With less than a month of Toronto Blue Jays baseball left to be played, another season is coming to a close. Although, to say that this season was a disappointment is difficult to argue.
Yes, the Jays will finish somewhere around the .500 mark, far out of the playoff hunt, but the future does seem bright for the young squad that general manager Alex Antholopous has assembled. Again, it is easy to remain skeptical considering how often Toronto sports teams have long declared that each particular year will be the one the franchise turns themselves around and becomes a contender.
Whether you are a Jays fan, Argos fan, Raptors fan or Leafs fan, the message has been redundant and has certainly lost its value. But I do believe the Jays are on the upstart, and it does not only begin with the team itself, but with commissioner Bud Selig.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Major League Baseball will add another wild card birth to both the American League and National League at the start of the 2012 season. This addition will certainly allow the Jays to give up on the battle against the beasts of the east, and instead contend for the additional wild card spot against the likes of Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The competition, although strong, all carry many holes in their rosters that money can’t buy as easily as in New York and Boston. The idea that Toronto could be in a playoff hunt, and break the soon-to-be nineteen year playoff drought, is an idea that already carries excitement for die-hard and casual fans alike.
Building on this excitement is the youth of the roster and the potential building of an eventual contender.
Already possessing an all-star right fielder and starting pitcher, it has been the main objective of Anthopolous to successfully round out the Jays and be able to provide a strong top to bottom order along with stable pitching.
With the emergence of players such as Eric Thames, Brett Lawrie and the acquisition of Colby Rasmus, the Jays are beginning to create a youthful core of everyday players. The Jays are, however, in need of a serious overhaul of their bullpen. Outside of Casey Janssen, and a surprisingly solid Jesse Litsch, the Jays pen has been stagnant and ineffective throughout the year.
They also must seek out a quality starting pitcher to sit third in the rotation, behind Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. If Carlos Villanueva can return as a number 5 starter and Brett Cecil can work out his mechanics, then the Jays should have a solid rotation.
The likes of rookies Luis Perez and Henderson Alvarez should also create some healthy competition in the rotation.
On the offensive side, Anthopolous has to decide if Edwin Encarnacion can hit with a level of consistency, and is worth the 3.5 million dollar option. The defensively challenged player has been a force at DH since the All-Star break and has even looked capable when replacing Adam Lind at first base.
With the addition of another presence at the plate, and a couple more strong arms, the Toronto Blue Jays should be able to contend for a playoff spot in the next few years. And with a little help from Bud, with the addition of a second wild card spot, the end of the playoff drought for Toronto Blue Jays baseball could be sooner than expected.