Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies fans might read the title of this post and feel sorry for us. They might even make fun of us.
“Look at the baseball fans in lowly Toronto! They are excited about finishing .500! Ha!”
Those teams have grown accustomed to winning more games than they lose, and being in contention on an annual basis. Toronto sports fans have sadly grown accustomed to losing in recent years.
The Raptors collapsed at the end of last season to miss the playoffs and are widely expected to finish near the bottom of the NBA this year. The Leafs are coming off a dead last finish in the Eastern Conference, and will need a LOT of pieces to fall into place to make the playoffs. This was supposed to be the year for Toronto FC, but they basically humiliated themselves. The Argos are a mediocre team at best.
But there are so many reasons to be proud of this Blue Jays team, and yes Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies fans, we will celebrate a .500 finish. Here’s why:
That, my friends, is Sports Illustrated’s predicted order of finish (with final records) for the 2010 AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays were pegged to win 64 games.
It’s not hard to blame SI for that prediction, especially when looking at the opening day roster. Take a look at who began the season with the 2010 Blue Jays and tell me if you honestly believed we could eclipse 70 wins:
– Jose Bautista was scheduled to bat leadoff
– Starting SS, Alex Gonzalez, was a career .247 hitter with a .689 OPS
– Vernon Wells was coming off the worst season of his career and was being called a monumental bust by baseball writers everywhere
– Our catcher was cut by the Kansas City Royals
– Jason Frasor was the closer, for the second time, and instantly blew a save on opening day (and then a week later too)
– The set-up man, Kevin Gregg, was a two-time failed closer on Florida and Chicago
– Brian Tallet was in the starting rotation
– A man named Merkin (which also means a pubic wig) was in the bullpen
In the middle of May, our two best hitters from ’09 were horrendous. Aaron Hill was below the Mendoza line. Adam Lind wasn’t far above it. Lyle Overbay was hitting .189.
But the team hung together. Despite the fact that Hill, Lind, and Overbay never really met expectations, despite the fact that Encarnacion still plays, and despite the fact that Tallet still gets to wear a uniform, Toronto has never stopped winning.
A breakout, MVP calibre year for Bautista, a bounce-back season from Vernon Wells, a fantastic offensive campaign from the KC cast-off (Buck), and a four-headed starting rotation (Marcum, Romero, Cecil, Morrow) that is as good as any in the game, delivered us to where we are now.
And where we are now is a win total of 81, and a guaranteed .500 finish. What makes that mark even sweeter is the fact that the Jays picked up that 81st victory by destroying the man who turned his back on the franchise two years ago A.J. Burnett.
So screw you Sports Illustrated with your 64 win prediction. (For the record the Jays won their 64th game on August 20th).
And screw you Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies fans.
Us Jays fans can look back at this season and be damn proud of how things turned out.