I have been a diehard Jays fan for as long as I can remember. As I was growing up the Jays were one of the best teams in baseball. Going into this season I can’t help but compare the buzz to the 1991 club. We were going into the season fresh off of the huge Alomar/ Carter deal that would shape our foundation for years to come. The 91’ Jays continued the success of the prior years and built us up to a playoff appearance that would have us lose four games to one against the solid Minnesota Twins. The greatness that is Pat Gillick continued to add pieces to this incredibly talented foundation for the 92’ season. The growth of players within the organization like Pat Borders, Juan Guzman, and John Olerud proved vital. Then the additions of Dave Winfield and Jack Morris to begin the season not to mention the trade deadline deal for David Cone would win us that World Series title that seemed to be eluding us for years.
1991 was a place setter just like the 2012 season was this past year. Last year we were one of the better teams in baseball up to the All-Star break. Our solid young core of players orchestrated by the ninja like moves of Alex Anthopoulos (AA) was coming together and starting to show its high potential. Payouts from previous season’s trades were panning out. Jose Bautista has proven to be a great leader for the club, leading by example on and off the field. The development of Edwin Encarnacion has been true fully painful to watch for Jay’s fans over the past few years. Remember he was basically free to anyone that wanted him before this season? AA took a good gamble knowing the potential and the kind of worker Encarnacion is. AA was more than repaid on that gamble last year. Edwin bashed his way into the league leaders in the American League and never let loose once he got in. Barring any Adam Lind like drop off Edwin Encarnacion is going to be a huge run producer going forward. Brett Lawrie showed that he can handle the defense of an everyday 3rd baseman and his bat will only get better with experience. The young pitching staff was also showing what it was capable of. Brandon Morrow was on his way to a career year and looked like the ace that we have been all hoping he would be. The solid rookie starts from Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek helped us out of the gate red hot this past season. Everything was looking good until the injury bug settled into our dugout and took over. Loosing key players like Morrow, Bautista, Lawrie, Rasmus, Drabek, and Hutchison proved to be too much for the rest of the youth to overcome.
Looking into this season AA decided the time was right to strike just as the Yankees and Red Sox look their weakest. AA makes a trade that was very similar to what starts the WAMCO (White, Alomar, Molitor, Carter, and Olerud) era in Toronto. The trade sent a bunch of highly regarded youngsters to the Miami Marlins in exchange for some veteran blood. We get Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Emilio Bonifacio. He’s my bold prediction that Boni starts the season as our 2nd baseman. Then hot off that deal swings super prospect Travis D’Arnaud for the reigning National League CY Young winner R.A. Dickey. As if that wasn’t enough he signs Melky Cabrera on a high risk high reward situation after a failed PED test. AA also brings in some depth in other unsung trades and moves in Macier Izturis, Esmil Rogers, and J.A. Happ. Our team has a new look and a new/old manager in John Gibbons. After the fiasco that was the John Farrell drama Gibby is back. His brand of managing should go well with our well rounded team. The mix of young energy and veteran knowledge should work well with the players manager style of Gibby. He drives his players to play hard and win very similar to our glory day’s manager Cito Gaston.
The Jays management should be praised for the effort they have put into this season. It appears the table has been set and that the Blue Jays are going to be once again the team to beat in the AL East. The team is looking good for a dynasty run just like the early 90’s. We have a solid team with a great mix of youth and talent. The development of rising stars Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, Brandon Marrow, Ricky Romero, and Colby Rasmus mixed with the veteran talent of Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and R.A. Dickey is going to give us a hell of a team. I would be afraid to hit against our line up if I was a pitcher and having Ricky Ro as our 5th starter all of a sudden makes our pitching look fierce.
So here is to the RELBA (Reyes, Encarnacion, Lawrie, Bautista, and Arencibia) Era to being at the heart of our proud organization for years to come. I can’t wait to make the drive from my home town of Rochester, NY to the SkyDome. (Yeah that’s right I still don’t call it the Roger’s Centre) Seeing it packed like back in the glory days when I was a kid fighting to get a seat with my father might just bring a tear to my eye. I’ll be the guy sporting the beard, Jays gear, and an actual plaid dickey cheering loud and obnoxiously. You might even see me in Dunedin the last few days of spring training. WAMCO Part 2 is in progress and hopefully has us trotting the bases with another "Touch EM All!" in the World Series. Cheers to future prosperity and game on!
By Craig Borden
GO Jays Go!