5 Things to Look Forward to This Jays Season That Aren't Vlad Jr.
Every Jays fan is looking forward to the same thing this summer: the launch of Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s MLB playing career. And it’s not just Jays fans, the whole league is keeping an eye on our young stud. In reality, there hasn’t been this much hype around a prospect since Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Outside of Vlad however, the Jays don’t have much going for them. Not even any real continuity or any great memories from the past as they only have seven players from their last successful season in 2016.
The last two years have opened our eyes to the fact that the Jays are just no match for the top of the AL East. Bleacher Report predicts the Jays will finish 4th in the division with fewer than 70 wins which would be the teams worst season since 2004. Do I disagree? No. If anything, I think they might lose more than what’s predicted. In a season that will include so much losing, it’s hard to believe there could be anything to look forward to outside of our blossoming young core. But, for you optimists out there, here’s how you should look at it.
This Year Is The Start of a Rebuild
I don’t count last year as the “start” of this Jays rebuild because there was still some hope coming into the season that we were in for another competitive season. Obviously, with how the season played out, the Jays were forced into rebuild mode. After trading Donaldson and now with Martin and Tulo gone, the team has totally emptied their tank of established star players. This is the official birth of the rebuild.
An era of losing starts now. If not this year, Jays fans can look forward to 4, maybe, 5 years. If done right, the Jays potentially have a future in which they can look to have the success the Houston Astro’s are experiencing now. From 2011-2014 the Astros had 70 or fewer wins which led up to their continual dominance in the past few seasons and eventual World Series victory in 2017. Hopefully, this Jays team can regain the hope of fans and return to their glory days.
2. Battle for Positions
A few things have led to the questions of who is going to start where on this Blue Jays team. The obvious answer is something I mentioned in the last point: getting rid of their “star” players. With Donaldson, Tulo and Martin now gone, their positions of 3B, SS and C respectively need to be filled. The other, more serious, issue that the Jays have faced is injuries. Injuries have opened up 2B with Devon Travis not reaching his potential due to persistent and nagging leg issues. Inconsistent play from last year has played into this uncertainty as well. There are four legitimate candidates who can take over the two side outfield spots with Grichuck, Hernandez, McKinney and Alford making their cases for starting. Lastly, some unexpectedly impressive play has brought out competition for the DH/backup 1B spot. Justin Smoak has first base locked down but between the young Rowdy Tellez and the less than impressive Kendrys Morales, DH is probably up for grabs this season.
Surely, the unsettled roles will create some healthy competition and will hopefully bring out the best in everybody. Last year, with Russel Martin out, Danny Jansesn and Luke Maile battled for a defined role on the team. They both out-performed their fairly low expectations making it a tough decision for the coaching staff. Best-case scenario sees Jays players reacting positively and will at least allow fans to watch good baseball even if they're losing most games.
3. Proper Baseball
Ever since the Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista era, the Blue Jays have owned the reputation of a home run hitting team. Playing as if the only way to score runs is the long ball. As a result, the Jays have been top five in the league in HR in five of the last six seasons. Now that (most of) their power is gone and a new manager has taken over, chances are, some real strategic baseball will be played. Conceivably there will be more stolen bases and bunts, in turn, creating more runs. Once again, at least we’ll be watching some fun baseball even if they’re losing.
4. Busy Trade Deadline
As the team falls to the basement of the MLB, as most teams do, the Jays will become one of the few “sellers” looking to make improvements on the rebuilding side of things. As the trade deadline approaches, media will start coming up with their fake trades involving the bigger name Jays that will unquestionably stir up emotions from fans. Emotional games and potential goodbyes are a certainty this season hopefully bringing up good memories of the past as the team slides out of MLB relevancy.
And last but certainly not least…
If you’re like me this is a huge selling point to at least go to more Jays games. However, patience will be a much- needed virtue as the 355 ml cans of Bud or Bud Light will be offered in only one concession per level. Waiting in a long line for a (relatively) cheap beer will be much better than a $12 one.
It didn’t come exceptionally easy for me this year but finding the positives in your favourite team will always make a season more enjoyable. With the regular season right around the corner, it’s time you should think about what you’re excited to see with this losing but fun Jays team.