Don't be fooled by Jays hype
By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency
|Jays fans, like this one at Monday's home opener, are turning blue with excitement over their baseball team. But not everyone is buying the hype, including grumpy columnist Steve Buffery. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - I was listening to the Mike Wilner Good Time Hour, or whatever the Blue Jays’ post-game show is called, and somebody said something about how there’s every reason to believe the Jays will make it to the post-season this year.
It might have been Wilner, or it might have been one of his disciples — that legion of callers who shake and quiver, and ultimately turtle, the second Mike calls them on something.
In any event, I wanted to call in and give my two cents worth, namely that I had 18 reasons why Jays fans shouldn’t be overly optimistic, starting with the year 1994 and continuing through to 2011.
This has been an organization that has delivered less over the years than those other sad sacks that pass themselves off as professional sports organizations in this city.
I hammered Rogers in the off-season for not giving the Jays and their wunderkind GM, Alex Anthopoulos, a lot more money to go out and do something dramatic to help this team finally make it into the playoffs, something like signing Prince Fielder or bidding enough to acquire another quality starter — my argument being that this is a team close to contending, so why not put their money with their mouth is? Rogers, you see, is not exactly an organization living hand to mouth. They have billions, but have long been (too long) middle-of-the-road spenders in Major League Baseball.
I even bashed the Jays’ loyal fan base for not being sufficiently tough on the organization. I attended the annual State of the Franchise gathering in January at the Rogers Centre and couldn’t help but come away thinking about Marineland and their harem of trained seals.
But, as an old neighbour of mine (who’s spiel to me was: “Son, you’re going places ... not necessarily up.”) used to say, prove me wrong.
I still have reservations about this team, despite the addition of a wild card entry into the playoffs and the fact that the Red Sox and the Yankees may not be what they used to be. The back end of the Jays’ starting rotation is a mystery, as is the bat of Colby Rasmus and the glove of Eric Thames.
But, again, and I say this with all sincerity, prove me wrong.
As I told my friend Mike Toth on his Talk 1010 show on Sunday afternoon, I’d like nothing better than to eat my words.
Despite what many fans believe, most journalists want to see the teams they cover succeed. I mean, you can only bash an organization for so long before you run out of material (although the Maple Leafs make it pretty easy).
The one obvious difference from this year to recent campaigns is that this is a group of players who actually believe they can win. And it’s a sincere sentiment, starting with the club’s all-star outfielder, Jose Bautista.
“All I can say is, as a group, we’re putting forward the best effort we can. We’re playing together (and) we’ve come in together very nicely,” said Bautista, prior to Monday night’s home opener. “If we have a lot of health, and that’s what we need, we don’t need anybody to do anything crazy. Everybody just needs to do what they’re capable of doing and as a team we should be pretty good.
“Obviously, if you ask around our clubhouse and our team, everybody’s pretty much determined to have a better year than we had last year,” Bautista continued. “Our talent level’s higher. We just need health and go out there and play hard.”
Bautista agreed with the suggestion that the big teams in the AL East, especially, don’t intimidate the Jays anymore. That’s a step in the right direction.
“Yeah, and the fact that we’re vocal about it and we’re not scared to say it, tells you a lot right there,” said Bautista. “We’re not afraid of anybody and we’re not intimidated by any opponent that might come into town. That doesn’t mean we’re going to go out and beat everybody by 10 runs. But we feel that we can compete and we have a chance in every game.”