The Toronto Blue Jays, the only Canadian MLB team, have the unfortunate geographical position of being in the same division as two of baseball’s powerhouses: the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. As a consequence, the Blue Jays usually resign themselves to finishing third (and, in recent seasons, fourth) in their division, trailing behind these two famous teams. With no possibility of a division title, fans have been deprived of a run in the playoffs for a very long time. But this may be about to change.
On January 30, the Toronto Blue Jays held their annual State of the Franchise evening where the club took questions from approximately 1,000 season ticket holders in attendance. According to the Blue Jays’ official invitation, the State of the Franchise is an evening for fans of the team to have their voices heard by John Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, and John Farrell, the team’s president, general manager, and bench coach respectively. However, in reality, the State of the Franchise is usually more of a chance for fans to complain about trivial issues like ticket prices and paraphernalia availability.
This year, however, Anthopoulos was the first to say, “it’s just a bit more exciting this year.” Intermitted amongst the talk of hot dog prices, and where one can buy a baby-sized Blue Jays jersey, there was serious talk about what fans want most: the playoffs.
What has the management and fans most hopeful is the talented roster that only showed glimpses of their full potential last season. The Blue Jays have one of the best sluggers in MLB with Jose Bautista, who racked up 43 home runs last season. Ricky Romero, who barring injury will be the Blue Jays’ opening-day pitcher, won 15 out of his 26 games last season. They are hoping that, with a little bit more support from their batters, Romero will easily reach the twenty win milestone this season. Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez, and Dustin McGowan will likely make up the rest of a starting pitching rotation that is already the envy of many teams on comparable payrolls to the Blue Jays. 22-year-old Canadian third baseman, Brett Lawrie, is another player to watch as he stormed onto the major league scene last season batting getting a hit on 29 per cent of his plate appearances.
The Blue Jays’ roster has a solid mix of youth and experience going into Spring Training next month. Another advantage for the team as they prepare for training camp is that their roster is a healthy one. In the past, the Blue Jays’ pitching staff in particular has been plagued with long term injuries, whereas this year the starting rotation is healthy heading Spring Training.
All in all, there are a lot of positives for the Toronto Blue Jays going into the 2012 season, and Beeston acknowledged these positives, asserting that in the next five years he expects to see the Blue Jays in the playoffs two or three times. Whether or not these promises will come to fruition, it is hard to deny it is an exciting time to be a Blue Jays fan, especially in comparison to the last 18 seasons of mediocrity.