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Photo Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

On Hope and the Toronto Blue Jays

After the final out was recorded in an underwhelming Game 5 of the 2016 American League Championship Series, there was an air of uncertainty surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays. An aging-but-dominant 2015 team earned another kick at the can, only to find themselves falling flat on their face in the exact same spot. What was next? It almost felt like storm clouds were starting to circle the Rogers Centre with the promise of a completely new regime ready to tear down the team and send them into a much-needed rebuild after two fun years.

A recurring theme I recognized during the coming months was something along the lines of Mark “Not My Real Dad” Shapiro and Ross Atkins not understanding what baseball means in Toronto, and yeah, I don’t think he was willing to sacrifice any futures (or, uh, future headaches) to pry that shut window open for another year. Like him or not, Shapiro seemed meticulous from the start, which probably explains the lack of a knee jerk reaction to ink franchise great Bautista to a long-term deal.

Hope was at a new low for this era of Blue Jays baseball. Even though I don’t think any Blue Jays fan would trade those two years for the world, it probably would have felt better to be stuck in mediocrity for another couple of years than to come that close in back to back years and then begin a downward spiral just before everybody got comfortable watching a good team.

Hope isn’t something common to those that watch sports in this city. Toronto FC and Argonauts notwithstanding, we’ve barely had anything noteworthy to celebrate over the past two decades. You know things are going well in the sports scene when you aren’t absolutely fuming while watching your favourite team. Hell, even fans of the Toronto Raptors, a perennial playoff team, have to preface their dreams with a “maybe if…”

If I told you in November 2016 that Toronto would be a combined 15 games under .500 by the 2018 all star break over the next year and a half, your first thought would be something along the lines of whether you chose pinstripes or the colour red to help soothe your pain.

Thankfully, even in a lost season, there’s still a glimmer of hope for Blue Jays fans, and it’s growing every week.

Six Blue Jays – Kevin Smith (87), Danny Jansen (74), Lourdes Gurriel Jr (72), Nate Pearson (70), Bo Bichette (5), and of course, Vladimir Guerrero Jr (1) – made the mid-season Baseball America top 100 list, but the successful youngsters spans beyond those five: guys like Teoscar Hernandez, Ryan Borucki, Cavan Biggio, and Eric Pardinho, for example, have each impressed across the system thus far. It’s one thing to have a generational talent capable of crushing everything thrown his way, but to surround that with Bo Bichette and other legitimate prospects brings a new kind of hope less than two years after everybody’s World Series hopes ended.

The next wave of kids has served as a fine distraction from that dreaded GB column. It seems like, almost on a nightly basis, a new farmhand does something that sends murmurs up the system, highlighting a new person to look out for, a new name to pencil into future potential Blue Jays squads, a new reason to be excited. Without them, and no hope for the present or the future, Blue Jays baseball would dive into a very dark era.

Judging by the sheer amount of posts we’ve done on him, you already know how your friends at Blue Jays Nation feel about the guy with the Hall of Fame dad that could actually turn out to be even better.

Instead of a sudden fall off a cliff and the slow climb, these prospects have acted like a parachute. Sure, prospects will break your heart, and all of these guys almost certainly won’t live up to expectations, but doesn’t it feel good to have something to look forward to?

The one good thing about your season looking like it’s more or less over by the all star break is that we get to experience stress-free baseball. Last year, the story was about a terrible Blue Jays team that didn’t do anything right. This year, it’s all about the process. It’s about looking towards the future with a rebuild that won’t send fans flocking to another team. It’s about Vlad, Bo, and a constant stream of social media updates that make us giddy about the coming years.

We’ve become the polar opposite of what we were back in 2015, making fun of those that held their prospects close, but if they can’t be in a pennant race, this is a damn good consolation prize.

 

 

  • Regulator Johnson

    Fun piece and agreed that we’ve lucked out on drafting/signing some potentially great future Jays.

    I don’t understand your fifth paragraph though. Are you saying that if fans had known the team sucked they would have rooted for the Yankees or Sox instead? Or that we would have taken solace in the fact that those teams sucked? I don’t really get the implication there…

    • Richard Lee-Sam

      Hey, thanks for reading! I was saying if fans had known back then that the team would be this bad, we would have probably seen a few trade their Jays stuff in for Yankees or Red Sox gear

      • Matty

        I like the positive direction of the jays. Draft and develop young talented positional players. When those guys are ready for the show, go out and sign/trade for healthy, proven pitching with a couple young arms mixed in.

        • El Cabeza

          It’s definitely a new direction. Who have been the D&D’d position players of since Delgado, Shawn ’30/30′ Green and Shannon Stewart 20 years ago? Aaron Hill and…. yeah I think that might be the end of the list of notable players, anyway.

  • Paul Beestons Grass Surface

    Yeah, it’s going to be an interesting few years, starting in 2019. I’m curious how the next wave will be integrated. Outfield for example. We have Pillar, Grichuck and Hernandez. Ok, pretty good. Alford is on the cusp. So is Smith Jr and to some extent Pompey. When the next wave arrives, do they integrate and trade a regular? Or do they start using the prospects to trade for veteran help? Or both? I imagine both, but I love that the current FO is creating this problem of a lot of decent talent bubbling up from the minors, year after year (Hopefully) and creating a logjam. It feels like the opposite of the AA years, in that we have a lot more positional prospects with potential, than pitching. Well, I suppose drafting positional over pitching will do that. But I wonder if they will start looking at the pitching pipeline over the next few years in the draft? All in all, a positive outlook and even if they don’t win over the next few years, it will be fun to watch the young guys grow and become more and more competitive…like the Jays in the early 80’s!!!

  • Paul Beestons Grass Surface

    Dear Red.
    If you’re reading this, you’ve gotten out. And if you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further. You remember the name of the town, don’t you? I could use a good man to help me get my project on wheels. I’ll keep an eye out for you and the chessboard ready. Remember, Red. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well.

    Your friend.
    Andy.

  • Terry Mesmer

    > it probably would have felt better to be stuck in mediocrity for another couple of years than to come that close in back to back years and then begin a downward spiral

    I cannot reconcile that sentence with anything I have seen, thought or felt about the recent Jays seasons.

  • Terry Mesmer

    > Toronto FC and Argonauts notwithstanding, we’ve barely had anything noteworthy to celebrate over the past two decades.

    Championships notwithstanding, we haven’t had anything to celebrate over the past two decades.

    Come on.

  • Terry Mesmer

    > doesn’t it feel good to have something to look forward to?

    Now that’s a sentiment I can agree with!

    I didn’t live in Toronto during the World Series years. And my kid is only 15. But we’ve had two dramatic Bautista-fuelled playoff runs and we see Vladdy et al on the horizen. It’s a great time to be a kid in Toronto who loves baseball (and great to hang out with that kid).

  • Seguaro

    Does anyone really believe Vlad Jr. will be better than his dad? – as stated. Let’s just keep him away from poutine and hope he can hold his own at first. He’s a fabulous hitting prospect but as someone who has seen him play numerous times third base is a challenge.

  • Oz Rob

    Quick Quiz:

    Player A: Avg = .224; OBP = .309; SLG = .457; OPS = .767
    Player B: Avg = .249; OBP = .321; SLG = .442; OPS = .763

    Player A is Edwin Encarnacion, Player B is Kendrys Morales