Do me a favour.
Close your eyes.
Imagine you are a kid, let’s say 8-years old.
You have two older brothers. One is 10. One is 12.
The three of you are close. You do things together. Play basketball, football, darts, hockey, video games. You wrestle, you swim, you fight.
But because you are only 8, you are smaller, weaker, slower, and shorter. You lose at everything all the time.
After a few years, you get sick of it. You devote yourself to one sport and one sport only – let’s say wrestling. You focus on technique, on improving your quickness, and on perfecting your strategy.
Suddenly, you are very close to beating your older brothers. You give them a real battle, but fall just short at the end. “Next year,” you say. “Next year I’ll do it. I’ll beat one of them. Maybe both.”
But next year comes, and next year disappoints. The middle brother has grown over half a foot – he’s now too tall to be beaten. The oldest brother has put on 15 pounds – he’s now too heavy to be beaten.
As each subsequent year passes, each of them get taller, larger, faster, and stronger. You will never win.
That, my friends, is the plight of our Toronto Blue Jays.
I have been an optimist for years. Even in the dark days, I was hopeful. Even after the Halladay trade, I was hopeful.
I am still optimistic, but after the last few days my optimism is dwindling.
When Toronto hired Alex Anthopoulos, it looked like we were focusing on one area – the collection of young players with high ceilings, and the stockpiling of draft picks. We would not sign expensive free agents. We would not make deals for superstar players. We would not repeat the mistakes of J.P. Ricciardi (A.J Burnett, B.J. Ryan, Frank Thomas, Alex Rios).
And what happened? 85 wins! 10 more than 2009! Toronto finished 10 back of New York and 4 back of Boston, as opposed to the 28 and 20 game deficit from ’09. Improvement! Hope! Playoffs!
But in the last few days, quicker than you can even picture October baseball in this city, it appears to be over – further away than ever before. Just like that Boston acquires Adrian Gonzalez for a few minor leaguers, and then spends $296-million on two seven-year contracts (Gonzalez $154-million extension, and Carl Crawford for $142-million). After years of hearing the Red Sox and their fans complain about New York’s free spending ways and insisting that they were different, Boston has now become worse than New York. Don’t believe me? Consider Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey, Victor Martinez, Adrian Beltre, and now Gonzalez and Crawford.
As far as the Yankees, it’s only a matter of time until Cliff Lee signs a 7-year deal of his own. If something shocking happens and he goes back to Texas? No big deal – they’ll simply acquire Zack Greinke, or find a way to pry Felix Hernandez, or Jered Weaver, or another “untouchable” player from his current club.
And if that wasn’t enough, here comes the news that Scott Downs is likely to sign with Boston. Not only do we lose our most dependable reliever over the past six seasons, but because Boston signed Crawford, we also lose our first round compensation pick that signing Downs was going to provide. So we decide to build through the draft, yet we lose our high draft picks before we even get them. Sad.
Yes there is a chance that Boston isn’t as strong as everybody thinks they are – don’t forget they lost Beltre and Martinez, and they still have to pitch Beckett, Dice-K, and Lackey (all of who were atrocious last year). And yes there is a chance that the Yankees won’t be better either – they might lose Lee, they might not acquire Greinke, Pettitte might retire, their aging team is one year older, and they still have A.J. Burnett.
But to have to depend year-in and year-out on the worst-case scenarios of other teams is becoming a very bitter pill to swallow.
And it is starting to slowly turn this optimistic Jays fan bitter.