Thursday, February 14, 2013

What the Beginning of Spring Training Means for the Blue Jays

This is the first article I’m writing for BlueJaysPlus, so I hope you guys like it. You can follow me on twitter, @TheRealNickBell

                As we all know, the Blue Jays have far and away won the off-season and have completely transformed themselves from an afterthought in the AL East to a contender for not only the playoffs, but also for a World Series appearance for the first time since Joe Carter scraped his World-Series winning home run off of Mitch Williams 20 long years ago. Fans have been sick and tired or hearing that they have to wait for a few more years for a ‘true’ contender. Blue Jays fans, that time is now. For the first time in what seems like an eternity, the Blue Jays have some legitimate World Series aspirations. For the first time in two decades, Blue Jays players and coaches alike believe in themselves and what they can do. For the first time in twenty years, Blue Jays fans have hope; hope in their team, hope in their GM, and hope in their city.

                For as long as I have been on this earth, there has not been this much hype surrounding the Blue Jays; this much hype is unheard of in this city for any sport, let alone the Blue Jays. Canada’s only baseball team has had a lot riding ever since 1993, especially after Montreal re-located to Washington in 2004. The Blue Jays however, had failed to meet any of those expectations over the past twenty years. Now, the stakes are higher than ever and now it is up to the boys in blue to deliver and make the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

                Now let’s look at what the Blue Jays have done to give themselves such lofty expectations. The World Series ended on October 28th, 2012. We all remember when Miguel Cabrera was frozen by the 79 MPH slider of Sergio Romo, but what we didn’t realize as Jays fans however, is that less than a month after that pitch was delivered in Detroit, the only team in Canada was about to make a move both literally and figuratively. On November 13th, 2012, just 16 short days after the off-season had begun, the Jays struck. Toronto and Miami agreed to a deal that would send SP’s Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle along with All-Star Shortstop Jose Reyes, backup Catcher John Buck (Now of the Mets) and speed demon Emilio Bonifacio north of the border. Much was made about ‘depleting the farm’ with this move, but things only got more interesting when the Blue Jays signed OF Melky Cabrera to a 2-yr/ $16 MM contract a few days later. The most recent deal that really ‘depleted’ the great farm system Toronto had was the most talked about of the three, the most dramatic of the three, and the most controversial of the three. It was a cold, snowy December night and I was just casually checking some baseball sites when all of a sudden, Twitter explodes that an R.A. Dickey deal had finally been finalized and that the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner was going to join Buehrle, Johnson ,Reyes, and Cabrera with the task of leading this afterthought of a franchise, this mediocre franchise, this franchise that had been so puzzling and frustrating to watch for a very, very long time, this franchise that we call our Toronto Blue Jays.

                I, along with thousands of Blue Jays fans worldwide, have never been more excited about this team, our team and its potential to bring a winning team back to Toronto. With the Raptors and Leafs looking better, now it is the Blue Jays’ turn to make some headlines on the field; to take this team to the next level, that level being the post-season, a place where we as a city supporting this illustrious franchise have not been in twenty years. This new-look team has the hearts of many on their sleeve every day; we are united not by the maple leaf that the players wear on their uniforms, not by the Rogers Centre, but by the passion for baseball and the hunger to bring a World Series championship to Canada. This is our goal, this is our mission, so sit back, don’t relax, and enjoy the next 8 months of Blue Jays baseball, because we’re back, and we’re back for real.

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