The Torch Has Been Passed

Photo credit:Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports
Isaac Boloten
2 years ago
I haven’t written about the Blue Jays in a long while. 
I often feel as if I should, and sometimes I do try to get some words on a page, but I’ve always felt that I’m at my best when the team is making me feel passionate enough to write about them. I think that moment has finally come. 
I’m writing at a time where we’re currently experiencing the most exciting, talented individual player this team has seen in a long while.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr is making hitting in the Major Leagues look like child’s play, all at an age where he’s essentially just a child playing. He leads baseball in Home Runs, OPS, Times on Base, and fWAR to this point, all while walking as much as he’s striking out. In a year where pitching is concerningly dominant, Vlad is putting up numbers that hardly anyone in the game is even flirting with. Thinking back on it, only one other Jay in my lifetime has captured the hearts of fans with this kind of sheer dominance at the plate. Hint: he had a beard. 
One of the last pieces I wrote was the day after the famous bat-flip game.  
I remember writing it with tears streaming down my face. The article’s premise was that we were finally getting to see Jose Bautista have his moment when it mattered, after years of carrying the team through mediocrity, with many not appreciating his greatness because their heroes like Carter & Fernandez actually won something. It was about how rewarding it was for the enduring of those bad years to have ultimately paid off with one incredible moment. There’s an excerpt from that piece that I think is worth sharing: 
“When I head down to the dome to watch the Blue Jays suffer their eighth straight losing season in 2030, and witness Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sock his 500th dinger as a Jay, do you know what jersey I’ll be sporting? Jose, the greatest Blue Jay of all time, Bautista. When the children laugh at my out-of-touch ways, saying that I hold on to the past too much, and that I should move on, and focus on what’s to come, as Vladimir Guerrero III waits in the wings, I will tell them that I will forever pay my respects to the feeling I was given by Jose Bautista, on October 14th, 2015.”
There’s a lot to unpack there. For one, I’ll stand by the point I was trying to make — there’s nothing that will ever compare to your favourite player during your coming-of-age as a baseball fan, and for me, that will always be Jose. So, damn right I’ll still be sporting my Bautista jersey at the dome in nine years, regardless of what Vladdy does in the future. But that’s not what I wanted to take from this quote. 

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Jose Bautista came out of nowhere and captivated the hearts of an entire country of baseball fans. Until his partner-in-crime, Edwin Encarnacion came along, he was quite literally all we had. It was a time without a second wild-card spot, when the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays were miles clear of the Jays in every conceivable way, an inconvenient truth that wasn’t going to change regardless of how many home runs Bautista hit. That didn’t make it any less electrifying. We’d still tune in and look forward to every plate appearance, the way we’re doing with Vlad. We’d still check how Jose’s numbers stacked up against his peers daily, the way we’re doing with Vlad. He was the team’s reason for hope, but unfortunately, that glimmer of hope we had was mostly unfounded, as the idea of a competitive team just wasn’t realistic at the time. 
As Vlad Jr. appears on the verge of a historical breakout season, it dawned upon me that Vladimir Guerrero Jr is about to be looked at the same way I looked at Jose Bautista in the eyes of a whole lot of coming-of-age Blue Jays fans. 
But it’s different. It appears highly unlikely that my prediction of eight consecutive losing seasons will come true. Vladdy isn’t coming along at a time where he’s the only thing to look forward to. This team is good, and it has all the potential to become great for years to come. I envy that somewhat. These fans won’t have to watch Vladdy hit in lineups filled with the Juan Riveras and J.P. Arencibias of the world. And yes, I like to say that enduring years of suffering made the triumph that much sweeter. But at the end of the day, I’d have taken watching Jose play on exciting teams throughout the entirety of his tenure over what we ended up getting any day of the week.
With that, I wanted to pen some advice for this new generation of Jays fans who are watching a superstar play for their favourite team for the first time, having their passion for the sport grow every time he takes the field and shows off his gifts: Cherish this. 
You might be a fan for the rest of your life because of this generation of the Toronto Blue Jays. But there is absolutely nothing that’ll make you feel the way about the guys that ignited that passion in the first place. Do everything you need to do to make it worth your while. Engage with the incredible online community the Jays have in place. Get cocky, why not? Instigate fights with other fanbases on social media about why your guy is better than their guy. When I did this with my Jose propaganda, I was met with insults about how miserable it must be as a Jays fan. Hey, they don’t have that ammunition anymore! Hell, get in my Twitter mentions and start telling me about how Vlad’s already better than Jose ever was. Sure, I’ll put you in your place, but I’ll appreciate the sentiment. 
Above all, appreciate what you’re watching on a daily basis, and what you’re likely to continue to see for years to come. Watch and take in as much of it as you can. I cannot express this enough. Talent like this doesn’t come around that often, and even when it does,  it won’t feel quite the same. 

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