Saturday, 2 April 2011

Let Us Bask

Didja notice I didn't take the time to do an extensive season preview?

There's a couple of reasons for that, beyond the fact that in a busy week I just couldn't do it right. One reason is that everyone and their cousin does one and they all tend to make many similar points - Jose doesn't have to repeat to be very good, Hill and Lind need to bounce back, it's the summer of Jo-Jo (Heyo!) - and I have a bit of a peeve about just being one more voice saying the exact same thing.

The second reason is simply - what am I gonna say? Probably no one among Jays bloggers is more known for overt optimism than I am, so what's a season preview from me gonna be filled with? Irrational exuberance of course! That maybe doesn't come off as dispassionate analytical commentary.

But I gotta tell ya, when I looked at this team during the spring, irrational exuberance flowing through my veins, what happened tonight against the Twins was exactly the sort of thing I could very easily see.

Yes, let's be clear, there are a lot of young and unestablished players here that could inexplicable and against all optimism, just tank (the way that Hill and Lind did last year). There's really no way you can predict that and it's always shocking when it happens to THAT guy even when you tell yourself going in that it could. I not going to ignore or minimize that. Injuries of course are always a potential Achilles heel.

But with that caveat on record: DAMN this bunch excites me. It's difficult to imagine a more crystal clear representation of that optimism and excitement than this game. Oh sure some days it will be Bautista or Snider or Lind who has the 3 XB hits. Some days it will be a big defensive play from Davis or Hill. it won;t be JUST like this - obviously not a double digit margin of victory all that often. But it was the "feel" of this game (to the extent that a person who's stuck following the game on-line can get a "feel" for it), a feel I think goes beyond the fact that it was Opening Night, and beyond the feel-good magic of the pre-game ceremonies.

It felt, lord help me, like the confident teams of the mid-80's - not like a team looking up at the giants and being intimidated, but like a team that thinks they can play with any team in the league and is on a mission not just to prove it, but to announce their presence with authority.

The '83 Jays - the first in franchise history to have a wining record - featured players 26 or younger as six of the nine offensive regulars, and 4 of the five busiest starters were 27 or younger. Bell, Mosbey, Barfield and Stieb were making a name for themselves in Toronto. In '84 we got a first look at Tony Fernandez and Jimmy Key and Kelly Gruber (as a Rule 5 pick). And that's neglecting to mention slightly older but still young guys like Upshaw and Garcia and Clancy. That core group of players laid the foundation for a franchise which were contenders for 11 consecutive seasons (in an era when it was much harder to get into the playoffs). Paul Beeston told McCowan today that he felt this team was "at '83 or '84" and I think that he is exactly right.

The pre-season round-table I participated in for Mop-Up Duty ask us to identify a glaring hole in the team that needed filling. in my opinion, there's not one. There are places that could be somewhat better - I'd be a fool to say I wouldn't trade Raji Davis for, say, Colby Rasmus, or that I couldn't find a place for Evan Longoria on this team. But there's no Erik Hanson on this team, there's no Mike Huckabey or Carlos Garcia or Willie Greene. There's reason to be optimistic about almost every player on the 25 man roster and quite a few players who aren't.

Buckle up boys and girls, this is gonna be a helluva ride.

[Programing note: I have a few things in the hopper regarding the minor leaguers that I want to get up in the next week before the farm teams break camp. It might seem a bit of an odd focus for the first week of the major league season but it is what it is]

No comments: