations last season made for a "fluke" hindrance to his progress.
"It’s been something that I’ve put a lot of time and energy into, and I’m going to continue to do that," Donaldson said.
The other part might be tougher for him, but it's something he accepts: His usage will be limited, both at the start of Spring Training and in the early part of the regular season. Manager Rocco Baldelli noted during the offseason that easing Donaldson into action will help him build up more gradually for the season and, hopefully, be healthier for the more important September stretch run and postseason.
According to Donaldson, he and Baldelli had these conversations last season, too, but much of those plans went out the window when the season was shortened from 162 games to 60, increasing the importance of each game and leading the Twins to "try to push it," Donaldson said. That shouldn't be an issue this year -- especially with a capable offensive backup in Luis Arraez pushing for playing time at several positions.
"I'm not going to be playing in every single game early on, but to kind of build into getting game-ready," Donaldson said. "There is kind of a getting broken-in effect as getting into baseball shape, because there is a lot of sitting down, there is a lot of going from sitting and not doing anything to full-speed right away. Your body has to get acclimated to that."
That acclimation will be all the more important in the face of added pressure from the White Sox -- and the fact that the Twins were 19-9 when Donaldson played last year, and 17-17 when he didn't (including the playoffs). The Twins aren't 100 percent sure of what exactly it'll look like yet -- but they know it's important they figure it out.
"I don’t think it makes sense to have a plan set in stone at this point, but we certainly will, and we certainly have made some inroads as far as exactly what we’re going to be doing once these games start in the spring and when the season starts," Baldelli said. "We definitely have some very good ideas that will help. Josh is on board with everything that we’re talking about." (DH Park - MLB.com - Feb 23, 2021)
|Birth City:||Pensacola, FL|
|Draft:||Cubs #1 (suppl.) - 2007 - Out of Auburn Univ. (AL)|
Donaldson was raised by his mother. His parents were divorced when he was just a toddler. His father, Levon, was later arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Despite his Dad being incarcerated, his mother permitted Josh to see his father and never let anyone speak badly of his father to him.
"Mom was on top of all of it," Donaldson says, "working day and night jobs, making sure I was making grades and making sure I was accounted for."
His mother, Lisa French, worked at their family bar and kept Josh out of trouble. Josh also credits his uncle, Chuck Pyritz, with filling the father-figure void.
Baseball is endless childhood. Grown men who never quite leave their boy selves behind. But that implies childhood as a place of gentle delights, of innocence, of sentimentally burnished memories. For Josh Donaldson, it wasn't like that. His early years were drenched in violence that no little one should ever have to witness.
"I'm not going to get too colorful with it. But it wasn't pretty. The best way I can describe it is I can still remember things from when I was from three to five years old that are very vivid in my mind to this day. And it's not something I would want anybody else to go through. It not only affects the two people who are involved, but it affects the children. It definitely has had an effect on me throughout my life."
Those two people: Mom and Dad. Josh was the only youngster in the household. Late one night, Levon Donaldson —at that point separated from Lisa—broke into the home and, in a fit of rage, viciously attacked his wife. It was not the first time he'd raised his fists to her.
"There was no way I could help. It's a tough situation for everybody to be a part of."
Levon Donaldson would serve 15 years in prison on a slew of charges—sexual battery, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, drug offences; crimes committed against his spouse and others. His young son made semi-annual visits to the Florida penitentiary to see his dad. The older Donaldson's waywardness and conflict with the law had been chronic. A brother had preceded him to jail. As Josh recalled to a San Francisco Chronicle journalist:
"At one point, the cops were looking for him and he asked me: 'Who do you want to go with, me or your mom? I was four years old. I obviously picked my mom."
Their relationship—mother and son—was extremely close, bound to each other by love and mutual dependence. Lisa French, a struggling divorcee, worked day and night at the family bar, leaning on her own brother to provide the boy with a sturdy male influence. She put Josh in sports for the stability that organized activities offered. At a mere 18 months, he'd already appeared on local TV, hitting drives with a picture perfect golf swing (which his dad had taught him).
"The one positive that came out of this situation is my mom and I became inseparable, really. We both kind of lived for one another."
Donaldson doesn't dwell on the upheaval. He's speaking about it on this day because a reporter has asked for his views on the Major League Baseball domestic violence policy instituted last summer. With the players' union, baseball reached a landmark joint agreement on domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. The commissioner's office pledged to investigate all allegations, independent of criminal probes, with the individual involved, whether player or a staff member, placed on paid administrative leave while the review is conducted. Discipline can be imposed even if there's no criminal conviction.
Yankee pitcher Aroldis Chapman became the first MLB player held to that policy. He agreed to a 30-game suspension that will begin on Opening Day. Chapman, one of the game's premier relievers, is alleged to have placed his hands around his girlfriend's neck during an argument in October 2015, and of having fired a gun eight times. In a statement issued after the penalty was announced, Chapman continues to maintain he didn't "in any way" harm his girlfriend. "However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to my actions, and for that I am sorry."
He chose not to appeal the suspension. That avoids putting the union, which assisted the league in developing its policy, in the awkward position of having to defend one of its players accused of domestic assault. (Police declined to press charges.)
"It's one of those things that we're still feeling out," says Donaldson. "But I know that the players want to get this right, MLB wants to get it right. Personally, to have grown up in that lifestyle myself, it makes me very sensitive to the matter. The fact is, it happens too often in society. That's the biggest issue.''
He motions towards the ballpark where his team has just played, and says, "These are grown men on the field here. Domestic violence is a numbers game, right? There's going to be one or two people, just by pure numbers, who are involved in that kind of thing. It's everywhere, in every profession. The more that we can get ahead of this, the more educated people will be and hopefully that makes everyone think.
"I feel that Major League Baseball and the union are doing a great job of making people aware—hey, if this happens you're going to get a chance to be proven innocent or guilty, and if you're guilty then ultimately you're going to end up losing money and probably losing credibility for a lot of fans. It's a very serious issue, not just in baseball but in society." (Hamilton Spectator - Rosie DiManno - March 2016)
When he was 12, he'd hit into an 8-foot-by-8-foot net in his backyard, taking 300 hacks lefthanded and 300 hacks righthanded. At Faith Academy, he would play in a football game (he was a star cornerback) and afterward meet his baseball coach to get some work in.
When he'd go through hitting slumps at Auburn, he'd have his girlfriend feed a pitching machine for him during weekends.
Donaldson's childhood playing career was influenced by the father of righthander P.J. Walters, who started coaching him at the age of 7. Donaldson and P.J. later went to play for the same state championship team at Faith Academy in Mobile, Ala.
Josh was bullied in his first high school and then transferred to Faith Academy. He forged a notable competitive streak early on.
"Josh was a very active child," Lisa said. "I don't think he played anything that wasn't competitive, even Nintendo. I don't know how many controllers I bought because he'd lose a game and throw them at the TV and break them."
Sports helped him corral that out-of-bounds attitude. But it took longer to eliminate a brashness that sometimes rubbed his opponents the wrong way. Some perceived him as egotistical, Donaldson says. He put it this way: "I developed quickly as far as sports were concerned, and I was a very confident kid."
In 2004, Josh graduated from Faith Academy in Mobile, Alabama. He was named Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior after hitting .515 with 21 doubles, six triples, four home runs, and 54 RBI. Joshua also played football for two years as a wide receiver, defensive back (making a school-record 11 interceptions), and punter. And he was a point guard in basketball.
He was named the Best Christian Leader Award in 2003 and 2004. "As someone who wasn't the biggest and strongest, I've always thought that I had to outwork everyone else," Josh said.
Upon graduation from high school, Josh accepted a baseball scholarship to Auburn University. He was a third baseman until his junior year, when he moved behind the plate.
In the summer of 2006, Donaldson was an all-star catcher in the Cape Cod League. He hit .302 for the Harwich Mariners, driving in 21 runs with a team-best 4 homers and 11 doubles.
His first season of pro ball, Josh was recognized as the Northwest League's leader in on-base percentage (.470) and he would have ranked first in slugging percentage (.605) if he hadn't fallen three plate appearances short of officially qualifying.
In 2008, Baseball America rated Donaldson as the 7th-best prospect in the Cubs' organization. Moved to the A's organization, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Josh as the 13th-best prospect in their farm system. And he was at #14 in the spring of 2010. They had him at #12 in the spring of 2011. But he was down at #20 in the winter before 2012 Spring Training.
9 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT JOSH
1. He can't believe any of this is happening. "I do remember telling my teachers growing up, 'Hey, save my signature, because it's gonna be worth something someday,'" Donaldson said during a visit to the MLB Fan Cave. "But I didn't really believe it. Like, I was just messing around with them."
2. "The Donaldson" requires trimming every 10 days. And careful with the rat tail, please. That curly wisp of hair is key to Donaldson's Mohawk. "You've got to have the rat tail," Donaldson said of his suddenly (in the spring of 2013) signature coif.
3. His girlfriend Jillian Rose had absolutely no idea he was going to do that to his head when she dropped him off at the ballpark early this season.
"He looked like he always did," she said. "Then I was sitting in the stands with the girls. When he first got it done, his hair was so short and one of the girls said, 'I think his head is shiny.' I was like, 'What happened? I just dropped him off!' Then he takes off his helmet and we saw it.
"After the game, I'm like, 'Babe, what happened?' I said, 'Who did this?' He said, 'Well, I was doing it myself, and then I started having trouble so [Grant] Balfour helped me out.' So then I saw Balfour's wife, Angie, and I said, 'Hey, we need to talk about doing this before.' It was funny."
4. As a boy, Donaldson was a Braves fan and his favorite player was Ron Gant. Donaldson once saved up three bucks of lunch money to get Gant's rookie card at Big Hit Sports Cards in Spanish River, Ala., right by I-10 near his elementary school outside Mobile. Discovering that a Gant was up to $10, young Josh begged his Mom to spring for the other $7. "That Ron Gant card I have saved and wrapped up in bubble wrap. This was my prized possession."
5. He still loves trading cards so much that when given the option of spending a day off shopping Fifth Avenue with Jillian or going with teammate Pat Neshek to open dozens of Topps Heritage boxes at the MLB Players Association headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, Jillian wound up hanging out with a best friend. Baseball always rules. "This is your thing," she said.
6. He has a nine-pound, tri-color Cavalier King Charles Spaniel toy named Lucy, and loves her. "People are surprised when they see him with this toy dog," Rose said. "He's a big sweetheart. He is. He's a really good guy. He would do anything for any of his friends. He's that guy."
7. He credits Greg Sparks, hitting coach of Oakland's Triple-A Sacramento River Cats affiliate, with the most important lesson he has learned, even when he persistently refused to be taught. "I feel like I am being more consistent every day, as far as [putting the] barrel on balls," Donaldson said. "Oakland can somewhat play as a big ballpark. In the past, I've tried to swing harder. Right now, I'm just trying to focus on barreling the ball up and I'm hitting a lot of doubles. During the course of the year, the home runs will come. It's just something over the course of time you learn a little bit."
8. His girlfriend Jillian Rose is from Cincinnati and is still a devout Reds fan. Shortly after they had met, she was wearing a Joey Votto MVP shirt and came to visit Donaldson one day in Salt Lake City, where she was living. With all due respect, there are no more Reds garments in this relationship. "He was like, 'Babe, what are you doing? You're going to have to cover that up,'" Rose recalled. She told him Votto was a first baseman and he was a catcher (at the time), but he shook his head. "I haven't worn my Cincinnati gear since," she said.
9. Josh was surprised to by voted to the 2013 All-Star Team. "I would never have thought someone would vote me into the All-Star Game," Donaldson said. "You've got some guys over at that position who have a lot of clout in the game of baseball. Those guys (Cabrera, Machado) are very good. I've been pretty fortunate to get off to a decent start, and I'm just thankful to be here." (Newman - mlb.com-5/3/2013)
To this day, Donaldson is obsessed with baseball cards and memorabilia. Back home in Mobile, Josh has thousands of them, many kept in a safe, including several vintage Mantles. In 2015 he spent a few grand on the complete Topps sets from 1972 through 1979.
The collecting began when he was a boy; his mom once drove him six hours to Atlanta to for David Justice's autograph. Josh waited near the Braves' parking lot after the game only to watch Justice zoom by in his car.
Even now Donaldson remains a signature-seeking fan-boy. Prominently displayed in his den is a framed Miguel Cabrera jersey, signed by the Tigers' star before a game in 2014.
"The card I want is the 1951 Mantle," Josh said in 2015. "That's his rookie card, and depending on the condition, it can be over a million dollars."
In a baseball card store, Donaldson is a geek who turns as giddy as a 14-year-old by at a One Direction concert. (Albert Chen - Sports Illustrated - 7/27/2015)
The story has been told countless times in his family circle, and even more times outside it. But Josh never tires of hearing Uncle Chuck recount it over and over and over again. Neither does his mother, Lisa.
"My brother took Josh into the backyard," Lisa said. "He had never picked up a baseball bat in his life. I had gotten him one of those yellow bats and white little balls." Josh was 4 years old at the time.
"My uncle said he was throwing it softly the first couple of times; didn't think I would hit it," Josh said. "Throws it, and whack! Hit it right by his head." Luck, perhaps? That's what Uncle Chuck thought, so he tried it again.
Whack! "He hit it even farther," said Lisa, with a smile heard even over the phone. "It's been going on ever since." She pauses, before adding, "Praise the Lord on that one."
Through it all, starting when he was drafted by the Cubs in 2007 out of Auburn University, every one of Josh's moves through the chain has been met with speculation as to whether his bat can keep up. Lisa, vocal and outspoken much like her son, pays no mind to this, saying, "I've always felt like I had to stick up for him."
Because, at home, no one else really could. Josh's father, Levon, went to prison when Josh was just 5, remaining there for the next 16 years, while Lisa played the role of a single Mom. She thrived on it, managing the books and taxes for her mother's bar in Florida during the days, bringing home some extra money by bartending late nights, and making ends meet.
Josh did have an abundance of father figures growing up, a crowd that not only includes Uncle Chuck, but Walters' father, as well as Faith Academy's high school coach Lloyd Skoda, "who taught him not only how to play baseball," Lisa said, "but how to be a man." (Lee - mlb.com - 5/10/2013)
Boxing is another one of Josh's hobbies.
Perhaps because he was 6-0, 190 pounds in high school, his prospects in other sports weren't great.
So in his junior year, his mother, French, packed up the house in Pensacola, Fla., and moved to Daphne, Alabama, where Donaldson would be able to play at Faith Academy, a private school with a good baseball program.
"Josh had wanted to go to Faith Academy for a while," French said. "But he couldn't make up his mind. But he'd been coming home from school not very happy for a while. So I put the house up for sale, sold it in two weeks, and within a month we'd moved to Daphne."
Why the change? "I'd come to the conclusion that baseball was probably going to be my road to success," Donaldson said. "And I felt like if I transferred to this school, which one of my buddies, P.J. Walters (of the Minnesota Twins), did the year before, it would be beneficial. P.J. told me how much he loved it and told me how much better he felt he was getting."
In his senior year, a week before the football season started, Donaldson dropped by practice to see one of his buddies on the team. Just like that, he decided to play football one last time.
He set a school single-season record with 11 interceptions as a senior and was invited to play in the state All-Star football game as a receiver. He wound up being named the game's MVP.
Then the Cubs drafted him as a catcher, and the A's acquired him at the position. But his heart was at third base.
"I guess if I could, I would tell that younger Josh Donaldson to stay at third base," Donaldson said. "But I felt at the time that scouts would be more intrigued with me as a catcher." (John Hickey- July 11, 2013)
In July 2013, Donaldson was honored as the A's recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award. The distinction, awarded to a member of each MLB team, is voted on by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and given to active players "who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and tradition of the game."
"That's Josh Donaldson," said Ray Fosse, who was a member of the 1973 and 1974 Oakland A's World Series teams and presented the award to Donaldson. "He's a student of the game. He's out here all the time. He plays hard, and he plays the game the right way."
"You have to look at what he does on the field and realize that he's a special talent, but he's more than that," Fosse said. "He's the ultimate gamer. He's here all the time. He's like a stadium rat, where he spends a lot of time out here trying to get better. That's a credit to him."
"There's a lot of former players who come around here, not only who played for the A's but in other organizations, and they say they enjoy watching me play and enjoy the way I play the game," Donaldson said. That's the biggest honor, when an ex-player comes up to you and gives you that token of appreciation."
Donaldson says he would have loved to have seen Mickey Mantle play. As for today, Josh says he'd pay to watch the Mets Matt Harvey pitch.
In 2013, Josh drove a Chevrolet Avalanche.
Donaldson's favorite actor/actress: Denzel Washington and Jessica Biel.
TV show: Pawn Stars
Music: Rap and Rhythm & Blues
Food: Southern food
Sports team (other than baseball): Indianapolis Colts.
Josh says if he was not a baseball player: "I got my degree in exercise science. So it would probably be something involved with that; maybe coaching.
Josh is one of the more approachable players in the game. And he is quick to share credit and praise with his teammates.
Three people Donaldson would like to invite to dinner: Kevin Costner, Mickey Mantle, and Robert E. Lee.
Golf is one of Josh's favorite hobbies.
"My Dad got me into it real early," Donaldson said. "I actually started playing when I was about 18 months old."
Josh was even shown on TV as a toddler practicing his picture-perfect swing. But when his father left, so did golf—until he got to the Majors. Now he plays often in the offseason.
On May 1, 2010, on the first pitch by Dana Eveland, Donaldson got his first Major League hit, a two-run home run.
Josh was a revelation in 2013. His advanced offensive numbers were second at his particular position only to some guy named Miguel Cabrera. Between that performance at the plate and his defense and baserunning skills, he was an indispensable piece on an American League West-winning A's club known for mixing and matching in the lineup. He finished fourth in the AL MVP vote. (Castrovince - mlb.com - 3/14/2014)
- Josh is the poster boy for a 2014 A's team that is often overlooked in terms of national publicity but doesn't seem to care. Donaldson?
He's the one-time catcher who was part of a package the A's got from the Chicago Cubs in the July 2008 deal that sent Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden to the Windy City. He made a big league cameo in 2010, spent all of '11 in the Minors, and then in 2012, when he was being converted full time to third base and was in the midst of his second demotion of the year to Triple-A Sacramento, he accepted the challenge of A's player personnel director Billy Owen to play as well in the big leagues as he did in the Minors.
Asked to fill the hole at third base in August that season when Brandon Inge went on the disabled list, he contributed to the end of the season run that allowed the A's to edge the Rangers by one game for the division title.
In his first full big league season, he was the A's MVP in 2013, finishing fourth in the A.L. MVP voting. (Ringolsby - mlb.com - 5/28/2014)
Donaldson was named the starting third baseman for the 2014 All-Star Game on July 14, 2015: Donaldson is not only headed to the All-Star Game as the starting third baseman for the American League, but he also shattered the all-time record for most fan votes.
Donaldson's vote total (14,090,188) surpassed the previous record, owned by Josh Hamilton (11,073,744). Toronto's slugging infielder also joins Jose Bautista as the only two players in franchise history to lead the league in voting.
Josh says it all fits together—the win-at-all-costs hothead, the stickler obsessed with his craft, and the nerd with a wealth of obscure baseball tales.
"He just eats, sleeps, breathes, and dreams baseball," says friend and former teammate, Jonny Gomes. "He's a nut, and a rat, all rolled into one."
August 21, 2015: They have developed a bond of mutual appreciation as former AL West rivals and All-Star Game teammates, but it's unlikely Donaldson and Trout will ever be buddies. These guys are simply too old school for that to happen.
"At the end of the day," Donaldson said, "we're out there competing against each other. I want to beat him and his team, and he wants to beat me and my team. When you're competing like that, you can get that mutual respect. But you know that guy's doing everything he can to beat you.
"We've talked a little bit in the All-Star Games we've played together in, and we saw a lot of each other playing in the same division. It wasn't like a huge connection, but what it did was give me huge respect for him and his game."
The fiery Donaldson and easygoing, smiling Trout appear on the surface to be personal studies in contrast. But Donaldson believes he and Trout share a common competitive gene. "I've always been very passionate about the game and my competition," Donaldson said. "Sometimes that brings out the emotional side of me, my intensity. He's all about attacking today's game with total focus, which is what Trout admires about him as much as his bat, glove, arm and instincts.
"Josh is a great player," Trout said. "He plays the game the right way. I had a ton of respect for him when he was in Oakland, and I feel the same way now."
Earlier in his career, Donaldson said, "Family members and friends would get on me for not swinging at good first-pitch strikes. I used to feel like I needed to see a pitch or two to get comfortable. I've learned that if I get something I can drive on the first pitch, I'm going after it. It's not easy hitting behind in the count at this level." (L Spencer - MLB.com - August 23, 2015)
September 4, 2015: Donaldson grew up mostly without his father and turned to coaches, teachers, family friends and others to stay on the right track. Now he wants to do for others what was done for him. Donaldson raised over $80,000 for the Jays Care Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto on Sunday with his inaugural BaseBowl charity event. Toronto's right fielder started the Bautista Family Education Fund, and has been offering college scholarships to student-athletes for four years now, with 30 currently enrolled in his program.
"If you would have told me that I would be what I am today when I was 18, just because [of] a scholarship, I would have called you a liar," Bautista said. "I don't know what the path is going to end up for any of these kids. All I know is I'm bringing them an opportunity that if our help in both guidance and financial aid wouldn't be there, they might not even explore.
"That's more of what the purpose of my foundation is, giving kids an opportunity, and in some cases maybe even a choice, because a lot of times kids don't have any other choice. Some do, and this would be another choice, but at least they [get] to make one now to know how they're going to move forward in life."
Donaldson didn't have a choice at just 5 years old when his father Levon went to prison, where he remained for the next 16 years. The native of Mobile, Ala., felt limitations because of his situation, but was steered down the road that eventually led him to athletic stardom because of some exceptional people in his life. He hopes his charitable efforts will help children across Canada in a similar fashion.
"I grew up in a single-parent home, and it's something where, as a child I realized there are restraints when that's going on," Donaldson said. "Now I've been able to be put in a position to where I can give back to the community, and give back to children who are in need. BBBST is a very well-run organization, and it's important to give back. (Brudnicki - mlb.com - 9/4/2015)
In 2015, Donaldson was named the MLB Player of the Year by The Sporting News.
In 2015, Donaldson earned the Hank Aaron Award, representing the best offensive season in the American League. And Mr. Aaron handed Josh the award at home plate before Game 4 of the 2015 World Series at CitiField in Queens.
October 30, 2015: Josh took a break from the baseball stuff to answer a question on, of all things, the origin of his Twitter handle, @BringerOfRain20. He says he gleaned it from a TV series titled "Spartacus: Blood and Rain."
December 2015: It was announced that Donaldson will grace the cover of Playstation’s MLB 16: The Show. This marks the first time a Toronto player has landed on the front of the United States release. Jose Bautista, Russell Martin and former Blue Jay Brett Lawrie have all been pictured on Canadian covers of the game in the past.
December 20, 2015: The hardware continues to roll in for Josh, who was named the Blue Jays' Most Outstanding Player by the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Donaldson was a unanimous winner in the latest of what became a long list of awards. Toronto's third baseman previously won the BBWAA's American League Most Valuable Player Award, the Hank Aaron Award, a Silver Slugger, an Esurance Award for defense and the MLBPA's Outstanding Player.
January 20, 2016: Donaldson has gone from AL MVP to pillaging Viking. The Blue Jays third baseman had previously said he was growing out his hair like the characters on the History Channel series "Vikings," and now he will have a guest spot on the show. (Gabrielle McMillen/Omnisport/2016)
January 23, 2016: In the eyes of Josh Donaldson, his blossoming Major League success can be traced back to one player in particular—former A's and Giants pitcher Barry Zito.
"I looked up at the scoreboard in 2012, and he was hitting about 40 points higher than I was, and it made me realize I needed to change a few things," Donaldson said. "I've got to thank Barry for showing up that year and bringing the stick."
And with that nudge, Donaldson has since emerged as one of the game's elite players, earning the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2015. The trophy presentations were held at a private ceremony for players and families after the dinner had to be scaled down due to the severe weather on the East Coast.
"It's very special to be in this room, because it's not only great athletes, but there's a lot of great people here," Donaldson said. "I think that's what's most important about this event and for us to be able to be here and receive this. My teammates were probably the most important part of this. They fed off me every day, I was able to feed off them every day. One hundred and sixty-two games is a grueling season. To be a part of it with these guys, I really appreciated going through the grind." (C Thornburg - MLB.com - January 24, 2016).
It was a made-for-Hollywood moment that couldn't have been scripted any better. Prior to the Blue Jays' game on April 24, 2016, Lisa French had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch to her son, Josh Donaldson, on his bobblehead day, creating a moment the two of them will never forget.
To say Mother's Day came early "would be an understatement," said French, who raised Josh as a single mother. French admitted that there were times when her son was growing up that the mere thought of a moment like this was exactly that—a thought—and many years later, those dark times are now a fragment of the past. Instead, the two had a chance to share a memory that will last a lifetime in front of a sold-out and energized Rogers Centre crowd.
"It's surreal," French said as she reflected on the moment and all the accolades her son has earned. "It's really unbelievable when you think about it, to see him go through what he went through and work hard the way he did. It's so special as a mom to see him live out the dreams that he worked for every day. I could not ask for anything better, and to top it all off, they're winning the game."
Donaldson was presented with his American League Silver Slugger Award, Players Choice Award and AL Outstanding Player Award before the game, and he was given the chance to choose whomever he wanted to throw out the first pitch on the afternoon. French said she found out about the invite on a phone call from her son about a week prior to the game, and that she actually had a dream about it before it happened.
"Probably four days before I got called," French said about the dream. "I was just in the kitchen, acting like I was throwing out the first pitch. Four days later, I get the call telling me the news. I was like, 'This is crazy.' Nobody is ever going to believe this story, but I was more than thrilled." (Ravjiani - MLB.com - 5/4/2016)
Since Donaldson first picked up a baseball at the age of 4, he would work on his game with his mother's brother, Chuck Pyritz. Even as a kid, Donaldson would work at his craft for hours on end, with his mother, Lisa French, having to convince her young baseball star to come back inside, eat his dinner and do his homework. After receiving the news from her son that she was going to throw out the first pitch, it was French's turn to get some lessons from her brother.
"I went over to his house to practice and threw like 100 pitches," French said. "I felt good, but then after, I had to 'IcyHot' my arm. It was sore for three days. I didn't want to pull anything, and I definitely didn't want to bounce that ball."
French was on target with her pitch, and the two embraced in a warm hug in front of the mound. Although Donaldson is as laser-focused as a ballplayer can be, Toronto's third baseman and the 2015 AL Most Valuable Player Award winner couldn't help but express his emotion about the moment, and his gratitude toward the woman he describes as his "rock" and "best friend."
"I know how proud she is of me," Donaldson said. "Before the game, I could see how happy she was. It was a neat moment, and it's tough because you want to be dialed in before the game, but it's a special moment for me, a special moment for her and I won't forget it. "We have a great relationship. To be able to share that, that's a memory that will last a lifetime."
"Every day to me, when I'm with him, is Mother's Day," French said. "There's a lot of special moments between us that have carried throughout time, and they don't necessarily fall on that specific day. He'll do things for me like send me flowers or call me unexpectedly, and it will always remind me, that's my little boy." (Ravjiani - MLB.com - 5/4/2016)
Josh took to MLB Network's Studio 42 to break down the mechanics behind his majestic swing, with its large leg kick and sweeping one-handed follow-through. While doing so, Donaldson took the opportunity to debunk some older strategies of hitting, and dish out advice on how to drive the ball like he does.
"I'll tell you, if you're 10 years old, and your coach says get on top of the ball, tell him no," Donaldson said, pointing to the camera. "Because in the big leagues, these things they call ground balls are outs. They don't pay [me] for ground balls. They pay [me] for doubles, they pay [me] for homers." (Adler - MLB.com - 10/3/2016)
Donaldson is a big fan of the History Channel show "Vikings"—it was the inspiration for his braided mohawk—and he even got to make a cameo as a Viking himself in Season 4.
Donaldson tweeted out photos of himself in the show's Viking garb, and in a short video on the History Channel's Twitter account, he addressed his fans: "Hey, what's up. I'm excited to be a part of the 'Vikings' series. I've been working on this beard and this hair for months. Let's raid." (Adler - MLB.com - 10/3/2016)
2016 off-season: Josh is not one to slow down. After spending the 2016 season slugging 37 home runs, leading the Blue Jays to the ALCS for the second consecutive year, and collecting two giant bags full of hats rained down upon him in tribute, Donaldson has decided to relax in the offseason by … becoming an MMA fighter, apparently.
Donaldson spent December 10 working out with UFC's Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, learning all of Thompson's moves. (MLB/Cut4)
January 2017: Last winter, Josh Donaldson appeared on an episode of the History Channel series "Vikings"—both showing off Donaldson's natural charisma and putting to rest any questions about the infamous braid/mohawk hybrid.
And 2017 has been a pretty busy offseason for the Bringer of Rain—but lovers of dingers and Nordic history have no reason to fear: When "Vikings" returns for its fifth season in January, Donaldson's character will make a second appearance.
March 18, 2017: When Donaldson is asked about his statistics or personal goals, he almost always steers the conversation back to one thing.
"I'm very proud of this organization and our team," he said. "But there's still unfinished business. I want a ring. Plain and simple."
That's pretty much the last unchecked box after two seasons in which Donaldson has established himself as one of baseball's best players. In the end, though, it's about finishing the deal.
"That's what it comes down to," Donaldson said. "You get measured by championships. I'm lacking that right now. Selfishly, I want that. But for this team and this organization, I think it deserves it."
Donaldson's 16.3 Wins Above Replacement are second in baseball during his two Toronto seasons, trailing only Mike Trout (18.3). He has made the American League All-Star team for three consecutive years, and he has averaged 35 doubles, 33 home runs and an .893 OPS over the past four.
Donaldson played in pain—hips, shoulders and body—down the stretch last season. He kept playing and declined to even discuss his condition.
"If I'm out there, there's no need to discuss," he said. "It would sound like an excuse." But that pain spurred Donaldson to a long offseason of work on his core strength and flexibility. He arrived at this camp looking like a guy ready to win another MVP, if not a World Series. "I feel great," he said. "I feel stronger than ever right now. I feel very close."
Donaldson tweaked a calf muscle early in Spring Training and is still a couple of days from playing in a Grapefruit League game. But he's taking round after round of batting practice, and he launched one moon ball home run that had teammates buzzing.
"He's the ultimate gamer," Gibbons said. "He's a different cat. He keeps the guys loose. But when the game starts, he's all business. I've never seen anybody that can turn that switch like that [snaps fingers] when it's game time. He really turns into a different animal; very focused, very intense." (R Justice - MLB.com - March 18, 2017)
Sep 1, 2018: Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins is attempting to clear the air surrounding the series of events that led to the trade of star third baseman Josh Donaldson.
In an interview, Donaldson stated that he "completely ruptured" his left calf muscle while rehabbing in Florida. He also seemed to suggest there was a disconnect between himself and the club's medical staff, and that he would have a lot more to say at a later date.
Atkins responded."All we've done, is tried to add resources," Atkins said during a conference call with reporters. "Physical therapists, more medical support, nutritionists, sleep therapists, massage therapists. More resources. What we try is to have the best for the players, and ultimately, Josh decided this past offseason to follow his own path. "He was not using our resources during the offseason, which was fine with us. We support him 100 percent in his desire to do that. There's certainly not a disconnect internally, but I think when players are being traded there is a level of emotion."
Donaldson's decision to stick with his own program, instead of one outlined by the team, shouldn't be surprising because the former American League MVP made it abundantly clear he would be doing just that during a scrum with the media at the end of the 2017 season. The veteran third baseman did not appear to be happy with the way his injured left calf was treated and vowed to follow his own routine in the future. A couple of weeks later, Atkins conceded there was a "communication breakdown" as the club looked to integrate an innovative high-performance department with more traditional athletic training procedures. The so-called communication issues led to a series of personnel changes during the offseason. Atkins conceded mistakes were made, but stressed they were fixed long before the 2018 season began.
Donaldson apparently does not agree, but Atkins believes the Blue Jays did everything they could. "He was driving the timelines to push," Atkins said. "When he wanted to take the next step, that was completely his call. When he wanted to play, that was completely his call. We were making suggestions in and around the treatment and therapy. "At one point he did decide to get external consultation, which we 100 percent supported. We flew him to that external consultation, and that person was another piece in the equation, in trying to help his return to play as quickly as possible. We're providing the best resources we possibly can."
Donaldson is expected to address his side of the story in the near future as questions continue to linger about why he went from being listed as day-to-day in late May, to essentially disappearing from Toronto for upward of three months, because of what the club consistently described as calf tightness. Blue Jays fans will have to wait a little bit longer before the player to be named later is officially announced. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the player is expected to be right-hander Julian Merryweather, who underwent Tommy John surgery during Spring Training. The 26-year-old posted a 5.32 ERA in 25 starts at Double-A and Triple-A last season.
"There were four solid teams in play," Atkins said when asked about the market for Donaldson. "Four teams with solid interest. We had very good alternatives and this was the best return. That's what it came down to. It was very close. It was a very difficult decision for us and ultimately decided this was the best return."
It was believed for weeks that the Blue Jays and Donaldson were headed for a breakup because Toronto's front office wanted nothing to do with an approximately $18 million qualifying offer to Donaldson at the end of the season. While that would have guaranteed a compensatory Draft pick if Donaldson left for another team, the Blue Jays did not appear willing to risk that he might accept. That notion was disputed by Atkins during the conference call. He claimed the decision to part ways with Donaldson did not have anything to do with next year's budget, and instead was about making the most of the options at Toronto's disposal in the current moment.
"No, that was not a factor," Atkins said. "It wasn't a budgetary decision. That would not have come into it. The decision to make him a qualifying offer or not, there was still a lot of information to come. The performance over the final month and how he returned to Toronto. We would have wanted to factor in that information before we made a decision." (G Chisholm - MLB.com - September 1, 2018)
Sep 21, 2018: Josh Donaldson was in search of a way to expedite a rehab process that had been frustrating, prolonged and included setbacks. Roughly two weeks before the Indians acquired the third baseman from the Blue Jays, Donaldson flew to Minneapolis in search of another opinion about his left calf issues.
The mid-August trip was to consult with Dr. Josh Sandell, who is a sports medicine specialist for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Sandell came at the recommendation of Donaldson's good friend, NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Donaldson said he and the soft-tissue specialist discussed integrating some different approaches to the third baseman's schedule. "Two days after I saw him, that was the first time I was able to start running, and I ran my longest distance while accelerating probably without any pain," said Donaldson.
Donaldson was in the lineup for Cleveland as the designated hitter, marking the first of three consecutive games for the third baseman, barring anything unexpected. Since activating Donaldson from the disabled list on September 11—following the Aug. 31 trade with Toronto—the Indians have been building in off-days in an effort to build his endurance up for everyday work in the playoffs.
So far, Donaldson has passed every physical test presented in workouts and games. "I've felt great with it," Donaldson said. "The more positive reps that I can continue to gain, the more trust in that I'll continue to have. I haven't opened it up 100 percent yet on the basepaths, but I'm sure that'll come with time."
Offensively, Donaldson has had a lot of loud outs since joining the Tribe, but he was just 3-for-18 with one homer in his first seven games for his new club, entering the series with the Red Sox. He said he feels that his pitch recognition has been strong and his timing is coming along, too. Heading into this weekend series, Donaldson had seven hard-hit balls (95-plus mph) out of 14 balls in play with the Indians, per Statcast™.
"It's not easy," said Indians manager Terry Francona, referring to a player finding an offensive rhythm after missing multiple months. "That's why we're trying to play him enough, without playing him too much—so he has the best chance to have the best timing he can have." Donaldson said he feels close to full strength physically, though, and he credits Sandell for playing a large role in that process.
After initially being sidelined in late May, Donaldson sustained a severe setback while fielding ground balls at Toronto's spring complex in Florida. After meeting with Sandell, the third baseman made changes to his diet to aid in the recovery process. Donaldson noted that the doctor also used stroke therapy (techniques typically for stroke victims) in helping treat the third baseman's injury.
"He's pretty innovative," Donaldson said. "[He does things] to help guys kind of gain back muscular function and nervous-system function throughout the process. ... What he was able to do was kind of re-hardwire my nervous system while using this type of therapy, to where I could start moving and running and stuff more freely and more naturally."
The hope now is that Donaldson will only be focusing on the games -- rather than any rehab work—by the time October arrives. "It's been very easy for me to kind of come in and fit in," Donaldson said. "And, hopefully, [I can] help this team to accomplish its end goal." (J Bastian - MLB.com - September 21, 2018).
November 27, 2018: By signing Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million deal, the Braves have added much-needed power to their batting order, enhanced the potential value of their previously-thin bench and created some clarity regarding other offseason needs.
"We couldn't have found a better fit for this club," Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "He really was the key guy for us in the offseason. We were pretty determined to get a deal done."
One day shy of the four-year anniversary of when he brought Donaldson to Toronto via a trade with Oakland, Anthopoulos welcomed Donaldson to SunTrust Park to introduce the third baseman as the newest member of a Braves club that seems capable of building upon this year's division-winning success.
"Coming into the offseason, I knew there was a possibility of Alex and I linking back up and being part of the Braves," Donaldson said. "He made it very clear early on this is what he envisioned, and he was going to do his very best to do that. Here we are today. I'm very thrilled."
Having grown up in Florida and Alabama as a Braves fan who adopted Ron Gant as his first favorite player, this is a dream come true for Donaldson, who is confident he can bounce back from his injury-wrecked 2018 season and re-establish himself as one of the game's most feared hitters. From '15-17, he averaged 37 homers per season and ranked fifth among all Major Leaguers with a .946 OPS.
"Without a doubt, I still feel like I'm that type of player," Donaldson said. "I'm not really concerned about anything more than today. I'm focused on being the best I can be for this organization."
Lack of confidence has never been a concern regarding Donaldson, who responded to a question about switching leagues by saying, "Check my numbers against the National League."
Anthopoulos responded by smiling and saying, "He hasn't changed a bit."
Donaldson earned the AL MVP Award in 2015, his first season with Toronto and Anthopoulos' last as the Blue Jays' GM. The 32-year-old third baseman earned four consecutive top 10 AL MVP Award finishes from '13-16, and he might have gained a fifth had a right calf strain not sidelined him for six weeks in '17. His vision of gaining a lucrative long-term contract this 2018 offseason faded as he missed nearly three months this past summer with a left calf strain.
Though the post-disabled list sample size was small, Anthopoulos saw enough to believe Donaldson is indeed still capable of being a difference maker on the field and in the clubhouse. Both parties are encouraged by the fact that the third baseman will also now be reunited with George Poulis and Mike Frostad, who served as his athletic trainers during his first three seasons with Toronto.
"We're confident we can keep him on the field," Anthopoulos said. "We're going to be smart about it and be responsible, and [we'll] make sure we give him rest when he needs it. He's a guy who makes everybody around him better. He holds players accountable, because he leads by example." (M Bowman - MLB.com - November 27, 2018)
February 9, 2019: Considering Josh Donaldson spent much of this decade serving as a chief threat to Mike Trout's annual MVP bid, there's certainly reason to anticipate him becoming the Braves' best free agent acquisition since Greg Maddux came to Atlanta. But to gain this distinction, Donaldson must re-establish himself as the offensive monster he was before a right calf strain sidelined him for most of the first two months of 2017 and a left calf strain forced him to miss most of last season.
"People say, 'He's been hurt' and I'm like, 'It was one year,'" Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "The guy has like a .950 OPS for four straight years and a MVP. I can't wait. He's going to be a huge lift. He's healthy and ready to go. So, I don't see why he can't be Josh Donaldson again."
When the Braves open Spring Training, their bid to defend their National League East crown will be significantly influenced by whether Donaldson is capable of reestablishing himself as one of baseball's elite superstars.
Donaldson hit .282, belted 164 homers, compiled a .901 OPS and produced a 36.1 bWAR (Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Replacement model) from 2013-17. The only other players with a bWAR of at least 30 within this five-year stretch were Trout (43.1) and Paul Goldschmidt (30.9). Trout was also the only other Major Leaguer to hit at least .280 with 150-plus homers and a .900 OPS over the course of these years.
Had Donaldson been a free agent last winter, he likely would have gained a lucrative multi-year contract that would have provided him financial certainty into his late 30s. But after the calf injury limited him to 52 games (16 after May 28) last year, he accepted the one-year, $23 million deal that reunites him with Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos. While serving as the Blue Jays' GM, Anthopoulos acquired Donaldson from the A's. Their only season together proved to be quite memorable, as the third baseman won the American League MVP Award and Toronto advanced to the AL Championship Series.
"The number one priority was getting what we thought was a guy who could be a middle-of-the-order type of bat," Anthopoulos said. "We weren't looking for a third baseman. We just wanted a big bat with power. Then, you start factoring in the way he plays, the way he prepares, the example he sets, the edge he brings and how tough he is. He's just going to make players around him better."
Braves manager Brian Snitker is currently leaning toward filling the first four spots of his lineup in this order: Ender Inciarte, Donaldson, Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. Donaldson has four top-10 MVP finishes within the past six years and Freeman has three. They team with the 20-year-old Acuna to give Atlanta a fearsome trio of potential MVP candidates for the upcoming season. Provided a chance to play closer to his Auburn, Ala., home and for the team he loved throughout his childhood, Donaldson will attempt to reignite his career while feeding off the intense warrior-like personality that inspired his Twitter handle: @BringerofRain20.
Donaldson chose the handle after watching a Starz series titled Spartacus: Bringer of Rain. Spartacus' victory over a legendary gladiator in one episode leads to the end of a long drought in his land. Now in Atlanta, Donaldson will attempt to end a drought that extends back to 1995, when he was a 10-year-old kid who rejoiced the night a David Justice homer was enough to support Tom Glavine's World Series Game 6 masterpiece.
"It's going to be nice having the Bringer of Rain on our team," Freeman said. (M Bowman - MLB.com - February 9, 2019)
June 10, 2019: Though nothing more than some heated words and shoves were exchanged, the Braves certainly came out on the better side of the benches-clearing incident that led to Josh Donaldson and Pirates starter Joe Musgrove being ejected during the first inning of Atlanta’s 13-7 win at SunTrust Park.
“I wasn’t really upset about the pitch, it barely clipped me,” Donaldson said. “But most of the time if somebody hits you, they’re not ... I felt like he came down the mound. I looked away to try to give him a chance to look away from me. He kept coming down the mound and looking at me. Obviously he had a problem with me."
Basically, neither guy liked the way the other reacted.
“For him to act that way, I did nothing more than stand my ground,” Musgrove said. “I hit him with a pitch, and he stared at me trying to intimidate me. I’m not going to let that happen. I looked back at him. He had a few words to say. He crossed the line and came at me. I took my hat and glove off and got ready to fight. That’s what got me tossed. I don’t know what else I could have done in that situation.”
2019 Season: As this past summer progressed, many of the same fans who had questioned the Braves committing $23 million to Josh Donaldson were lobbying for the former American League MVP Award winner to return to Atlanta. Time will tell whether Donaldson will return as the Braves’ third baseman again next year, in 2020. There is mutual interest in extending what proved to be a great relationship. But the 33-year-old’s success this year has earned him the chance to enter the free-agent market as a hot commodity, who will draw multiple multiyear lucrative offers.
“I know that being around these guys each and every day, it was a joy,” Donaldson said. “As a ballplayer, you live for teams like this. We all fed off each other, and it was fun to be a part of.”
Donaldson’s energetic presence influenced much of the joy the Braves experienced during a 97-win season that netted a second straight National League East title and then concluded unceremoniously with an NL Division Series loss to the Cardinals.
“The guys feed off of him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “As soon as he gets in that dugout before every game it's like an explosion when he comes up the tunnel.”
Here’s a look back at Donaldson’s 2019 season:
What went right
Coming off two consecutive injury-plagued seasons, Donaldson played 155 games and started 109 of Atlanta’s last 112 regular-season games. Had teams known he would be this healthy and durable, he would not have had to settle for a one-year deal last winter.
The $23 million gamble the Braves took with this one-year deal proved to be a bargain. Donaldson ranked 10th in the NL with a 4.9 fWAR (Fangraphs’ WAR Model). He hit .259 with 37 homers and a .900 OPS. He joined top AL MVP candidates Mike Trout and Alex Bregman as the only players to hit 35 homers and draw 100 walks this 2019 season.
Donaldson got off to a slow start, hitting just .236 with nine homers and a .769 OPS through June 13 (65 games). But over the remainder of the season, he ranked third among NL players in home runs (28) and OPS (.994).
Along with proving he remains one of the game’s top offensive threats, Donaldson provided Gold Glove-caliber defense. He easily led NL third basemen with 15 Defensive Runs Saved. The Rockies’ Nolan Arenado and the D-backs’ Eduardo Escobar ranked second with 8 DRS.
“He strengthened our club, and quite frankly, he's one of the best third basemen I've ever been around,” Snitker said.
What went wrong
During most of the season’s first two months, the Braves carefully handled Donaldson by attempting to give him a day off on a weekly basis. The veteran third baseman expressed his displeasure while the team was nearing the end of a four-game series in San Francisco near the end of May.
Confident the calf issues that had plagued Donaldson the previous two years would not be a problem, Snitker then began playing the three-time All-Star on a daily basis.
“He was healthy, he was playing and he felt good,” Snitker said. “We were we're going to take off the shackles and turn this guy loose, and I'm glad we did.”
Donaldson began playing on a daily basis on May 23 and did not take off for another three weeks. As he produced a .769 OPS through June 13, he hit just .167 with a .584 OPS against left-handed pitchers. Donaldson's 28.3% strikeout rate within this 65-game span was also uncharacteristic. He too often found himself susceptible to offspeed and breaking pitches.
After hitting off a breaking-ball machine before a June 14 series opener against the Phillies, Donaldson found much more comfort and success at the plate. While producing a .994 OPS over the remainder of the season, he had a 1.010 OPS against lefties and a more characteristic 20.3% strikeout rate.
Donaldson had four two-homer games, but his most influential moments were realized at the expense of the Nationals. He hit six homers (one every 10.8 at-bats) and produced a .990 OPS against Washington this past season.
Donaldson drilled a walk-off single against Fernando Rodney during a July 19 win against the Nationals. A little more than a week later, during a 5-4 10-inning win at Nationals Park, he produced the decisive solo home run off Sean Doolittle.
Donaldson has expressed interest in extending his stay, and the Braves certainly have interest in re-signing him. There will always be concerns about how long to commit to a maximum-effort veteran like Donaldson.
But even if there are concerns about offering a guarantee that extends beyond two years, anything from the third year and beyond has to be viewed as a necessary cost for Donaldson, who spent this past summer proving he is quite capable of continuing to be a difference maker for at least another couple of years. (M Bowman - MLB.com - Oct 18, 2019)
Oct. 23, 2019: Josh Donaldson won the Sporting News NL Comeback Player of the Year in his first season with the Braves.
2019 Season: The third baseman slashed .259/.379/.521 and finished the season with 37 home runs in 155 games played, his highest totals in both since 2016.
Dec. 4, 2019: Major League Baseball awarded Donaldson with the 2019 National League Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Jan 21, 2020: Take your pick of quantitative metrics, and it's a safe bet that they'll paint a thoroughly positive picture of the impact that Josh Donaldson should have on the Twins' offense and defense. As analytically oriented as the Twins are, they're just as thrilled about what their new third baseman will bring to the table that can't be tabulated with a formula or in a chart.
"It's edge," Twins general manager Thad Levine said. "It's whatever you want to call it. Grit. Edge. Fire. "The thing that we heard from every teammate that's ever played with this guy is this guy challenges you to be a better version of yourself than you think you're even capable of, and then holds you to that challenge."
That much was immediately clear to both Levine and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli when they jumped on a lengthy phone call with Donaldson to sell him on the Twins before he reportedly agreed to join the club. Levine remembers some similar calls throughout his career as an executive during which the player might have seemed uncomfortable or terse. This wasn't one of those. There was an evident click on both sides. Levine joked that if they hadn't cut off that conversation with Donaldson, they would still be talking baseball.
"When you get into conversations with people, you can tell when they have maybe one or two things that they want to talk about and then they lose interest, or if they're just hungry for more, and the conversation just kind of carries on," Baldelli said. "It was great baseball talk. It definitely helped us as much as it helped Josh."
In the conversation, there was, of course, the roster-building element of how Donaldson could fit into an overloaded lineup set for a window of championship contention with young talent. Then, there were the intangibles -- namely, the level of urgency that Levine felt Donaldson's personality could bring to a young clubhouse new to being among the elites of the sport.
"We have a real great core of young players who still believe that they're invincible and believe that they're going to be given opportunities to win throughout the course of their career," Levine said. "The more people we can surround them with who can elevate that urgency such that they know that you never miss on these opportunities, and he's the type of player who we thought could do that."
Furthermore, Donaldson also spoke to the Twins more broadly about his career trajectory and his philosophies and learnings from the hurdles that he's faced. According to Levine, Donaldson emphasized that, much like Nelson Cruz one year ago, he was at the stage of his career where he was hoping to be a leading figure in a young clubhouse -- to help younger teammates avoid the pitfalls that he himself had faced early in his career.
"That really resonated with us," Levine said.
That's important because the clubhouse leadership over Donaldson's tenure should have a particularly long-term impact on the direction of the franchise. The Twins have assembled a homegrown ace in José Berríos and a record-breaking lineup featuring homegrown starters at seven positions, and several top prospects important to the club's future will soon join it, including Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Brusdar Graterol, Trevor Larnach, Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran and Ryan Jeffers.
Adding Donaldson's fire to Cruz's cool leadership by example could make for a significant balance.
"[Donaldson has] played in the playoffs seven of the last eight years in three different franchises," Levine said. "You don't make a lot of an individual's winning percentages in a team sport, but I don't think that's a coincidence. This guy's drive towards excellence, I think, is a little bit more than most." (DH Park - MLB.com - Jan 21, 2020)
In January 2020, Josh linked a four-year, $92 million deal with the Minnesota Twins, a team that had succeeded without him, and with which he now must lead a group of strangers.
A volatile childhood followed by a potholed road to the Majors has left Josh guarded. And this persistent discomfort is one of the many challenges he faces as he, for the third straight year, takes on this role; the finnal piece on a club eiwht championship aspirations. The first two times - with the Indians and the Braves - he came up short.
He must thrive on the field, even as he gets his bearings. At the same time, he wants to overcome what he feels is a fundamental misperception. "People," he says, think, "I'm just a dick."
LaTroy Hawkins, assistant to the General Manager for the Twins, cackles at this characterization. "I can see that," he says.
The Twins front office decided this iteration of the Twins was too nice. They needed someone who could demonstrate how to work and confront anyone who fell short. In other words, Minnesota needed someone who could be "a dick."
And Donaldson - known across baseball as a guy who's just as likely to curse out a teammate as he is to berate an opponent, who'll demolish a pitch and then gawk at it, who'll beat you - seemed to fit. He could be distant and rude, brash and aggressive. He also had, it seemed, a tendency to make his teammates better. What some can see as arrogance, the Twins' chief baseball officer, Derek Falvey calls an "edge," a guy who "plays with fire."
That fire, it seems - plus the fact that he's been, by WAR, the second-most valuable player in baseball since he became a regular starter - helped earn Donaldson the largest free-agent deal in Twins history. In return, the Twins hope he'll shore up his position and injuect even more homers off a bat that produced 37 in 2019.
So, Josh, a man who comes across as a bit of a dick? In the modern clubhouse, he just might be the leader that the Twins need. (S Apstein - SI - Spring 2020)
Josh struggled to stick in the big leagues. He would drive teammates wild boasting about his future All-Star appearances. In 2012, coming up with the A's, he split Oakland's clubhouse in two: those (few) turned on by the talent he occasionally flashed, and those (more) turned off by his mouth. Donaldson batted .094 that March and April, and still he compared himself in the clubhouse to Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays' MVP candidate. Even as the A's sent him to Triple A, he insisted to teammates, "It's coming! I'm gonna be one of the best third basemen in the league!"
Jonny Gomes counts himself among the few believers back then, but he knew something had to change. When Oakland recalled Donaldson that May, the veteran slugger, who was in his 10th season in the bigs, pulled the 26-year-old Donaldson aside. "Here's the deal, " Gomes said. "You don't speak until spoken to. And for a little bit, we're gonna let your baseball do the talking; we're gonna hit home runs instead of talking about hitting home runs. We're not gonna talk about your high school interception record or how good a golfer you are."
To Donaldson's credit, Gomes says, "He was like, 'O.K.'" Gomes laughs, "Guy's holding the MVP trophy two years later." (S Apstein - SI - Spring 2020)
Donaldson's first Major League call-up, in 2010, lasted 14 games, as he struck out in more than a third of his plate appearances. He returned to the minors and dominated, but opponent chafed at his exuberance and soon he found himself dodging beanballs. He sent himself to the Dominican Republic for winter ball, where he grew homesick and lonely. He would wander the streets, struggling even to order dinner. He got another shot in the bigs in 2012, but it wasn't going much better when he glanced up one afternoon in San Francisco and saw that he was hitting .082.
Donaldson considered hanging up his spikes. Then he called his mother. Lisa French's son had to find a way to forgive himself. She describes a young man who for years would strike out and spend the next week beatging himself up. "I didn't raise a quitter," she told him. Besides, she reminded him: He'd been drafted out of Auburn a a junior; he had no degree, no skills to fall back on. "Do you want to come home and pump gas? That's exactly what you're gonna be doing."
So, he hung up and went back to work. Back in the minors, Donaldson devoured video of Jose Bautista (of the Blue Jays) and overhauled his swing, adding a leg kick and relaxing his shoulders os he could meet the plane of the pitch. When he was recalled again that August, he hit .344 and slugged .625.
He got MVP votes in 2013. He was an All-Star in 2014. Before the 2015 season he was traded to the Blue Jays, where, coming full circle, he hit in front of Bautista. Only now he was armed with some advice from Gomes, his biggest believer in Oakland: You can hit on your own but you can't win alone.
He started to circle the clubhouse, checking on his teammates, asking what the needed from him. His girlfriend, Birana Miller, taught him to meditate, to pause before speaking. He still said what he wanted to say, but he "learned delivery," his mother says. That fall, Toronto took the Royals to six games in the ALCS, tghe furthest into a season he'd ever played.
A month later, Donaldson was delighted when he was named AL MVP, which is bestowed by the media. He was shocked when he won the Players Choice Player of the Year award, which is conferred by peers.
Josh gets it. He used to look around and see opponents who wanted to throw at him. Now he sees gues who want to be like him. (S Apstein - SI - Spring 2020)
Sept 18, 2020: Josh Donaldson has no regrets about his ejection from the series finale against the White Sox as a result of kicking dirt over home plate at the end of his home run trot following a disagreement with home-plate umpire Dan Bellino. He made that clear in a call with reporters, during which he defended his actions and asked for greater accountability.
"I felt great about it," Donaldson said.
"I think I nailed it, actually," he later added. "I heard [television analyst Justin Morneau], you had a lot of people texting you and saying they were embarrassed. Well, I'm not. This is my livelihood and this is part of what makes me the player I am. And at the end of the day, if I have something on my chest, that's going to be what it is."
One pitch before the homer, Donaldson took a 2-0 offering for a called strike that he felt was off the outside corner. He appeared to ask about the call, and manager Rocco Baldelli had to emerge from the visitors' dugout to mediate the conversation between Bellino and Donaldson. According to Donaldson, he asked three times where Bellino felt the pitch was, and he said that Bellino made a remark to Baldelli that Donaldson felt was belittling.
"At the end of the day, it gets reflected toward me," Donaldson said. "I saw him right by home plate, he was wanting me to do something, and so I gave it to him. I made it a point."
Donaldson said that the issues began before that at-bat, and he also cited several stats pertaining to the outcome of a 1-1 count, including expected batting averages and slugging percentages involved with a called ball or strike. In Donaldson's first at-bat in that game, he took a borderline 1-1 pitch that he thought was high but was called a strike by Bellino.
"Whether those pitches go my way or the pitcher’s way, whatever that may be, the umpire consistently isn’t doing their job correctly. That’s affecting our careers, that’s affecting our success," Donaldson said. "At the end of the day, there’s no reprimand, no accountability for the guys that are making the decision.
"Fortunately for me, I have a contract. But at the same time, I want to win and compete. But for a lot of these guys who do not [have a multiyear contract], the difference between consistently bad calls against one individual can definitely affect their career one way or the other."
Baldelli said he had several conversations with Donaldson about the incident but wished to keep the details private. Baldelli and Nelson Cruz had both been ejected in Tuesday's loss earlier in the series for arguing balls and strikes.
"He also knows that he was beyond frustrated with what was going on out on the field, and frankly, didn't and doesn't feel like there's much that can be done about it, and that angers him and frustrates him," Baldelli said. "He's not sure what to do about it, frankly. And that's the way he chose to handle it, and I think he, in some ways, probably understands that it wasn't something that helps our team, but also something that I don't know if, bigger-picture, he's totally regretful for it."
Crew chief Angel Hernandez's umpiring staff, including Bellino, is also working the ongoing series between the Twins and Cubs at Wrigley Field. Before Donaldson's comments, Baldelli had said that he didn't believe the issue would linger between the Twins and the umpiring crew.
"When you have good umpires, you can talk about pretty much anything you want and it becomes a good conversation, so I’m not worried about that," Baldelli said. "The last thing I’m worried about is going out there on the field and anything having to do with the umpires. We’re getting ready for the Cubs. We need to focus on playing well and executing out there and playing our best baseball." (DH Park - MLB.com - Sept 19, 2020)
June 2007: The Cubs chose him in the first round of the supplemental draft, out of Auburn University. He signed with scout Bob Rossi for a bonus of $652,500.
July 8, 2008: The A's sent pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin to the Cubs; acquiring Donaldson, P Sean Gallagher, OF Matt Murton, and INF Eric Patterson.
November 29, 2014: The Blue Jays sent INF Brett Lawrie, LHP Sean Nolin, RHP Kendall Graveman, and SS Franklin Barreto to the A's; acquiring Donaldson. (Editor's note: In 2015, his first season with the Jays, Josh won the AL MVP.)
February 13, 2015: Donaldson lost to the Blue Jays in salary arbitration, getting $4.3 million instead of the $5.8 million he sought.
February 10, 2016: Donaldson and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration, agreeing to a two-year contract worth $28.7 million.
January 12, 2018: Donaldson and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration by agreeing to a record-setting pre-arbitration one-year deal worth $23 million (all figures in U.S. dollars). The one-year deal surpasses the previous arbitration record, which was set in 2017 by Bryce Harper's $21.6 million contract for the 2018 season.
August 31, 2018 : The Blue Jays traded Donaldson to the Indians for a player to be named later,
Because he was traded, Donaldson will no longer be eligible to receive a qualifying offer this offseason—likely to be valued somewhere between $17 million to $18 million. He will be an unrestricted free agent, meaning that the club that signs him will not need to forfeit a future Draft pick and the Indians won't receive any picks as compensation if they lose him.
October 29, 2018: Donaldson elected free agency.
November 26, 2018: Josh signed a one year, $23 million contract with the Braves.
Oct 31, 2019: Josh elected free agency.
- Jan. 14, 2020: The Twins agreed to a four-year deal with free-agent 3B Josh Donaldson. The contract is for $92 million guaranteed, including an $8 million buyout or a $16 million club option for a fifth year. Donaldson declined the Braves’ qualifying offer and is tied to Draft-pick compensation, meaning the Twins will forfeit their third-round Draft pick in 2020 and Atlanta will receive a compensation pick after Competitive Balance Round B.
Donaldson has very good righthanded pull power, but is able to use the whole field, adjusting when he falls behind in the count and hitting the ball to the opposite field using a shorter, less aggressive stroke. He has strong hands and above average bat speed. His bat is strong. In 2015, he averaged an exit velocity of 98.7 mph on fastballs he nailed.
Josh squares up the barrel of the bat on the ball very well.
Donaldson is an aggressive hitter. But he controls the strike zone well.
Josh has good plate discipline. He has a good feel for the strike zone, and for hitting, and uses the whole field.
In 2012, Donaldson said that Sacramento manager Darren Bush and hitting coach Greg Sparks helped resuscitate his career. "I just think everything came back into perspective,” Donaldson said. “I learned to relax a little bit more. The two biggest adjustments I’ve made are continuing to relax at the plate and cutting the plate in half. I always tried to hit any ball over the plate, whether inside or outside. Now I do a little bit better job of trying to cover my half rather than the entire plate. It has helped tremendously.”
Donaldson says he will choose a half of the plate to cover, then use that half before getting to two strikes.
In 2013, A's hitting coach Chili Davis said of Donaldson, "When his approach is calm, he has better pitch recognition. He gets pitches to drive, and he drives them. In hitter's counts, he's aggressive. In two-strike counts, he uses the whole field. He's starting to understand what makes Josh Donaldson a better hitter."
May 26, 2015: Donaldson became the first player in Toronto franchise history to have at least four hits, four RBIs, and four runs scored in the same game.
2015 Home Run Derby: For Bobby Tewksbary, the road to the Home Run Derby started in Worcester, Mass., where he and Chris Colabello were teammates in the independent Can-Am League in 2006 and 2007.
Tewskbary lasted just those two years in the league and was done at 23. He was not much of a hitter, but he loved to study hitting, and when he started his own business—teaching hitting—Colabello was one of his first pro pupils. Colabello soon became an avid disciple.
Another early student was Josh Donaldson, before Donaldson became an all-star in Oakland, before, as Donaldson puts it, “I became good.”
The all-star third baseman had an invitation for his personal hitting instructor: come to Cincinnati and be my pitcher in the Home Run Derby.
For Tewksbary, the summons was a stunner. For Donaldson, it was a thank you to an anonymous instructor who says his teaching goes “very much against conventional wisdom.”
“It’s a very cool opportunity,” Tewksbary said. “I’m very appreciative and thankful to Josh for thinking of me.” ( John Lott | July 12, 2015 More from John Lott | @LottOnBaseball )
July 10, 2016: Donaldson cranked his 23rd home run of the season, becoming just the sixth player in AL history to record 20 home runs and 80 runs scored before the break. The 30-year-old joined an elite class which includes Lou Gehrig (1936), Ted Williams (1946), Reggie Jackson (1969), Frank Thomas (1994), and Alex Rodriguez (2000).
October 3, 2016: "As much as I don't appreciate the antics and attitude, Josh is one of the best players in the American League. He's up there to do damage. You can't make mistakes to a guy like that, because he's going to punish you. We try to pound those guys in - everybody on that team. They try to own the plate. If you can throw a strike with authority, you've got them beat. Donaldson's got a pretty good knowledge of the strike zone. He's the toughest at-bat in that Blue Jays lineup."—AL catcher
Donaldson has been one of the most clutch players in baseball over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Since the beginning of 2015, 44 of Donaldson's 77 home runs have either tied the game or given the Blue Jays the lead—more such homers than anyone else in baseball over that time span. He also has the third-highest Win Probability Added, behind only Mike Trout and Anthony Rizzo, and has the third-highest wRC+ in high-leverage situations, behind only Carlos Gonzalez and Trout. (Adler - MLB.com - 10/3/2016)
Donaldson has the longest recorded home run by a Blue Jay April 23, 2015, vs. BAL; Sept. 17, 2017, at MIN.
Distance: 481 feet.
Both of these big flies were demolished. The first, with a 112.5-mph exit velocity, Donaldson launched into the second deck at the Rogers Centre. He hit the second even harder, at 113.5 mph, reaching the upper tank at Minnesota's Target Field. (Andrew Simon, David Adler and Matt Kelly- MLB.com-November 2018)
Donalson's first career hit was a home run: After being traded to Oakland by the Cubs, Donaldson made his MLB debut with the A's on April 30, 2010, and collected his first big league hit -- a long ball to left field.
July 7, 2019: Josh's 18th home run of 2019 was career number 200!
- 2019 Season: Donaldson, 34, hit .259/.379/.521 with 37 homers and 33 doubles in a big bounceback campaign for the Braves in the 2019 season, finishing eighth among National League position players with 6.1 WAR, per Baseball-Reference
As of the start of the 2021 season, Donaldson had a .272 career batting average with 225 home runs and 656 RBI in 3,922 at-bats in the Majors.
Donaldson grew up in Pensacola, Florida, before his family moved to Mobile, Alabama to begin his junior year in high school. He played mostly shortstop through high school, then played short and third his freshman year at Auburn. For his sophomore year, the Tigers turned to Donaldson in order to fill a much needed void.
"I was kind of playing around at catching, and the coaches brought me in and asked me if I wanted to catch a little," he said.
Josh had quick feet and a strong arm behind the plate. He has decent catch-and-throw skills. He is more athletic than most catchers.
Experience is giving Josh time to improve his receiving skills. He has good hands.
Josh has solid instincts for the game. He plays baseball the right way. He was an aggressive catcher. He has some agility and had a good feel for catching.
Donaldson has a strong arm and a good, clean and quick release. But he could stand to improve the transfer on his throws.
THROWING OUT BASE-STEALERS
In 2007, Josh threw out 40 percent of Northwest League runners who tried to steal a base on him.
In 2008, Donaldson threw out 37 percent of base-stealers in the Midwest and California Leagues, combined.
In 2009, he nailed 40 percent of Texas League base thieves.
In 2010, he erased 39 percent of Pacific Coast League base-stealers.
Donaldson has a lot of intangibles and is a hard worker and a team leader. He is a vocal guy.
CONVERTED TO THIRD BASEMAN
In 2011, Josh saw a lot of action at third base.
In the offseason before 2013 spring training, Donaldson trained ferociously for full-time duty at third base. He turned himself into not just a competent infielder, but a superb one, according to A's manager Bob Melvin.
"I worked on being explosive and getting my agility back," Josh said. "I did a lot of heavy lifting—box jumps—anything that had to do with explosion and power. I feel as strong as every now. And my quickness is pretty good." (Editor's note: All told, Josh went from an infielder to a catcher . . . and back to an infielder.)
Donaldson, like most infielders, is especially particular about his mitt. Once he's found one he's comfortable with, he protects it like a treasure.
"I have my gamer from 2013 that I'm still using now, and I won't play catch with it or practice with it because it's good right now," Josh said.
Donaldson prefers Rawlings gloves because he feels the leather on their models is more durable. The breaking-in process for his backup glove, the one he plays catch and practices with, has been ongoing since spring.
In 2014, Donaldson was named the best third baseman in baseball, winning the annual Fielding Bible award.
Feb 1, 2020: When the Twins signed Josh Donaldson to a four-year deal, the reaction was predictable, and it was about the bombas. After all, the 2019 Twins just hit the most home runs (307) in Major League history, and now they'd be adding Donaldson, who just mashed 37 of his own. You like homers? The Twins will have homers.
But there's another aspect to this as well, and it's on the other side of the field, because Donaldson rated as an elite defensive third baseman in 2010. Meanwhile, the 2019 Twins didn't have a particularly impressive infield defense; it was actually one of the weakest in the game. More than that, one of their pitchers in particular was hurt more by poor infield defense than any other. Donaldson's going to help here in more ways than one.
So sure, the homers will be great, and the all-around offensive brilliance Donaldson brings will be huge. (Since his 2013 breakout, he's been one of the 10 best hitters in baseball.) But let's not overlook the fielding part of this story, too. Runs saved are just as important as runs scored.
1) Donaldson was an excellent fielder in 2019: Let's start with this: He was really good on defense. Take a look at Statcast's infield Outs Above Average leaderboard for third basemen in 2019, and you'll find Nolan Arenado (+17) and Matt Chapman (+14) at the top, as you ought to -- any defensive metric that doesn't have those two at the top is probably not telling you the story you're looking for. Third, behind them at +8: Donaldson.
That's an elite mark, obviously. You can see it in plays where not only did he dive to snare a hard-hit ball, but he also had to contend with the speed of Michael A. Taylor, one of the fastest players in the game. Taking all of that into account, this opportunity was graded as one that is made by infielders just 20% of the time.
|This doesn't guarantee he'll be this strong going forward, obviously. He rated only around average in 2017 (-1) and 2018 (+2). But back in the pre-Statcast days, he rated as elite as well (from 2013 to '15, he was third-best in DRS behind Arenado and Manny Machado) and, as you'll see, even if he's "just average," that's a step up, because ...
2. The 2019 Twins didn't have strong infield defense: Look at the team version of the infield Outs Above Average leaderboard, and you'll see that the Twins didn't rate very well, coming in at minus-14, the fifth lowest score of the 30 teams.That's backed up by other metrics, too, as the Twins infield came in with minus-19 DRS, and, for much of the winter, you might have considered it even worse than that for 2020. That's because if you look at the 2019 Twins infielders on an individual basis, you'll see that the weakest fielders -- Miguel Sanó, Luis Arráez and Jorge Polanco -- are returning, while two of the better fielders, Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron, departed for Detroit.
3) No pitcher was harmed by infield defense more than Michael Pineda.
We can shift all of this infield defense around to show the effect on pitchers, too. No pitcher was helped more by great infield defense than St. Louis' Dakota Hudson (+16 OAA), which makes sense -- the Cardinals had the best infielders in 2019 and Hudson had the second-highest ground-ball rate of any pitcher with 100 innings.
This shows that Pineda was hurt in 2019, but not necessarily that there's anything specific about him that caused it -- other than pitching in front of poor defenders, and having little to no control over when those defenders made their mistakes. If you really want to be optimistic about it, you might argue that the presence of a better third baseman might help Polanco, who played one of the shallowest shortstops in baseball last year.
Donaldson is going to bring the offense, obviously. That's what's most visible, and that's what he's primarily being paid for. But he's a plus on defense as well, and he's landing on a team that badly needed an upgrade on the left side of the defensive diamond. It's not just a lineup improvement. It's a baseball improvement. (M Pteriello - MLB.com - Feb 1, 2020)
- At the start of the 2020 season, Donaldson provided Gold Glove-caliber defense. He easily led NL third basemen with 15 Defensive Runs Saved. The Rockies’ Nolan Arenado and the D-backs’ Eduardo Escobar ranked second with 8 DRS.
Josh is a technician. His close attention to the mechanical elements of his swing has been well documented over the years, and that looked to extend to his defensive work in a month of 2020 Spring Training with the Twins. With crisp movements, sure glovework and little wasted movement from even the earliest days of camp, Donaldson had every bit the look of the anchor that the Twins hope will bring some stability to the left side of the infield after years of uncertain defense. Another visible sign of Donaldson's confidence and knowledge in his craft was his work on the back fields with prospects Royce Lewis and Travis Blankenhorn -- essentially serving as another infield coach for the up-and-comers.
Donaldson hadn't really been able to show that defensive prowess on the field in the Statcast era due to injuries, but he returned to form in a full and healthy 2019 season in which he was worth eight outs above average, ranking him third in the Majors at his position behind only Nolan Arenado and Matt Chapman -- the Platinum Glove Award winners in each league. Donaldson's defensive metrics stem more extensively from his technique, reaction and hands. (Park - mlb.com - 5/22/2020)
- In 2014, Donaldson finished the month of May with a Major League-leading 48 runs scored, the most at that point in the season in the history of A's baseball.
August 5–early September 2010: Donaldson was on the D.L. with a sprained right knee that he incurred on a slide into second base. An MRI showed a sprained medial collateral ligament.
February 17, 2017: Donaldson has a right calf strain and will be evaluated daily throughout Spring Training. He is expected to be ready to start the season. He was injured while doing sprinting drills and said he "felt something" in his calf. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI.
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said the injury is not related to the calf strain that Donaldson had last April. (C Long - MLB.com - February 18, 2017)
April 14-May 26, 2017: Josh was on the 10-day DL because of his right calf strain.
April 11-May 3, 2018: Josh was on the DL with right shoulder inflammation.
May 29, 2018: Josh was on the DL with left calf tightness.June 28, 2018 : The Blue Jays received discouraging news about third baseman Josh Donaldson, whom they were hoping would be ready to rejoin the team at some point during an upcoming homestand that began June 29, 2018.
Instead, they'll have to continue on for a while longer without him. Donaldson, while preparing to play a rehab game in Dunedin, Fla., sustained an injury to his left calf while taking ground balls. An MRI revealed acute strain of his calf muscle, and he'll be reevaluated in three weeks.
September 1-11, 2018: Josh was on the DL with left calf strain.
April 30, 2019: When Braves manager Brian Snitker announced Josh Donaldson had been removed from the lineup before the 4-3 loss because of a sore right calf, he quickly pointed out this was not the same calf that sidelined the former American League MVP Award winner for most of last season, 2018.
But it is the same calf that forced Donaldson to miss nearly six weeks during the early portion of the 2017 season. So there is certainly reason for the Braves to be cautious with their veteran third baseman, who signed a one-year, $23 million contract in November, 2018.
“We’re just trying to stay ahead of it,” Snitker said. “He’s just going to get treatment, and [we'll] stay away from him today.”
Aug 1, 2020: Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson exited the 4-1 victory over the Indians with right calf tightness, the club announced. He is day to day, and the injury is not expected to be a long-term issue, manager Rocco Baldelli said after the game. Baldelli hopes that Donaldson will be able to avoid the injured list.
August 4-Sept 2, 2020: Minnesota officially placed Josh on the 10-day injured list with a right calf strain.
Aug 8, 2020: When Josh Donaldson first came off the field with calf tightness on July 31, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he hoped the injury wouldn't be a "major issue" for his star third baseman. One week later, Donaldson isn't any closer to returning to the field. Baldelli said that Donaldson has made progress since the injury, but that timeline still put him in a situation where an IL stint was unavoidable.
Aug 25, 2020: Josh Donaldson has progressed to hitting against live pitching and playing in intrasquad games at the Twins' alternate training site in St. Paul, Minn., as the former MVP third baseman continues his long recovery from a right calf strain sustained at the end of July.
Aug 29, 2020: Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said that the former MVP third baseman could return to the team sometime during the coming homestand, which will encompass three games against the White Sox and five against the Tigers. Baldelli indicated that there could be roughly a week or so left in Donaldson's program at the club's alternate training site.
"I think we're getting to the final stages of this buildup," Baldelli said.
Donaldson has been out of action since he sustained a right calf strain during a July 31 game against Cleveland at Target Field, and the Twins have been adamant throughout the process that they were not planning to rush him back in any way.
Sept 29, 2020: Though third baseman Josh Donaldson was the crown jewel of the Twins' busy offseason, the 2015 American League MVP Award winner will not be on the field for the first round of the '20 playoffs, as he couldn't fully push his right calf in his on-field workouts on Monday after suffering cramps in the area on Friday.
Donaldson was able to take swings in batting practice, but he felt limited during his subsequent mobility drills down the first-base line, and the Twins didn't want to push him back into action and expose him to the potential for further injury. He missed a month with a right calf strain earlier this season and has a history of injuries to both calves.
The only question was whether Donaldson would be available on the roster as a pinch-hitter. Ultimately, the Twins decided to maintain their roster flexibility and emphasize his health.
Feb 23, 2021: The third baseman and former MVP said it took him a month following the 2020 season to recover from the calf issues that flared up again at the end of September and kept him out of the American League Wild Card Series. There isn't one solution to this, and in addition to working with the training staff to maintain strength and mobility in the legs, there has also been an added focus on Donaldson's running mechanics and easing into his usage in games.