Baseball is back, and so are the Toronto Blue Jays.
The lineup that took to the field on Opening Day in Tampa Bay is arguably the most potent the city of Toronto has ever seen.
You have your classic All-Star catcher hitting in the eighth spot.
Russell Martin is coming off the most prolific season of his career, belting a career-high 23 home runs.
The Blue Jays now have a true ace for a full season for the first time since 2009, when Roy Halladay left for Philadelphia. Since the departure, Toronto has had five different Opening Day starters, and 14 since the last time the Blue Jays took home the pennant. The search for a franchise pitcher has now ended. Marcus Stroman is everything Canada’s team has needed. He has fire, the makeup of a Game One World Series starter and a chip on his shoulder that will never fade. Not to mention his five-pitch repertoire.
The back end of the bullpen is also arguably the finest Toronto has seen in more than a decade. Before Casey Janssen closed out the ninth inning, it was Kevin Gregg for a year, then Jason Frasor and B.J. Ryan, but nobody really latched onto the closing role. A few days out from being the youngest closer to record a save on Opening Day, Roberto Osuna is evidently a special talent. According to Baseball Reference, in the past 50 years, only two pitchers were full-time closers by the age of 20. Billy McCool of the 1965 Cincinnati Reds and Terry Forster of the 1972 Chicago White Sox. Osuna proved himself time and time again a year ago, and Brett Cecil and Drew Storen are now here to set the stage for him.
It’s like Toronto has shifted back to the glory days in 1992-1993. They are a powerhouse. The city is alive once again when it comes to baseball. As you scan up and down the roster, it becomes clear that this is a special team, not only because of the power, but because Canadians play a big role in the success. With Dalton Pompey in the minors, Toronto has three MLB-ready players from north of the border.
Fans should appreciate every second of the upcoming campaign, as these days have an expiration date.
#BlueJays who hit free agency this winter: Bautista, EE, Cecil, Storen, Dickey, Chavez, Saunders, Smoak, Floyd
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) April 4, 2016
Toronto has some work to do in the offseason. This may be the last time we see Bautista or Encarnacion in a Blue Jays jersey. It may be the end of an incredible era.
I know It’s early to be talking about the end of the year and expiring contracts, but there has been little to no progression on this front. Both sluggers are ready to walk if their demands are not met, and it’s increasingly possible this is the last time we see a lineup of this caliber in between the white lines. Not only is it probable Toronto misses out on the 440 home runs combined between the duo, but Storen and Cecil may walk, as can Saunders, who should prove himself as a reliable left-fielder if he can stay healthy.
This article can come off as pessimistic as the campaign begins, but it is a realistic thought that the window for a World Series is closing with each passing game. It’s no secret the 2017 roster will look much differently than it does right now.
Let these ideas and thoughts slide for the moment, though. There’s no need to worry about next season, it’s time to enjoy the ride.