Sometimes, things are not as they appear. Sometimes, when everything looks like it's going to go right, things go left. Situations turn gloomy, anger erupts as the year drags on and by Labour Day weekend, the fan base collectively sighs, exhaling the dreaded words, "next year."
But how could that happen to this year's incarnation of Blue Jays? Vegas has the Jays at a 18-1 chance of winning the World Series and while that number isn't great, it's among the top 10 in the league, pointing to the likelihood of at the bare minimum, being in the mix.
Fact is that this season could go up in flames in a number of ways fans can't even begin to imagine. Of course, the most obvious of these would be that off-the-field problems with sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion continue to fester to the point of affecting their production on the field. I don't anticipate that happening with Bautista seemingly living to enlarge the Grand Canyon sized chip on his shoulder to increase production, but anything is possible.
With Edwin the situation is much different, especially considering that he is not planning on taking any reps on the major league side of training camp this spring because of injury problems. If he misses considerable time this season, it won't just be his bank account that suffers in the long run: the team itself could stumble, falling flat on its face.
Really, with any team, injuries manifest themselves as the most significant anchor to a team's success. Last year, the Jays had their fair share of injuries with Marcus Stroman, Devon Travis and Michael Saunders all missing the majority of the season. With Travis set to return some time during the first half, the Jays aren't out of the woods just yet, especially considering it's been nearly two seasons since Saunders laced them up for a full season. Beyond the most obvious injury candidates lies some significant concerns as well. Is Stroman ready to take on a full workload? What about youngsters Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna? Will innings limits ultimately define how far their efforts can lift the Jays this season?
However, the big thing for the Jays to watch for will be simple under-performance by a number of their most important players. Here we are talking about players like Tulowitzki who floundered last season with the Jays, hitting just .239 in 41 games. While his numbers over the season were still respectable, they undeniably trend in the direction of regression for the aging shortstop.
Outside of Tulowitzki, there's real cause for concern that 2015 slugger Chris Colabello's production drops off a hyperbolic cliff. Last year he had the highest BABIP of any hitter with at least 100 plate appearances at .411, leading many stat-heads throughout the season franticly awaiting him to fall into a serious dry-spell. While he was able to mostly avoid that eventuality in 2015, there's no reason to suggest he's going to do that again this season. In reality, he's more likely to be an average, but not exceptional bat in the Jays lineup. If he's worse than that, the Jays could seriously see their win column be affected.
Another candidate of regression this season is Kevin Pillar. Last season Pillar emerged to become one of the game's top centre-fielders. He finished just second in DRS to Kevin Kiermaier with 21 and while that's impressive, it's certainly questionable how he can sustain that given that so many of his catches were in diving fashion. If he's not able to make as many diving plays this year, those metrics could go south and do so in a hurry.
Offensively there's also reason to be wary. While he did show some aptitude for hitting in the minor leagues, asking him to maintain a .278 batting average atop one of the league's best offences may be too much to ask of Pillar.
Thing is, if you really want to look for it, you can find the bad side to anything or anyone on this team. That applies to everything in life too. It really does depend whether you're the type of person to see the glass half full or half empty. If you want to see it as half empty (I don't), the aforementioned could provide ample proof in support of your argument that 2016 will be a season to forget.
With any season there comes a certain level of risk and uncertainty. The Blue Jays 2016 season is certainly no different but what fun would it be if there wasn't any risk? That's what makes sports fun. We don't know how things, games, seasons, will turn out so we watch, hoping, praying even, that everything will go right and we can watch our team in the postseason once again.
It happened last year--that was fun eh?-- but no one is saying that's a guarantee this time around.