As the regular season winds down, many teams are already facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategy.
But we're not going to let them get off that easy. No sir. No way. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're giving a blogger from each team the opportunity to give a concession speech for this year's squad. Up next in our series is our pal Drew Fairservice from The Score's Getting Blanked.
My fellow Canadians, expatriates, and lovers of color blue, this is not an easy address to deliver. The year 2012 will not go down in the Blue Jays annals as a great season. In fact, it will not go down as even a good season. In fact, if our benevolent corporate owner sees fit, we might just try to excise it from our annals altogether. No, things weren't pretty in 2012. We lost a lot of good men out there. The trail of torn ligaments leading to battlefield surgeon Dr. James Andrews' office is long, and it loudly attests to the adversity under which our Toronto Blue Jays operated during this long campaign.
We were promised change when it was delivered in a wash of royal blue that took a nation — nay, THE WORLD — by storm. A tattooed virtuoso from our own shores stood poised to lead this proud team of misfits into a new world. It was all happening. An incredible showing in the Florida Primaries suggested the hope was not without merit. Things would be different for us in 2012.
Alas, nothing was different. Actually, that isn't true. Things were different. Missing was the annual Blue Jays tradition of upper-middle-class mediocrity (a Canadian birthright.) Instead of the standard issue 82 wins for naught, we received a broken MASH unit, limping to the finish with 90 losses a distinct possibility.
There remains much work to do, though we must not forget the work already done. This is not a barren wasteland, wanting for talent. Resource-rich with a willingness to work is not a bad way to rebound from a series of natural disasters. That said: "disastrous" is the only term that accurately describes 2012.
Mistakes were made: There are some among us who believe mistakes were made in the offseason. That the work our current administration put in last winter was not enough. That now was the time to really strike, to stimulate the lineup and prime it for growth. That the peak of a great (honorary) Canadian like Jose Bautista should not be squandered and another big bat would do the trick. That one more big arm provided the rotation with the type of depth and talent needed to compete with the very best.
The team appeared confident and appeared ready to storm the castle, jetting out to a decent start after setting records during spring training. Weathering cold starts by Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie. Surviving a shaky closer (after the real closer got hurt, of course) and a troubled ace, the Jays ably stood tall in the tough AL East, a mere two games back of first place at the start of June.
But then the injuries set in. One after another after another. Starter after starter, felled by various aliments. The list grew longer and longer, the names of the fill-ins grew more and more obscure. Not just mild tweaks and ankle sprains. Blown shoulders. Elbows in dire need of reconstruction.
Then the position players started to fall.
Freak injuries suffered simply swinging the bat. Insane injuries suffered defying logic and good sense. As more players fell, others gamely stayed in the lineup, depressing their production in service of the greater good. It all came apart. The injuries kept mounting until the lineup was a threadbare collection of faceless randoms and highly touted kids not quite ready for prime time.
It was the worst-case scenario. Instead of good fortune and strong seasons from up-and-coming players, it was anarchy. No matter how slick a campaign looks on paper, those babies still need kissing and those hands still require shaking. Slumps and bruises and repeated letdowns, some more egregious than others. It was ugly. It is ugly. It cannot end soon enough.
Mudslinging time: The Baltimore Orioles sure know how to ruin a perfectly good campaign. No matter how irrelevant the Blue Jays became over the last two decades, we always had Baltimore to kick around. But that's no longer. The Orioles followed a similar blueprint to the one our Blue Jays laid out in their campaign literature: get some good players and hope to get a few good bounces. The Orioles leaned a little more the latter than the former but NONETHELESS, here stand those Beltway elites: on the brink of the Promised Land while the Blue Jays lick their countless wounds. IT WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY!
Blue Jays fans can't even delight in the suffering of Red Sox fans. Not only do they not come around the Rogers Centre in the same numbers as they once did, but the BoSox are still better than Toronto! For the Jays to slip into last place while the Red Sox hit their version of rock bottom and the Orioles dance between the raindrops is especially galling. Nothing makes sense anymore. The Orioles are to blame and the Red Sox can't be counted on to foul it up any worse.
Injuries are tough, baseball gods. You hate to see them. Losing Sergio Santos hurt. Losing Brandon Morrow for two months hurt. Losing Kyle Drabek for a year hurt. That Dustin McGowan's injury setbacks were a forgone conclusion doesn't make them hurt any less. Luis Perez? Sure, no fun. Even newcomer J.A. Happ was not immune. It was bad enough you had to steal Ricky Romero's effectiveness but you had, but did you have to take Drew Hutchison, baseball gods? Did you? So young so filled with promise. Barely out of A-ball and he look so promising. Could you not spare the kid, at least? Acts of angry baseball gods, perpetrated against the Toronto Blue Jays en masse. Message received, ghouls. Message received.
A change is going to come: Change will come in the form of returns, fellow Canadians. The team that started the 2012 season looks nothing the one destined to finish it. Everything old will be new again next year. An active general manager will take stock of his loaded minor-league system and make key additions, trading a little bit of tomorrow for a lot of today.
That same farm system will continue bearing fruit. Young Travis D'Arnaud will push J.P. Arencibia for the role of starting catcher and the trio of hyped prospects known as the Lansing Three will continue their lockstep march towards the big leagues. The keen organizational eye for amateur talent will provide surprises as well as competition up and down the Blue Jays depth chart.
Second base, left field, and possibly first base remain question marks but ones not as difficult to fill as we imagine. A few well-spent dollars or a few shrewd moves and a once-proud offense will clout again, my friends. We will clout again.
Hope for the future: There is hope for the future because it cannot get worse. There is hope for the future because the recent past was already bright. There is hope because, no matter what, the Toronto Blue Jays will not fall at the knees of the Injury Blight again as they have in 2012. There is hope for the future because Brett Lawrie is 23 and Jose Bautista is still around for two more years and Edwin Encarnacion is no longer E5 and because Ricky Romero will grow and learn and return and be reborn.
There is hope for the future because Alex Anthopoulos is a smart man and John Farrell is downright presidential, in both demeanor and jaw line. The weariness they feel today will steel them for future battles, toughen their resolve and teach them it is always darkest right before the dawn.
There is hope for the future because the farm system is teeming with more high-end arms and franchise catchers and five-tool outfielders than almost any other. There is hope for the future because Adeiny Hechavarria and Anthony Gose are taking lumps now, building scar tissue and getting the kind of big-league education for which there is no substitute. There is hope for the future because of, improbably, the Baltimore Orioles. There is hope for the future because it can be done. Yes, there is hope.
So I close in thanking you, my fellow Canadians. Your support and belief must not waver and please remember the lofty feelings of opening day, when the sky was the limit and it all seemed ... possible. Those days will not only be relived but realized on the field. On our field, in all its sickly green plastic glory. The day will come sooner than you think, friends.
Thank you and may God Save the Queen.