The Weight of Expectations

In terms of its sports teams, Toronto is a terrible place to be.  I have written about it several times before on this site and on others, documenting the annual failure of any of our major league teams to not only bring home a championship, but to merely contend for one.

The epidemic has grown so bad that it has successfully tempered the expectations we have as fans.  Everybody in Toronto expects the Raptors to be awful and finish at or near the bottom of the standings.  Everybody expects the Leafs to shoot themselves in the foot time and time again and ultimately finish last.  We all expect Toronto FC to miss the playoffs badly, and set records of futility along the way.

That’s likely part of the reason that Toronto fans are often ridiculed by other markets for “planning the parade” at an early portion of the season.  When the Leafs were sitting first in the Northeast division and only two points back of first overall in the entire NHL at the end of November, fans were dreaming not only of playoff hockey for the first time in years, but of the Stanley Cup.  Did we actually believe the Leafs could win?  No, but since we expected them to finish last, we had to celebrate while the good times lasted.  And we did.  Then they ended…with a thud.

For the Toronto Blue Jays, the same thing has happened.  As Jays fans, we don’t expect them to finish last, but season after season we expect the same thing: patches of brilliance, patches of awfulness, and a lot of mediocrity, ultimately culminating in a .500 record, and a 4th place finish – 15-20 games behind the division champ.

But then 2012 hit, and everything changed.  Alex Anthopoulos continued to add young, high ceiling talent to his team, bringing in Sergio Santos to join the likes of Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencibia, Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek, and Yunel Escobar.  Suddenly, people began to take notice of what was being built north of the border.  The Jays were no longer a perennial fourth place team, but a  bonafide contender.

And for once, it wasn’t just bloggers, fans, and team management who were saying these things.  Real, actual baseball analysts, on real, actual media outlets like CBS Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated were saying these things.  Many actually picked the Blue Jays to make the 2012 postseason.  Even celebrities, like the decrepit, old and withered Larry King endorsed the Jays to win the AL East.  It was something we hadn’t seen in these parts since 1993.

And quite clearly, we aren’t used to it.

Instead of elevating our moods and making fans more excited about the season, the glowing praise heaped on our team has done nothing but raise expectations – maybe to unreasonable and unrealistic levels. 

Because judging by the behaviour of many fans at the ballpark, in the streets, and on Twitter, you’d think the Toronto Blue Jays were the worst team in the history of organized sports.

I’ve been to several games at the Rogers Centre thus far, and let me tell you – there has been a ton of booing and a LOT of anger and venom thrown towards the players.  Fans are ripping into Adam Lind, booing him during every at bat, and every play in the field.  Fans booed Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar mercilessly after booting some balls last night.  People on Twitter wanted to flat out murder Francisco Cordero after his blown save last Tuesday, and tried to run Sergio Santos out of town after losing to the Red Sox in the home opener.

Why?  For no other reason than heavy expectations.  In previous seasons, when Toronto was 19-18 in mid-May, many fans looked upon that as a successful record.  “Hey, the boys are over .500!”  But now in 2012, because Scott Miller of CBS Sportsline thinks they might sneak the second wild card spot, an over .500 record is an indication that this team is overpaid, worthless, and hopeless.

Look – the Jays have been victims of several things thus far this year: slow starts from most of the hitters,  a tough few weeks from the relievers,  starting pitchers walking too many batters,  leaky infield defense over the past 10 days, and umpires who appear to be squeezing some players at the plate (see: Bill Miller and his “expanding the strike zone due to personal dislike”).  But the fact is, they are still above .500 and within striking distance of the division lead.  Sure they are struggling, sure they are having a hard time beating the Rays and Orioles, but it’s May 16th.  There is a lot of time left.

The bottom line is this: Alex Anthopoulos didn’t promise the playoffs in 2012.  Paul Beeston didn’t promise the playoffs in 2012.  John Farrell, Jose Bautista, Ricky Romero – none of them promised the playoffs in 2012 either.  This is a team building for the next few years, with a chance to win this year.

Let’s do the boys a favour: simmer down the expectations a bit and let them figure things out without the anger, the frustration, and the boo’s.

After all – expecting success is different than demanding success.  Expecting success turns a regular fan into an entitled fan.  An entitled fan, in turn, equals an annoying fan.

In other words: a Yankee fan.

One thought on “The Weight of Expectations”

  1. Excellent piece. Solid dose of rational, cold-water in the face level-headedness. (Or should I say, “500-level-headedness”?)

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