Fact: I love baseball.
I love to play baseball, whether it’s on my weekly beer league team, a simple game of catch, or through my fantasy leagues.
I love to watch baseball. I watch virtually every regular season Blue Jays game. I watch a healthy amount of other teams. I watch the playoffs and World Series, regardless if the Jays are involved. I even watch classic games.
In short, I am a baseball junkie.
But here is a second fact: for 20 years, Toronto Blue Jays baseball has not been a whole lot of fun – even for a junkie like myself.
Don’t get me wrong: we have had great moments and great players. Roger Clemens won back-to-back Cy Young awards here, Roy Halladay was sensational, we got to see Carlos Delgado and Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion destroy baseballs. But every year ended the same way, with me watching the Tigers in the playoffs, or the Yankees, or the Cardinals. It ended with the Jays either being long out of contention by August (most of the time), or hanging around the fringes of the Wild Card race in early September.
Sure April brought hope, but nobody really, truly believed that Toronto was a contender.
Last season’s playoff run was the most excited I have been about baseball in years, and was only surpassed by Opening Day of this year. This Jays team as currently constructed is very, very, very good, and watching games has become fun again. There is no longer the feeling of dread hanging in the back of our minds when the Yankees come to town, or when the Jays take a 2-0 lead into the 8th, or when they fall behind early. Because unlike in years past, we can now beat the Yankees, our bullpen holds that 2-0 lead, and early deficits mean nothing.
Take this season so far.
Toronto’s vaunted offense, expected by many to once again lead all of baseball in runs scored by a healthy margin is scuffling:
– 4.2 runs per game (7th in the AL)
– .224 average (11th)
– .383 slugging (8th)
– .684 OPS (8th)
– 100 strikeouts (2nd most)
– Pillar, Tulowitzki, and Encarnacion each have an OPS of under .600
– Martin and Colabello each have an OPS of under .200
But that’s not all that’s wrong:
– R.A. Dickey is sporting an 8.10 ERA
– Cecil and Storen (two thirds of the back-end shutdown bullpen) have allowed 6 runs in 7 IP
– With Loup and Morales injured, the Jays might be forced to give switch pitcher Pat Venditte high leverage innings
Yet despite all of the above, the Toronto Blue Jays are 5-5, and have actually had a lead in all 10 games thus far.
Think about that.
The team is firing at maybe 50% of it’s full strength, and there is a very reasonable chance that they could be 10-0.
And after the last two games, there are signs that the bullpen (non-Osuna division) is shaking the rust off, and that Martin and Tulowitzki and Pillar are waking up.
So if you think that baseball is fun now, just wait.
Things might be about to get crazy.