2012’s Christmas Present: the 2013 Jays
As a kid who was born in 1990, I have never truly known what it was like to celebrate a championship in Toronto. Though I have always harboured a fascination for Toronto teams, I haven’t experienced the sheer ecstasy a fan feels when their team goes all the way. The closest I’ve come to even understanding the pressure of the finals is when the Leafs made it to the semis against Carolina in 2002. The atmosphere in Ontario was palpable. Everyone everywhere was having the same conversation. Lifelong diehards were nose deep in their TV, casual fans kicked it up a notch, bandwagoners suddenly realized they liked their local team all along, and even people who hadn’t watched a game in years suddenly found themselves engaging in intense discussions about last night’s match.
The cities their team’s belong to undergo a specific shift during the playoffs, and even more so in the final two rounds. I can’t even fathom what it’s like to live in Boston. If someone like me, who enjoys pretty well every sport across the board, lived in Boston, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. In the last ten years the Patriots took it all in 01, 03 and 04, the Red Sox in 04 and 07, the Celtics in 08 and the Bruins in 11. When Boston teams aren’t racking up championships, they’re perennial contenders anyway. Yes, Toronto won the Grey Cup this year and in 04, and that certainly was a blast, it’s just not the same when you’re only competing against seven teams instead of 29 or 31. Modern Toronto citizens have no idea what it’s like to be someone from Boston, and maybe we never will. But for the first time since 2002, and before that in 1993, Toronto will be a legitimate contender in a major sport.
Everyone is thinking the same thing right now. “What if all these moves Anthopoulos made turns out to be a bust? What if we spent all this money for nothing and don’t even make the playoffs?” A Toronto sports fan has the right to ask these kinds of questions because most of us don’t remember what a championship team even looks like. Sure, any manager in Boston would undergo similar scrutiny, but it’s just not quite the same as what a manager goes through north of the 49. Toronto fans are quick to criticize because they know another failure is almost inevitable. They’ve become bitter because there’s a better chance Toronto will fail again than prove its fans wrong. But this time it’s different.
This time, Anthopoulos has gone all in. He wasn’t the chip leader, but he’s doing his best to force his opponents out of the pot. For almost a decade, the Jays have been focusing on the future, developing one of the most heralded prospect pools in all of baseball. But after a disastrous season due mostly to injuries, and the fact that our top-level prospects wouldn’t make any sort of impact until at least 2015/16, something must have clicked in Anthopoulos’ brain. Like he said in the press conference after the Marlins trade, he was given the go-ahead to spend the cash he needed in order to succeed if the right deal was there. Well, he found the right deal, and then some. The string of recent trades and acquisitions made this offseason is unprecedented. Never before have the Jays spent over $100 million, and never have the Jays looked so poised for contention since 93.
The Jays have made the drastic change of promising success in the future to gunning for success now. I can’t remember being this excited for a season in Toronto since before the first NHL lockout in the new millennium. If what looks to be the best starting five in the MLB clicks together and dominates; if the Dominican Four own the top of the lineup and put up huge numbers; if the bullpen somehow crawls back to life; and if Gibbons can somehow make this potential dream-team connect, we’re definitely going to have ourselves a thrilling summer next year. Toronto fans won’t have to be jealous of other cities, nor will we ponder what it’s like to be a powerhouse. Fans from other cities will wonder why their manager won’t go all in for his team like Anthopoulos did for us. We’ll feel on top of the world, looking down at the puny cities and their puny squads beneath us. And the best part of it all? We’ll deserve it, because Toronto fans deserve a winning team, and most of all we deserve a big-league championship. I hope beyond all hope this is the case next fall. I hope we can look back and be proud of what the Jays have done for us.
The excitement floating around not only Toronto, but all of Canada (for the Jays are Canada’s team), is unfathomable. Let’s play ball.