So it's February, and hope springs eternal and all that sort of thing.
For the past three or four years, there's been this sense with the Blue Jays that they're almost there. Since the 86-win season in 2003, we've felt like we're on the cusp of something good, and it is all about to go our way. If only this goes right for us, and that goes wrong for them, then in the end we'll be right there, playing meaningful September games.
We've also been teased like a drunken frat boy at Lake Havasu by all of the national (American) pundits picking the Jays as the team that "just might surprise this year" for pretty much the last three years. The disappointments of those years have caused the delicate flesh of our hopes and dreams to callous over.
It's with this in mind that we allow ourselves to get marginally excited about the prospects of the 2008 squad, especially where it comes to the team's depth. At virtually every position, the Jays have Major League calibre players who can step in if the putative starter goes down in a flaming heap this year.
If Zaunie chokes on a forkfull of pancake and sausage, there's Barajas. If Overbay pops his shoulder out catching a bouquet, we've got Stairs. If Rolen's inner-ear revolts on him due to extended periods of time listening to his Limp Bizkit intro music, Scutaro or Johnny Mac can step in. There will be no extended periods where a Jason Phillips-type or a Howie Clark-type will be a starter on this year's roster. We have to think that will be a good thing. Because there's only so many automatic outs you can bear in a lineup.
What's more, we're not looking at a competition between old scrubs (Thomson-Ohka-Zambrano) for the fifth starter position. The Jays have legitimate arms both in the rotation and the bullpen, to the point where some of the pitchers who contributed significantly to keeping the team from imploding into a dusty pile may find themselves in Syracuse or elsewhere, simply because there aren't enough spots.
A talented core is one thing, and we think that the Jays have that (although not at the same level as the Tigers or Red Sox.) But our hopes for 2008 rest almost entirely on the depth of the team assembled.
Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.