COMMENTARY | The Toronto Blue Jays' season opener is just five days away when the new-look Jays open up the 2013 campaign with a three-game set at home against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday, April 2. Yes, the greatest day of the year to baseball fans is almost here.
In honor of the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament tipping off today (March 28), here are 16 reasons, along with some bold predictions, why Blue Jays and general baseball fans should be excited for the 2013 season.
It's something different
Every year, baseball fans that don't root for the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Angels, or any other perennial top team complain about the same group always being in the playoffs. After last season saw Oakland and Baltimore make the postseason after long hiatuses, fans could very well see another different team enter the playoff mix. You want something different? How about a team that hasn't been there in 20 years.
It could cause a baseball boom in Canada
It's no secret that Toronto is, and always will be, a hockey town. The Maple Leafs rule the city, but with a successful season, the city should once again get behind the Bluebirds. Many thought that the sport was about to grow in exponential fashion when the Jays won back-to-back World Series, but years of futility doused that hope. With a winning team back in the city, the country could get excited again about the sport.
They boast two Cy Young candidates
With defending NL Cy Young winner R.A Dickey and former Cy Young candidate in Josh Johnson, the Jays have the two pitchers that could dominate the American League in 2013. In fact, you can even throw Mark Buehrle in the mix if he's on his game this year.
They will be an aggressive team on the basepaths
Manager John Gibbons loves to have his players run, and nothing will change in that philosophy in 2013. With Jose Reyes on the roster, expect Gibbons to send players much more than fans are used to seeing a Blue Jays manager do.
They can win every game they play in
In seasons past, there were games that fans would expect the Jays to win, and games that fans would expect them to lose. This year, you can't really look at games on the schedule and say, "There's no chance they can win that game." Well, you can, but you'd be reaching big time.
They can lead the AL in home runs
They already play in a slight hitter's park for their home games. Now they have added bats in Reyes and Melky Cabrera, which should equal even more home runs.
The players want and expect to win
Every player in the league wants to win. However, not every player expects to win every season. The Blue Jays were victims of that notion far too often: They had young, talented players who wanted to win but never expected to win. Now the team has a veteran roster that knows what winning a championship would mean, and that's what they expect to do.
Simple ground balls will be exciting
It's not a major reason, but still one nonetheless. With Reyes playing short and Brett Lawrie, once healthy, playing third, double plays will become commonplace for the Jays when playing the field.
The top of the order is top-of-the-league good
Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion = a pitcher's nightmare.
They didn't lose any key pieces
Usually, when teams go all out to improve the roster, they have to give up one or more key current roster pieces. Thankfully, for the Blue Jays, their minor-league system is so deep that they were able to improve the roster for a championship run without giving up major pieces to the puzzle.
Joey Bats (Jose Bautista) is STILL on the team
Need I say more?
The AL East is as weak as ever
For the first time in what seems like Eons, the AL East is wide open for the taking. The Red Sox are rebuilding, the Yankees have basically turned into a rehab facility, the Rays are too inconsistent, and the Orioles are still unproven. If there is such a thing called the perfect opportunity then this year is it.
Every pitcher can go the distance every game
When breaking down the roster, the Jays' only true weakness seems to be in the bullpen. Thankfully, they have a rotation of pitchers that have the ability to go nine innings every outing.
Melky Cabrera will return to pre-suspension form
This one will cause a lot of people to go, "What the funny business?" Many assume that the only reason Cabrera was successful last season was because of PEDs. He has a chance to eliminate that stigma in a market where he shouldn't get bothered about the subject too much. Expect Cabrera to have a major impact at the plate and in the field for the Jays this season.
Jose Reyes will win the batting title
I mentioned in an article entitled "Is Jose Reyes a clutch hitter" that Reyes is a much better batter than people give him credit for. I'm going to go a step further and say that Reyes will be just the second Blue Jay to ever win the AL batting title (John Olerud won it in 1993 with a .363 average).
They will make the playoffs
The absolute biggest reason for Toronto fans to be excited is simple: Your Jays will be playing baseball come October. Not only will they make the playoffs, but they're also going to win the AL East by more than five games. It's going to be a year to celebrate in Canada's largest city.
Michael Straw is a sportswriter who lives in Buffalo, NY and has been covering baseball, primarily at the Triple-A level, for two years. He began covering the Blue Jays in the fall of 2012, and has been published in multiple Western New York publications.For Blue Jays and other sports news, follow Michael on Twitter @MikeStrawQCS.
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