Hello, friends. As we anticipate the Jays opening the 2018 season, we’re all very excited. Maybe we’re basking in the glow of spring, in players being in the best shape of their lives, of veterans coming to camp renewed, and prospects showing flashes of exciting talent, tantalizing us with glimpses into the future.
As we drown in statistics and projections and talk ourselves into players we’ll inevitably cast aside by May in favor of some new hotness, here are a few things we can indisputably enjoy about the 2018 Blue Jays. That’s what baseball is meant for, so no matter how we feel about the team and how they’ll do this year, let’s run down a list of reasons the Jays could be a lot of fun.
Josh Donaldson is a Blue Jay! He’s about to start his fourth season with the team, and sometimes it feels like we take his excellence for granted. He’s a perpetual MVP candidate, crushing dingers and flashing the leather at third base. What’d they give up for him? Brett Lawrie? Does he still play?
In what might be his last season with the team, there’s a lot we can appreciate about Donaldson as a baseball player. What’s your pleasure? Light tower home runs? Cannon throws from across the diamond? Completely insane base running to win a playoff series? Explaining his swing and roasting Mark Derosa at the same time?
Donaldson is going to be a free agent in 2019. To that I say, who cares? Let the future worry about itself. We’ll have plenty of time to drown in whatever despair we can talk ourselves into. There’s dingers to be smashed, and lasers to be fired from third, and Donaldson will provide plenty of both.
Remember him? 7th in Cy Young voting in 2016, pumping gas and dropping hammers on fools? Don’t act like you don’t know.
The Jays aren’t short on talented starting pitchers, but the guy with the highest ceiling is the one who couldn’t duck getting blisters most of last season. If you want someone with great stuff, Sanchez is your guy.
Sure, the rotation is all good. Estrada’s got that changeup, Stroman has a whole bag of tricks, and Happ does whatever it is he does every five days. But give me the guy with the straight gas and the huge hook.
Knock knock. Who’s there? One of the best closers in the game, that’s who.
Being in a tight game can be a white-knuckle affair when your team has a bad closer. The Jays have had standout closers like Tom Henke and Duane Ward, flamethrowers like Billy Koch, and less reliable sorts like Randy Myers and the exasperating slowness of Jason Frasor.
There’s so much to love about Osuna. He’s only 23(23!) and already about to start his fourth season with the Jays. His story is absurd. Signed by the Jays at 16, he was primarily a starter in the minors, including a missed year after Tommy John surgery in 2013. He skipped all the way from high-A to the majors in 2015, when an understaffed Jays bullpen tapped a lot of young arms for the back end. Osuna wasn’t the closer to start the year, which is absurd in hindsight. It was Miguel Castro. Miguel Castro! He’s on the Orioles now, apparently?
We can breathe easy when the Jays get to the ninth inning with the lead and Osuna trots out from the bullpen. Enjoy a relaxing, eleven pitch inning from your closer, with a strikeout or two, and hopefully Roberto greeting a happy Russell Martin at the theoretical door of their figurative house.
The Jays have some new players! Everyone likes shiny, new things. Bored seeing the same names in the lineup every day? The Jays have you covered.
Jose Bautista may have ridden off into the sunset (mostly), which- if we’re being honest- may be something of a relief to Jays fans after the 2017 season he had. Ezequiel Carrera is gone too, and though he was better, he wasn’t much fun either. Into their spots ride Curtis Granderson and Randall Grichuk. And while neither have Bautista’s name brand value, they’ll probably end up being better. Granderson has been good for 20 home runs a year nearly every season since 2007 and Grichuk offers similar pop in the other corner. Dingers!
Troy Tulowitzki’s injuries are a drag, but we get to see some new faces in his spot while he’s out. Aledmys Diaz was an all-star in 2016 and Yangervis Solarte is a solid player who can play all over the diamond. The Jays haven’t had someone like that in quite a while, so it’ll be interesting to see where Gibby pencils him into the lineup.
There’s much more to love with this Jays team, depending on your taste. Maybe you’re all-in on Marcus Stroman’s theatrics, Kevin Pillar’s dives, or Russell Martin gunning down fools who try to steal bases. Perhaps you’re someone who appreciates Justin Smoak crushing home runs, Marco Estrada’s chanegeup buckling knees, or Devon Travis lashing doubles.
But as we get into this Jays season, let’s remember that baseball should be fun, and that there are plenty of reasons to enjoy watching the Blue Jays. You just need to find yours.
Lead Photo © Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports