When the Toronto Blue Jays opened up their 2012 season on the road in Cleveland, they did so to much fanfare. Thanks to new jerseys that borrowed heavily from the organization’s past, and a roster that featured the game’s most prolific power hitter as well as some popular young players, enthusiasm for the team was genuine and real in a way it hadn't been for some time.
For the first time in years, the organization’s vaunted minor league system was graduating prospects with regularity; creating a steady streamline of young talent that, in the interim would contribute and gain some invaluable major league experience on a relatively competitive club, and hopefully would put the Jays atop the American League East standings one day.
If it sounds familiar, it should. For anyone who is a fan of the Jays and the Sens, they will recognize the similarities as both organizations try to navigate a rebuild...or maybe just a build in Toronto's case.
Due to Alex Anthopolous’ cone of silence policy with regards to prospective personnel decisions, it is difficult to glean how serious the Jays’ interest was in last offseason's marquee free agents (Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish). But between reports that the Jays would not extend themselves beyond a 5-year contract term, and Buster Olney’s information on the Darvish bidding process (via Drunk Jays Fans), there is some level of cynicism.
Source: Remember how the Jays were expected to be such big players in the Yu Darvish bidding? Well, one official said that Toronto actually finished third in the bidding, behind the Rangers and Cubs, and that no bid was within $35 million of what Texas tendered.
Much like the Jays kicking tires on certain players, Ottawa’s interest in Rick Nash – despite previous reporting the then-Blue Jackets forward would not waive his no-movement clause to come to the nation’s capital – was well chronicled through the summer months. Whether intended or not, Melnyk’s assurance that the team could absorb Nash’s annual $7.8M salary without having to trim payroll sent a message to fans and created an expectation that when the team is ready for Stanley Cup contention, the money will be there. Rogers is obviously a much better capitalized operation than Mr. Melnyk, but in both fanbases there exists some doubt that either team is prepared to compete financially going forward.
Despite whatever goodwill an organization has cultivated through the effective stockpiling of young talent, there will come a time when a GM has to recognize that not all of this assembled young talent will: a) fit on the same roster; or b) fulfill their potential. Conventional wisdom seems to be Anthopoulos is at that point this summer, unfortunately there is little available in free agency, an aggressive trade or two might be the answer.
In the meantime, there is this willingness to acquire young players with pedigree who have fallen out of favor elsewhere (Rasmus, Turris, Filatov) and extend opportunities to a roster littered with inexpensive, young players to assess what they could do over the course of a full season. Toronto had the Thames, Cecils, Arencibias and Henderson Alvarezes of the world (hindsight being twenty-twenty, barf!); Ottawa had the 2011 Calder Cup grads. In essence, they are placeholders. Players who allow these two franchises to bide their time until their most talented prospects – D’Arnaud, Gose, Nicolino, Hechavarria, Sanchez, Syndergaard, Norris, Silfverberg, Zibanejad, Stone, Lehner, Ceci -- can advance to the highest professional level.
From the fan expectations to management’s decision to go for it, every fleeting moment is truly an exercise in patience.
And as I sit here in front of my computer writing this blog six months later, I wonder whether my patience has run out...at least with the Jays
From the significant and debilitating injuries to key players (ie, Bautista, Santos, Morrow and other pieces of the starting rotation), to the homophobic slurs scrawled on eye black, to Ricky Romero experiencing a Rick Vaughn-like regression in Major League 2, to just seeing Adam Lind’s name adorn any day’s starting lineup card, to the Boston media’s love affair with John Farrell, to Omar Vizquel criticizing the lack of accountability for the team’s younger players, to the Baltimore fucking Orioles clinching a Wild Card spot, the 2012 Jays have made me an emotionless automaton.
In some ways, it is reminiscent of that South Park episode entitled “How to Eat with Your Butt” - in which Cartman convinces Kenny to pose for his school portrait upside down so that his ass will be revealed through his hood; and in the process blows his "funny fuse" never able to laugh at anything again.
With the way that the 2012 Jays season has gone, I think I've blown my own “Oh my god, what else could conceivably go wrong? fuse”. It has been a sports fan’s lesson in crisis preparedness. Regardless of what kind of curves the Senators throw at me, I’m well-conditioned for anything that conceivably could go wrong.
Or maybe I should be thinking of this the other way around; the Sens 2010-11 smoking crater of a season can portend something positive for the Jays next year.
Regin Joins Swiss League
According to Matias Strozyk (@MaStrozyk), Senators center Peter Regin has joined Langenthal, a division two team in Switzerland (he had earlier plans to join his hometown team in the Danish league). A quick Google search reveals that Suisse Langenthal is renowned for Chinaware. How apropos! At least it would help explain the reason why Regin’s pact is a day-to-day contract, because it certainly cannot be a measure of faith in the NHLPA and NHL agreeing upon a new CBA anytime soon.
What’s the Fuss(en)? Condra Off to Germany
Like many of his teammates, Senators forward Erik Condra has opted to play overseas during this lockout. The puck possession savant will take his two-way game and hockey smarts to the Fussen Leopards – a third division team in Germany.
More Accolades for Brassard
Quebec Remparts netminder Francois Brassard, the subject of much love from the traditional Ottawa media these days, has been named as one of three goalies for the QJMHL’s Subway Super Series team that will square off against the Russians on November 5th in Boisbriand, Quebec and on November 7th in Val-d’Or, Quebec.
Zdeno Chara Has Had Better Days
I have not seen a Nikita Filatov highlight reel goal in ages, so it’s worth sharing; especially since he picks Chara's pocket on the play.