A guide to hating the Texas Rangers

Combining their late season charge with the fact the home ballpark actively discourages the wave makes the Texas Rangers a tough team to hate.

Combining their late season charge with the fact the home ballpark actively discourages the wave makes the Texas Rangers a tough team to hate.

Alrighty, the regular season is officially over and the Blue Jays are still playing.

That must mean they’ve made the playoffs!

While most of us are fairly new, or at the very least extremely rusty, at this whole postseason thing it’s probably best to spend the next few days preparing. It seems to me that we’re all quite comfortable with cheering the home team, and it’s pretty easy considering the roster the organization has constructed. So the next most important thing is to learn to hate the opposing team.

Jays fans have had no problem hating opposing teams in the past, but there’s always been a reason. Whether it’s the shitbirding ways of the Baltimore Shitbirds or the throwing-at-our-stars-and-not-getting-thrown-out-only-to-have-Sanchez-tossed-when-a-ball-gets-away-from-him Kansas City Royals, those teams are easy to hate.

However, the Rangers man. They’re the team that was almost written off early after a 7-14 April. Like the Jays they went on a tear in the second half, securing the AL West. Texas has some fun and likable players, like Adrian “just as good as Derek Jeter but without the ballwashing” Beltre and Cecil (Fielder, not Brett)’s kid.

And of course there’s the fact the team actively discourages the wave at home games.

If the Jays weren’t in the postseason this year I’d be choosing between Texas and the Mets to be my adopted team for the month of October.

However, this time of year is not for the weak at heart. Canadians may not be hateful people, but it’s playoffs time. So without further adieu, here are some tidbits to get your Texas hate flowing.

Michael Young

For years Jays fans had to withstand the constant reminders every year that Michael Young was drafted by the Jays and traded from the Toronto organization to Texas for Esteban Loaiza in an ill-fated playoff push. That team ended up with 83 wins, and Young went on to have a nice little career, while Toronto spent years trying to find a shortstop who wasn’t awful.

But the thing is, Young wasn’t nearly as good as many people seem to think. Sure, he had some nice years by the traditional numbers, having a stretch of five straight years with 200 or more hits. But he was basically a 2-3 fWAR player, with a high-water mark of 4.1 in 2005.

And yet, every time Texas came to town we got to hear about the one that got away.

Well, screw Michael Young. It may have took 15 years but we got our shortstop now. How ya like them apples, Texas?

Cole Hamels

The lanky lefty had long been tied to the Jays as a possible trade target. But according to multiple reports over the years, Hamels had the Jays on his no-trade list, meaning he didn’t want to come here.

Well, suck it Cole. We got a lefty who’s better than you. And he’s more likable than you too.

Oh, and Cole Hamels reminds me of those teams that should have won Doc Halladay a World Series, but choked twice. So Cole, here’s to you getting taken to the proverbial woodshed on Thursday. You’ll wish you waived your no-trade clause when you see the lineup Toronto trots out for Game 1.

Jade Helm

According to this handy and hilarious infographic the most Googled term in Texas is Jade Helm.

For those unaware, Jade Helm refers to a conspiracy revolving around a military exercise in the American South that could involve, according to the Hartford Courant:

That Jade Helm 15 is actually a psychological operation aimed at getting people used to seeing the military on the streets so they will not be tipped off when the invasion actually happens.

That Jade Helm 15 is an international operation (UN vehicles have been spotted) whose goal is to seize everyone’s guns.

That the military plans to round up political dissidents.

That the military intends to remove key political figures who might oppose the institution of martial law. (I’m pretty sure Democrats don’t have anything to worry about here.)

That the military is secretly using recently closed Wal-Marts to stockpile supplies for Chinese troops who will be arriving to disarm Americans. (I have to say this is my personal favorite.)

It’s so Texan to be worried about the government taking their guns, but it’s also quite hilarious that people think recently closed Wal-Marts are being used to stockpile Chinese troops.

We could go down so many unfortunate racial, homophobic or xenophobic paths to point out that there is a lot of batshit crazy in Texas, but it’s more fun to showcase the craziness by conspiracy theories that include Chinese people waiting to file out of Wal-Marts and taking over America. I mean, have you ever navigated a Wal-Mart parking lot? They’re impossible!

Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?

Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?

George Bush

Before he took the Oval office for a political ride only rivaled by Toronto’s crack smoking, alcoholic racist and homophobic ex-mayor, George Bush was the Governor of the great state of Texas.

He also was a part owner of the Rangers for much of the 1990s.

‘Nuff said.

So there you have it. Enough reasons to at least start hating those damned Texas Rangers. My blood’s boiling just thinking about those bastards.

Bring on Thursday!

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Blue Jays fans should be excited because of the talent increase, not the “clubhouse change”

Culture

So long Canadian Jesus, so long.

Yet another major move by Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was announced last night, and it was another move that caught people by surprise. Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson is coming to Toronto and bringing his MVP-calibre play along with four years of control with him. Heading out is the aforementioned Canadian Jesus, Brett Lawrie, pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Gravemen, and highly regarded prospect Franklin Barretto.

For a team looking to win now, the move is huge for the Jays. Donaldson brings a supreme talent, huge power, and strong defence, not to mention a durability Lawrie has yet to display.

With the trade of Adam Lind, the signing of Russell Martin, and now the acquisition of Donaldson, next year’s narratives have already pretty much been written. Clubhouse change, culture change, leadership, #GRIT. That’s what we’re going to hear about next year, especially if the Jays do well.

And a good chunk of that is bullshit. Sure, there’s something to be said for changing the atmosphere – we really don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of the clubhouse, so to say definitively one way or the other is stupid. Lind was often seen as kind of lazy, while Lawrie came off as an immature little shit. But consider last year. Lawrie played his last game on Aug. 5, just as the team was embarking on a stretch that would kill their playoff hopes. He was on the field during the team’s great run in May, playing everyday.

Strangely, so was Lind. Kittenface missed time in July, when the team did okayish and returned for the awful August. During August he was brutal, hitting to a .297 wOBA and 85 wRC+, which given his inability to do anything else rendered him essentially useless. Lind returned to form in September, putting up a .393 wOBA, in a month where the Jays turned it around.

They were both on the field, and presumably in the clubhouse, when the team was doing well.

So, while culture change or whatever you want to call it may be a part of the reason AA has been making these moves, it’s a reason that’s far down on the priority list. The durability and flexibility arguments, quite frankly, carry far more weight. But even still, those aren’t the biggest issues at play.

At the end of the day, these moves should excite fans simply because the team has drastically increased its talent level, without giving up an exorbitant amount. With Martin, it was only money. And while we can’t really be sure where the payroll threshold is located with the team, the contract is structured in such a way that it shouldn’t hamper plans for next year and shouldn’t become so much of a burden in later years that the team is handcuffed.

With Donaldson, yes the team gave up some pieces. Lawrie still has the potential to be an awesome player. Nolin has long been seen as a solid back of the rotation piece. Graveman came out of nowhere last year and looks like he might be something.

And of course, Barretto is seen as a very strong prospect, and if he can stick at shortstop might turn out to be the best player the Jays gave away.

But that doesn’t mean much for next year. Barretto’s still a couple years away from even sniffing the big leagues, if he even makes it. Nolin and Gravemen were quite far down on the depth chart for Toronto, given the surplus of starting pitchers the team has.

Finally, Lawrie’s absolute upside potential for 2015 is likely around Donaldson’s absolute floor. And given Donaldson has one extra year of control than Lawrie does, it’s a no brainer.

What I’ve found interesting about the moves so far, though, is that AA has made two substantial trades and one big signing, and has yet to address the areas of need we all wanted addressed heading into the offseason: bullpen, second base and left field.

But maybe he sort of has. With Donaldson and Martin coming into the fold, are we perhaps a little more comfortable going with some sort of Ryan Goins-Maicer Izturis-Devon Thomas group at second base? Given the presence of Danny Valencia and John Mayberry, could the Jays cobble together enough to have a strong infield without anymore moves? Not ideal, but I’m certainly more willing to answer in the affirmative with Donaldson at third base as opposed to Lawrie.

Even the outfield seems like less of a concern. As Shi Davidi reported in an article put up overnight:

“I notice a lot of people are focused on positional needs,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said on a conference call late Friday. “I know people can say, ‘Well, you had a third baseman’ and that’s true, we did. But I don’t know that we had another middle of the order bat to go with (Edwin) Encarnacion and (Jose) Bautista and now we do. That was a spot in the lineup of need if you want to call it that.”

So while signing Melky Cabrera would still be great, the urgency to get another middle-of-the-order-bat left fielder isn’t there anymore. The team has more flexibility to sign, say, a Nori Aoki or even Alex Rios type.

There’s still work to be done for the Jays and Alex Anthopoulos, but by improving in other areas he’s in part addressing the glaring holes we all talked about heading into the offseason.

Revisiting Alex Anthopoulos’ end of season Blue Jays review

Remember when Alex Anthopoulos said he was really excited about the offseason and how he expected big things, and how there was a somewhat collective rolling of the eyes?

To wit:

“As much as it seems like we’ve got some looming free agents — and we do — or some guys with options — and those decisions need to be made — there’s also an opportunity to add some players and to have some turnover with some guys that I think are going to continue to take a step forward. It can be really exciting”

From Brendan Kennedy, The Toronto Star

Yeah, about that.

Not even two months later and it appears the Toronto GM wasn’t bluffing. He’s already signed one of the top free agents in Russell Martin and there have been plenty of reports linking the Jays to guys like Pablo Sandoval, Jon Lester and Andrew Miller.

On the trade front, AA jettisoned longtime Jay Adam Lind in exchange for Marco Estrada, and traded longtime Jays centre fielder of the future if he ever learns to hit Anthony Gose for second baseman Devon Travis.

He went into the offseason saying he was excited about the possibilities, expected some turnover, and reiterated he had money to spend. Alex was apparently being quite truthful.

So…what else did he say, and what does that mean about what we can expect as the offseason kicks into full gear?

  • In John Lott’s piece in the National Post, he said Anthopoulos expects plenty of turnover in the bullpen. While the Jays have been linked to Andrew Miller, that’s about it. I suppose the addition of Estrada could end up being another bullpen piece, depending on what happens in the rotation and whether Estrada even remains with the team, but Marco Estrada and Andrew Miller doesn’t seem like enough to warrant a “significant” label. I would expect the Jays to be linked to, and likely acquire another couple bullpen pieces.
  • In both Kennedy’s and Lott’s pieces, they mentioned Anthopoulos’ commitment to The Policy. That rubs a little with rumours coming out of the Jon Lester sweepstakes that the Jays might be willing to budge. Has there been a change in those two months? Does AA think he can get Lester for six years at an AAV he didn’t expect? Is he just try to bid up a player that at least one division rival is in on? I wouldn’t be surprised it’s one of those, or it’s possibly even all bullshit. It could be posturing too.
  • AA told reporters Brett Lawrie was his third baseman, but left the door open about a move to second, only if the right deal presented itself. With the Jays appearing to drop out of the running for Pablo Sandoval, the only other potential third baseman that makes sense is Hanley Ramirez. And that’s only on the condition he accepts a move to third, which admittedly he sounds more open to. I’d expect Lawrie to stay at third. However, Anthopoulos also noted a desire to improve depth and durability, and find a way to give Jose Reyes more days off. That, to me, signals more movement in the infield. Perhaps a second baseman who could slide over to shortstop when Reyes needs a day off? Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera?

With the winter meetings coming up in a few weeks look for the Jays to make some movement on at least a couple of these front. There are certainly more moves to be made.

Emilio Bonifacio reuniting with the Blue Jays? Might just be crazy enough to work

Oh the memories. The ground balls through the wickets. Botched double plays. Misread attempts. Poor throws.

And the hitting, my god the hitting. A .579 OPS, including a .258 on base percentage. His wRC+ while a member of the Blue Jays was a hilariously bad 54. Remember, wRC+ compares a hitter to the league average, with 100 being exactly average. So, at 54, or nearly half league average, I’m pretty sure that means Yunel Escobar could have swung that bat with one arm and done as well as old Boneface.

Early season 2013 was a dark time, and the black hole that was Emilio Bonifacio at second base is among the darkest.

So when we hear things like below, we should cringe, cry and roll up into the fetal position, right?

Aaaahhhhhhhhhh! WTF EHRMIGOD?!11!/?1/1?!?!!!!///?

It might just be crazy enough to work.

Now I’m not suggesting he’s a boni-fide (see what I did there?) solution to any of what ails the Jays, but he certainly could be part of a solution. Consider what GM Alex Anthopoulos’ modus operandi has been thus far in the offseason: raising the floor and creating flexibility. Justin Smoak, Devon Travis (who by the way I’m starting to like more and more), and Adam Lind for Marco Estrada have all been moves to raise the floor of the organization and increase flexibility.

And what better way to keep that going than acquiring a guy who can play horribly at just about every position on the field!

Well, hear me out here.

It’s true, his time with the Jays was bad. And overall, his bat just hasn’t been that good. However, it’s not as bad as many think.

For starters, Boneface actually sports a decent 97 wRC+ and .320 wOBA, powered largely by his respectable .340 OBP vs lefties over his career. That includes ridiculous numbers in 2014 in the split: 170 wRC+, .420 (“haha, FOUR TWENTY!” said in the voice of a dumb teenager) wOBA, and .959 OPS, in an admittedly small sample size.

On the other side of the field, he’s not as bad as we all remember. At least according to the metrics. Both UZR and DRS consider him average in the outfield, overall, and both quite liked his work out there in 2014. Is it possible his bouncing around and being DedFA in 2013 sparked a new attitude or focus in the field? Maybe. Is it possible we’re remembering Bonifacio with shit-coloured glasses (or whatever the opposite of rose-coloured glasses is)? Probably.

There’s no shortage of lightning rods for the 2013 season. From Josh Johnson to Brandon Morrow. Bonifacio to even Jose Bautista (remember all the “not a leader” morons?). I’d say it’s a very good possibility that the disaster around Bonifacio during his time with the Jays is clouding what we think of the player. The fact he went onto the Royals and almost immediately went back to being the decent player and good utility guy we thought the Jays were getting only fuels that dislike, I think.

But it shouldn’t. It should remind us that he is what he is. A no-power speed guy, who can play passable defence around the field.Over his career both UZR and DRS don’t mind him at second base (note: really!) and he ranges from passable to good in all outfield positions.

Bonifacio isn’t a solution. But he could be part of the solution of raising the floor. He could slide nicely in as a replacement for Anthony Gose and provide insurance in case Dalton Pompey isn’t quite ready for prime time yet.

And if Pompey is the solution, Bonifacio provides speed off the bench, a decent bench bat against lefties, and a player who can play multiple positions if John Gibbons has to juggle things late in a game.

Yup. Just might be crazy enough to work

Back (loading) troubles: Toronto Blue Jays’ payroll outlook not so cut and dry

As it stands right now, the Toronto Blue Jays have about $110 to spend heading into 2016, and that’s if the payroll stays as is.

Great! you may say. That flexibility should allow them to back load some contracts this offseason and maybe sign a few premium free agents this winter. With Jose Reyes’ $22 million yearly payout the only guaranteed money the team can do as it wishes.

And that’s true, to an extent, but let’s not get carried away. First, Jose Bautista’s and Edwin Encarnacion’s options are almost a sure thing to be picked up. If RA Dickey has another season like the last couple then his $12 million option will likely be as well. That brings the total up to $58 million already.

The list of players going through arbitration is quite long: Smoak, Dirks, Mayberry, Francisco, Cecil, Thole, Valencia, Delabar, Loup, Lawrie and Hutchison. Sure, some of those guys – Fat Juan, come on down! – will be non-tendered, but Toronto will likely be relying on a good chunk of them to field the team in the coming years.

Long term, Toronto also has to take care of its catcher situation, with Dioner Navarro only under contract for one more year and not much coming up in the system (Max Pentecost was a first rounder in last June’s draft and could progress quickly, but his future is somewhat up in the air and his progress surely stalled after undergoing shoulder surgery in October).

One would assume that the Jays would like to keep at least the two sluggers around longer. And if the team wants to contend for the next few years it will need guys like Brett Lawrie and Drew Hutchison to step up. That would be great for the team, solid seasons in 2015 for those two could go a long way in a postseason push, but they’re also not that far away from becoming expensive.

It’s unfortunate, from a team perspective, that both players accrued so much service time while sitting on the DL, but such is life. So factor in possible extension for Lawrie and Hutchison down the road, as well as costly extensions for Bautista and Encarnacion, not to mention likely having to sign a starting catcher next year, and the payroll quickly escalates.

So while the flexibility is great, the team can go in any direction it wants, it’s also scary. Back loading some free agent contracts could come back to haunt the team in a big way in two to three years when it comes time to start locking up the young players Alex Anthopoulos and company have developed.

There are some bad contracts coming off the books in the next couple years but that doesn’t mean we should push to replace those bad contracts with similarly bad contracts. It’s a sad reality, given the wealth of the owners, but continued prudence is key to sustained success for the Jays.

Marco? Polo…er…Estrada?

Strikeouts per nine, walks per nine, homeruns per nine. ERA, FIP, xFIP and SIERA. Homeruns per flyball, WAR, ERA- and FIP-. Groundball-to-Flyball ratio and fastball velocity.

Those are the stats, and there could me more, where Marco Estrada has progressively declined in each of the past three seasons. I’m not positive, but I don’t think that’s good.

And yet that’s exactly who the Blue Jays acquired for DH Adam Lind. The same Adam Lind whose wOBA versus right handed pitching the last two years is better than Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt and a ton of other really good hitters.

This one’s a bit of a headscratcher. Sure, Estrada could be a decent back of the rotation starter. He had a 4.36 ERA in 150 innings last year after two straight sub-4 ERA years. He could also be a bullpen piece, having split time between the bullpen and rotation in 2014.

But for a righty-mashing DH/1B on a very friendly deal? I mean, I was all for trading Lind, but for the sole reason that he seems valuable and would net a strong return.

Marco Estrada is not a strong return.

So what does this mean? One, it could mean Alex Anthopoulos jumped the gun. Perhaps he was itching to get a deal done quick. It could also mean that the coaching staff/front office soured on Lind, his injuries and what could have been considered lazy and apathetic attitude.

Perhaps it’s the first of a chain of moves. There were rumours about the Jays and Angels getting together for a trade, maybe AA has a deal to send a pitcher to LA for Howie Kendrick, meaning he’ll need Estrada as a replacement?

Maybe AA’s scouting staff identified something in Estrada that could be easily fixed.

Perhaps Lind’s defensive liabilities, need for a platoon partner, and complete lack of power in 2014 lowered his value? But if so, why not just keep him?

There’s also the money thing. Estrada made $3.3 million last year, and will be going through arbitration this year for the third and final time. He’ll get some sort of raise, and if you add what Estrada is likely to get with what fellow new Blue Jay Justin Smoak is going to get in arbitration you have basically what Lind will be making. Does AA have to be payroll neutral with everything he does?

I’m not sure what’s going on here, but unless something else happens in the next few days I don’t really like what’s happening here.

Could Toronto’s solutions come from the west?

We’re right smack dab in that weird part of the year. As baseball fans we’re being treated to awesome postseason baseball (though my teams all seems to be losing), but as Toronto fans we’re kind of eager to get things going with this offseason.

A post today at MLBTR (http://bit.ly/1vb5t8K) points us to some news and rumours out of the west. And they’re worthwhile to examine because they could provide interesting options for the Jays.

The first comes from Seattle, where GM Jack Zryduniecescsyzk (or however the hell you spell it. Makes me happy we just have to deal with the Greek name Anthopolopoloupolos) went out and said some stupid stuff to the media about outfielder – and Canadian! – Michael Saunders. There’s speculation the relationship is strained, and Saunders could see himself out the door.

In recent weeks I’ve become more of the belief that the Jays should maybe focus the majority of whatever financial flexibility the team has on addressing the infield. With three players who could potentially man centre field on the cheap, AA could potentially build a fairly cheap outfield. That helps when considering the dearth of infield options out there. A few extra dollars could go a long way.

And while Saunders has been somewhat disappointing, he’s a former top prospect, still only 27 years old, and when on the field he’s been decent. He was worth nearly 2 WAR by Fangraphs this year in limited time. Over the past three years he’s hit to the tune of a 109 wRC+ and the defensive metrics seem to like him. And with some upside there, at the perfect time where players sometimes take that big leap forward, he’s worth the risk that his injury and illness problems follow him east. But hey, at least we have free health care if he does get hurt in Toronto!

Elsewhere, there’s talk from Arizona of trading one of their young infielders, Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings or Nick Ahmed. All are young, which provides both risk in the fact they may not pan out but also potential in acquiring an important piece that will be under team control for years. And according to the piece they could be had for young pitching, a mild strength of the Jays.

Acquiring one of the trio could have the Jays go the other way, finding a cheap fix in the infield and spending big on the outfield (presumably resigning Melky).

I could live with either of those options. Stroman or Sanchez seems too much, but could Norris get it done?

Now, lets get back to enjoying real baseball.

Picking up a first baseman to solve second base

I like Adam Lind. Really, I do. He’s a fantastic hitter and his somewhat aloof personality (at least what we can glean from the brief interactions we have with him through interviews) is somewhat refreshing to the usual robot responses from professional athletes.

And as one of the longest serving Blue Jays there’s a certain soft spot for the Man from Muncie.

So with all that said, the next part doesn’t come terribly easy.

They should look to trade him.

With two holes in the outfield, one in the infield and a bullpen to rework, the Jays have a fair amount to do this offseason. It’s hard to imagine there’s a lot of money to go around. I took Paul Beeston’s recent comments (http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/beeston-blue-jays-expect-payroll-to-rise-in-2015) with a more optimistic view than most. To me, the fact he “expects to spend more than $135-137 million on its roster” next year is a good sign. Unlike last year, putting an actual number out there isn’t the vague doublespeak we’re used to.

Still, though, it’s hard to imagine they have enough money to solve everything through free agency.

And that’s where Lind comes in. He’s got a ton of value based on the fact he’s one of the best hitters in baseball against right handed pitching (third best wRC+ versus right handed pitching this year, minimum 250 PA). His option is also a paltry $7.5 million. Sure he has warts, injury problems and a complete inability to hit left handed pitching among them. And really, both him and Edwin Encarnacion should primarily be designated hitters.

Given the choice between EE and Lind, it’s pretty obvious who you take.

I would think Lind could be the centerpiece of a deal to acquire an infielder or outfielder, and shedding his 2015 salary could go a long way. It just seems like a better way to distribute those dollars.

Besides, there are potential options at first base. You could keep EE there and go with a DH-by-committee. With some aging position players that’s not a terrible idea.

There’s also Daric Barton, who recently became a free agent. Barton shouldn’t cost much, the defensive metrics like him, and his minor league numbers are strong. He’s maintained a strong walk rate, good on base skills, and not terrible power. Sure, he’s a few years removed from his last really good year in the big leagues, but it almost appears like he just hasn’t been given the opportunity.

Or there’s Yozzen Cuesta, the Cuban first baseman who defected last year – while in a tournament in Canada! – and is eligible to sign with a MLB team. I couldn’t find any information on him, save for this, which is good enough for me: http://www.theootpelite.com/toe/reports/players/player_46991.html.

Reasons for optimism on the Melky front

There’s some bad vibes coming out of Jays land these days, as players and media types seem to be setting us up for disappointment for everyone’s favourite Melk-man.

Comments from Jose Bautista in pieces by Shi Davidi http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/bautista-on-2015-the-talent-is-still-here/ and John Lott http://www.nationalpost.com/m/wp/sports/mlb/blog.html?b=sports.nationalpost.com/2014/09/29/toronto-blue-jays-jose-bautista-melky-cabrera-is-gone-but-dalton-pompey-has-just-arrived&pubdate=2014-09-29  suggest the slugger doesn’t believe Cabrera will be back next year. Meanwhile, Jeff Blair was beating that drum pretty heavily yesterday morning on the radio.

But fear not! For I remain optimistic. And I have reasons – which may or may not be coming from a ridiculously hopeless optimist – that the quotes from Bautista aren’t all bad.

  1. The GM’s excited. Surely, after last year’s fiasco where Alex Anthopoulos went into the offseason with a goal of acquiring two starting pitchers and a second baseman, and then going a big 0-3 on that front taught him a lesson. Either he forgets how that blew up in his face or he’s quite confident this offseason will be different, because he has once again ratcheted up the anticipation. AA told reporters recently that he’s really excited about this winter as the team has flexibility. So, bad memory or legitimate reason for optimism? I’ll take the latter.
  2. It’s a public pressure tactic. I wonder if Bautista made those comments as a way to put a little pressure on the front office and ownership to pony up this winter. He hasn’t been afraid to voice his displeasure when the team failed to make moves last offseason and during July’s trade deadline. His most recent comments seem to strike an interesting balance between excitement and assumption Melky’s gone.
  3. He’s just spitballing and helping his buddy. Players look out for players. Could Bautista just be drumming up interest for his friend and fellow union member Melky? Sure, this one seems a little out there, but is it totally unreasonable to think he’s trying to remind everyone how good Cabrera is? Maybe not the greatest reason of optimism for the Jays, but not a sure sign that he’s gone.
  4. Kung Fu Panda! Just because the Jays don’t get Melky resigned doesn’t mean they can’t improve the team. Sure, Cabrera going elsewhere makes the challenge that much tougher, but it doesn’t make it impossible. In recent days many have pointed out Cabrera’s WAR this year (3.1 by Baseball reference, 2.6 by Fangraphs). While strong, it’s not irreplaceable. And with at-best average defence, many wonder how he’ll age. Is Melky leaving maybe a blessing in disguise? Maybe the Jays redistribute that money and make a play on one of the other big name free agents? Enter Pablo Sandoval. The Kung Fu Panda could mean a huge upgrade in the infield for the Jays. He provides solid defence, important when Reyes will likely be manning shortstop and you’re dealing with the carpet infield, and a solid bat. And moving from San Francisco and the NL West to the more hitter friendly Rogers Centre and AL East could see his mid-teens home run total take a substantial bump. Then maybe find a cheaper option in the outfield, either through free agency or trade, and suddenly the roster construction actually looks better.

So there you have it, some reason for optimism in light of Cabrera’s possible departure.

Where has October baseball gone?

I vaguely remember it. Though, I’m not even sure if it’s a real memory, or just one my brain’s constructed over the years after having watched, listened to, or talked about that beautiful evening countless times.

“Touch ’em all Joe.”

The phrase should give any Blue Jays fan, any baseball fan in fact, goosebumps. I know it does to me, and I can’t even be sure I remember when those words were first uttered by the immortal Tom Cheek. The call of Joe Carter’s walk-off home run to seal the 1993 World Series is a moment in time that’s up there with Gehrig’s speech, the Shot Heard ‘Round the World, and Don Larsen’s perfect game.

I had just turned six when he cleared the left field fence. I’m now 27, having spent far too much time during the past two-plus decades focusing on the team I’ve always loved. And not once during those years have I had the chance to experience the thrill of postseason baseball. I can’t say for certain that I know what’s it’s like to watch the Jays int he postseason, the memory’s just too foggy.

Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates ended a 21-year playoff drought. This year the Kansas City Royals will end a streak of 29 years without playing postseason baseball. That leaves Toronto as the team with the longest postseason drought, not just in baseball, but in the four major North American sports.

I have friends who cheer for the Red Sox and Yankees (ew, gross, I know). October baseball has come to be more or less expected for them. There are also Rays and Orioles fans I know (seriously. OK, just one O’s fan), for whom postseason baseball is a more recent experience, but an experience nonetheless.

There’s even a guy I know who cheers for the Royals. I’m sure he’s through the roof with excitement these days.

At times it seems strange to devote so much time to a team that’s so often disappointed. I watch the vast majority of the 162 regular season games. I write about the team as often as I can. I visit blogs and websites, share opinions in comments sections, or talk to friends and family about the team.

And while the years of futility are not something we as Jays fans should be happy about, there’s both nothing we can do about it and no reason to lump it all together into one stew of ineptitude. The failings of past teams, of past front offices, have little to no bearing on the 2014 Blue Jays. You can argue the former GM left Alex Anthopoulos with a bare farm system that has plagued AA as he tries to rebuild it by drafting younger, higher upside high school players who are only now ascending to the upper levels of the minor leagues. But that’s it. The ghosts of Gord Ash and Carlos Delgado don’t haunt today’s clubhouse.

So perhaps that’s the secret. There’s always next year, as they say.

This season was exciting, perhaps the most exciting season since ’93. What’s more, this team is exciting. Two of the best hitters in baseball, a handful of exciting, homegrown and young arms, two veterans in the rotation whose stories are equally amazing. There’s a young outfielder who grew up in our own backyard who surprised everyone this year and is hopefully on the cusp of becoming Canada’s next great Major Leaguer.

It’s a long, cold winter, only made longer by another year of being on the outside looking in. But echoing the words of the team’s GM, it’ll also be an exciting winter. There are holes to fill, but this team seems to almost be there.

I’m heading into the offseason with a quiet confidence. It’s not the crazy hype from two winters ago when The Trade happened. While that was fun, this seems better. There’s no flash, no hype.

The team’s not selling the sizzle this year, you’ll just have to wait to enjoy the steak next spring.

Go Jays.