Where do I start? Maybe I'll talk about where I have been these past few years, where I disappeared into the cosmic ether creating electronic music that very few would hear, but that's for another time. I guess I'll talk about my weird and distant relationship with the Blue Jays over those 2 years (which felt like 5 years to me), where I'll start off with the following:
What do the Toronto Blue Jays and the Bay of Fundy have in common?
They're both in Canada.
Also, the Blue Jays made a noteworthy trade yesterday – Kendrys Morales was sent to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for some guy. This happened while I was watching the Toronto Maple Leafs go on to lose 4-4 to a desperate Flyers team as a result of an absurd gimmick.
The trade includes the Jays paying about 83% of Morales' salary for the upcoming 2019 season. In other words, the Jays are paying a player to perform for another team in the same league, not that it matters in a rebuild season like this one. At least he's not playing in the same division (looks at Tulo).
To be honest, I have no strong feelings whatsoever for the guy. Was he good in the clubhouse? I guess? As a fan, that aspect doesn't matter to me all that much. This is, unless his mentorship translated to results on the field, whether now or in the future. Also, according to Fangraphs, Morales was a career -0.7 WAR player in his two seasons as a Jay, which is not good by any measure. However, nobody expected him to hit like he did with the Angels before breaking his leg on home plate during a home run celebration. Regardless, as the newest member of the Oakland Athletics, a team that sparked my interest in statistics, I wish him nothing other than the best. I hope he helps that team reach the playoffs again, and (maybe) knock out one or both of the Yankees and Red Sox in the process.
Now, here comes a curveball for all of you Bluebird Banterers – I rarely watched or followed the Jays after their consecutive ALCS appearances. As you remember, both playoff runs were marked by memorable performances against the Rangers and Orioles, including a legendary bat flip from Jose Bautista and walk-off home run by Edwin Encarnacion. What followed were two less memorable series in the ALCS against a red hot (and lucky) Royals team as well as a dominant Cleveland Baseball Club, which would go on to blow a 3-1 series lead in the World Series to the Chicago Cubs.
Those playoff runs introduced me to an atmosphere I had not witnessed in Toronto before, at least as a sports fan. Sure, the Raptors had a couple of playoff runs that sparked some interest, but they would always end on a whimper (ie. 1st round upsets). Unlike those Raptors runs, I can never forget these combined feelings of passion and utter anxiety during the most intense moments of each long and arduous playoff game. This includes that historic 7th inning in game 5 of the 2015 ALDS, which included a boatload of errors from Elvis Andrus (who picked an unfortunate time to forget how to play baseball) that led up to Bautista's bat flip heard around the world.
That being said, as someone who used to be such an ardent baseball fan, I often wonder whether these intense feelings from those playoff runs may have desensitized me from baseball altogether. I wonder whether the sudden change to rebuild the team, a change that I knew was inevitable given the average age of those playoff rosters, did me in. Furthermore, I wonder whether the passion I once had for baseball will return with the arrival of Vlad Jr., or Bo Bichette, or the next playoff run (whenever that may be).
I mean, I have witnessed multiple seasons of the mediocre Jays, with rosters that would tease its fans with playoff aspirations only for those hopes to be blown away with inconsistent performances from anyone not named Roy Halladay (RIP) or Jose Bautista. I remember watching those seasons as a young fan, hoping for prospects like Lawrie, Arencibia, and Snider, wondering when their chance to shine will come. I experienced the heartbreak of so many disappointing seasons, but I continued onwards as a Jays fan. Eventually, I felt rewarded when the tides rose for the Toronto Blue Jays, with back-to-back ALCS appearances and a bat flip to remember.
So, after such noteworthy seasons, why did I feel nothing for these recent seasons? In fact, what is the connection between what I have written and Kendrys Morales? What does this have to do with the Bay of Fundy? Well, just like the Jays of 2017 and 2018, Morales performed poorly. However, I watched the 2013 team that fell off the precipice of high expectations into last place in the AL East. That team may have been bad, but at least they weren't forgettable. I cannot say the same about Morales and the recent seasons from the Jays, which I feel may have played a significant part in my increasing dispassion for the Jays. Doc's passing did not help me whatsoever, as he was a significant reason why I became a Jays fan in the first place.
Over the past two years, I would check in on the score at times. Sometimes, I would even visit Bluebird Banter to show face with some good friends there, but the spark for this team still wasn't there. Besides, my personal life was a bit too distracting for me to focus on a forgettable baseball team, especially for a sport with such a long season.
However, not unlike the Donaldson trade in 2014, the eventual arrival of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has done something to me and the Jays fanbase that I haven't experienced ever since Game 5 of the 2016 ALCS – Interest. The tides of passion for this club receded after those fun playoff years, which is an opinion I don't expect to share with everyone here or in the Jays fanbase. However, with the arrival of new talent, those tides may be rising again. This time, I gain a sense of hope for a better and more sustainable team in the future. Whether that starts with the sudden arrival of Vlad Jr. this year or 2020 and beyond, I'm beginning to believe again.
Let's go Blue Jays!