Oh, you know us and our inferiority complex here in this country, particularly when it comes to our neighbours to the south. Something instantly because extra specially special when it means that Americans are taking notice of us. Swoon!
So I guess it’s fantastically terrific news that over the weekend both Jayson Stark of ESPN.com and Kenny Ken Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports brought us tidings of promise for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Stark tells us that the Jays are perhaps the team most likely to benefit from MLB’s addition of a Wild Card team to their playoff format, pointing out the familiar horror show that is the fact that the Jays have won more games than the Giants and Tigers, for example.
“If you’re looking for a franchise whose hopes of playing in October just took an especially dramatic turn upward, the Blue Jays might be Exhibit A,” he says. “They’ve been building toward this moment in time anyway, constructing a team and a system designed for long-term contention. So they already qualified as the most talented team in baseball that no one south of the border ever seems to mention.”
Displaying an immense amount of sense (despite later stoking the flames of Votto insanity), he explains that “the folks who have focused on what this team didn’t do [this winter] ought to take another look at what it HAS done — not just since the end of last season but over the last calendar year.”
And speaking of sense, Alex Anthopoulos, everybody!
“We weren’t going to continue to stockpile draft picks for five years,” he tells Stark. “That was something we needed to do at the time. We needed to add more prospects. And we needed to solidify our depth as an organization for a short time period. It was always going to be until the big league club was ready [to contend]. … In the position we’re in now, we’re looking ahead to the big league club to get better.”
Rosenthal takes a different tack at Fox, beginning his piece by suggesting that “if there was a spring-training award for best clubhouse vibe, it just might go to the Toronto Blue Jays.”
“Yes, the possibility now exists that the Jays could finish third and qualify for the wild-card play-in,” he writes. “But frankly, their clubhouse was buzzing even before baseball announced that the expansion of the playoffs would start in 2012.”
“I just see a different type of confidence now,” says the magical-eared Jose Bautista. “Not so much from the mouth: ‘Yeah, we’re so good, we’re going to do it.’ I hear less talk and more action.”
THE MAN HEARS ACTION!
“It’s obviously going to be a tough task. Everybody knows it. But it’s definitely not one where you’re like, ‘We’ve got no shot, we’ll be out of it by August,’ ” says Kelly Johnson. “There is none of that — none. Some fans here, even some media, might look at it like, ‘Why do the Jays even play the games?’ It’s not at all that way here. It’s the complete opposite. There is no question anymore about being able to compete.”
Typical spring blather, yes. But it’s good to be noticed, and to see the team written about in such glowing terms.
Shit, they even had Jose Bautista stop by for a chat with Tim Kurkjian and Terry Francona in the ESPN piece. (Note the hearty laugh from Tito on the notion of Jose bunting, which he says he remembers, though I don’t, and I’m having a tough time finding anywhere that says he did.)http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
UPDATE: I missed it until Drew pointed it out when my piece went up, but at MLB.com, Peter Gammons also had a number of kind words about the Jays.
“I can’t tell you that I think the Jays will make the playoffs, not with the Yankees, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox and Angels in line for what may be four postseason spots. They’re coming off a year in which they were 81-81 — with a -18 run differential — finishing nine games behind Boston and in fourth place. Yet the fact that they appear to be much improved — as opposed to the number of games the Rangers and Angels play against Oakland and Seattle — make it very difficult for more than one Wild Card team to come out of the East,” he writes. “But with Jose Bautista established as a star in right field with his 97 homers and 1.022 OPS over the past two seasons, if Colby Rasmus relaxes and approaches what some in St. Louis saw in him, with Adam Lind at first base, the Jays are going to be a dangerous offensive team.”
Lind? Um… let’s just let that one slide. PLAYOFFS!!!!!1!
UPDATE THE SECOND: Holy shit and the Knobler gets in on the act, too!