Spring Training is under way. The first exhibition game is only a few days away. There is a buzz in the air, both in Dunedin and in Toronto.
While it’s true that there is a buzz in the air every year at this time, something feels different this year. The Blue Jays have become relevant again – both in Major League Baseball and in the sports landscape of Toronto. There is youth, swagger, and a sense of expectation that hasn’t been seen in several years.
It’s in the headlines.
Check out the News Archive on bluejays.com and take a few moments to peruse the main stories for February of this year. This is a glimpse of what you’ll see:
– Adam Lind getting more comfortable at first base
– Frank Francisco holding the early edge for the closer job
– Travis Snider hoping to breakout despite sore ribs
– Ricky Romero ready to
take the next step
– Jo-Jo Reyes impresses John Farrell
Now, change the year to February of 2010 and see the difference:
– John Buck to help mold young Jay’s staff
– Shaun Marcum to lead rotation
– Vernon Wells takes on leadership role
– Kevin Gregg begins fresh start, to challenge Scott Downs for closer’s role
– Roy Halladay casts a shadow over training camp
– Lyle Overbay knowns this could be his last year as a Jay
– Cito Gaston faces challenges in final year
Notice a trend in the 2010 headlines? Every single one of those men are no longer with the team.
In 2010 there seemed to be more of a focus on the past, and of how to possibly get through the season. Look at some of the words used: last, final, shadow.
The stories were all about how Cito will fare in his final year, or can Overbay go out in style. Questions were asked about how the team will cope without Halladay, or who will become a leader.
But in 2011, those questions have either been answered or don’t exist. John Farrell is in place for the long haul and has the local fans excited about his managerial philosophy. There are no key members of this team in their final year – the core is signed. Roy Halladay is now referred to as “the guy we got Drabek for” not “the former ace who will be impossible to replace.” And, maybe most important, we don’t have to question whether a leader (last year it was Vernon) will step up. We now know that Jose Bautista fits that role – unquestionably.
Last year there was a sense of dread and foreboding, a feeling that we were straddling two distinct era’s of the Toronto Blue Jays. Call it pre-and-post Ricciardi, or pre-and-post Halladay.
This year, that page has been turned.
What a difference a year makes.