Yesterday I spent Good Friday back at my Folks house in Brampton, and naturally the topic of the Jays and the season opener came up. As all five of us are Jays fans, we were all in agreement that the opener was a great game, but we all varied in what it meant.
I have seen it time and time again as this season approaches, what are the Jays this year? And more importantly what should we expect them to be?
First, here's what they are not. They are not a playoff team, sorry. Nothing would make me happier then coming back here 161 games from now and correct that statement. But as confident as I was betting that the Leafs would collapse from 5th in the Eastern Conference, I am confident in stating this team is not going to make the playoffs.
Toronto fans have a hard time accepting that at face value, my younger brother argued with me ad nauseum. "But every body is going to improve this season," he said, "They didn't get any worse," "the bullpen is so much better," "a full season out of Lawrie," "Morrow will improve, a full season from Alvarez."
I'm pretty certain that the sentiment of this Jays fan is indicative of most this season. Optimism is great, realism is necessary.
It's far, far, far too early to speak to how people will improve this year. If this team intends to play meaningful baseball in September, this team will inevitably need to improve in most facets. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, everybody with the exception of Jose Bautista will need to take substantial strides forward, all while we hope the aforementioned Bautista doesn't regress.
Game 1 certainly showed that Bautista still has the game to repeat as HR champion for a third straight season.
I'd love to rant about how the young Jays, like Lawrie and Arencibia, bounced back in extras, which they did, Lawrie battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk, only to be driven home on JP's three run shot. It was a thrilling way to start the season.
But for this offence to be everything it needs to be, a lot has to go the Jays way.
The Jays need Yunel Escobar to repeat his career season last year.
Kelly Johnson needs to be the .280/.370 hitter he was in 2010, not the .220/.300 hitter he was in 2009 and 2011.
Jose Bautista needs to do it again, he will.
Adam Lind must better his 3.7 fWar season 2009, and not repeat his 2010/11 where he was among the worst hitters in the league.
Edwin needs to carry over his second half success from last season.
Lawrie needs to avoid a sophomore slump and stay healthy.
Thames needs to develop offensively, because his defence will force him out of the lineup.
JP needs to focus less on the long ball, and more on improving a .720 OPS from last season.
Then there's Colby. I genuinely believe Colby Rasmus has star potential, but he hasn't exactly shown it lately. He was great in 2010, he was awful last season. He didn't exactly excel after being traded like most hoped, he was awful in spring training.
It's too much to say that the season rests on someone like Colby Rasmus, but I think it speaks to it. Going through this years lineup, it's important to keep perspective this season. There's only one player we can say is a lock to repeat, and luckily its our best player. The rest haven't proven anything close to consistency. Let's be patient this season, let's remember that this isn't the only season where there is a second wildcard spot, it'll be there next year and every year after.
There's a lot to be excited about this year. The uniforms, the potential, the prospects. Let's just not get carried away throwing the playoff word out there this year. It's coming my friends, but patience is a virtue.