If there's one thing you can say about the 2010 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays, it's that they are rarely boring. This year's team is so smashingly entertaining that even those who croaked on about how awful they were going to be this year are starting to come around and feel the joy in watching the awesome display of power.
(And yeah, that's you Blair. Welcome to the bright side.)
At present, the Jays lead the Majors in homers by 19 over the Red Sox (88-69), and also lead the collective circuits in doubles (123), slugging (.471), and total bases (836). They sit just two behind the Yankees in RsBI with 264, followed by the Red Sox (260) and Rays (255). Which we mention mostly to remind us all that a third or fourth place finish in the AL East is not like any other division's third/fourth place finish, no matter how much Bobcat McCown spits into his mic in absolute terms about the failures of this team.
So what's our point? Whatever happens in the next week and a half with the series against the Yankees and Rays, we're reasonably sure that the Jays aren't going to go quietly or lose ugly. They are going to compete through all nine innings, and have a puncher's chance of making up ground on their divisional rivals this week.
Did you catch that last bit? We spoke of gaining ground in the race. As if we were speaking about these all-too-fetishized "meaningful games" that people groan on about endlessly. Because that seems to be the gripe of most of the gasbag radio hosts and fatuous general sporting columnists: That the Jays don't play those impactful and important games in September. That none of this stuff matters now, and that we should be suspicious about the early success because the only thing that matters is the last month...or three weeks, or two weeks, or two days, or third-of an inning of the season.
Which has led us to this minor epiphany: The Bruce Arthurs and Dave Perkins and Steve Simmons of the world are a bunch of pasty tourists when it comes to this beautiful game, and we really shouldn't pay them any hommage by listening for even a nanosecond to their all-too-knowing postulations in the preseason about how awful and dreadful the outlook is for the Jays, and why fans should be wary of the team in the here and now. Just because the only part of the season to which they pay any mind is the last bit, it doesn't mean that there isn't fun to be had in the early going.
Because this is supposed to be fun, right? This is baseball. That's why we love it.
We suspect that many of the empty seats in the RC/SkyDome are filled with the ghosts of casual fans who have bought into the steaming pantloads flung by the cynical opportunists who eat up space in the newspaper and on the talk shows. But what we really hope that people recognize over the next few weeks is that they are missing a great season. Maybe the greatest season that they've had in more than a decade. Really.
And this isn't at all like last year's team, who got off to a quick start by beating up on some weaker competition. This is a team that has been in almost every game this season, and has the crushing offensive power to get themselves back into games in a hurry.
Maybe you're the type who can shrug off another JoBau JomeRun, or another extra base hit from Alex Gonzalez, or a screamer off the bat of Vernon Wells. Maybe you can write those off as a fluke and set yourself up to walk ten feet behind the bandwagon, so that no one mistakes you for a sucker should the team falter. But where's the joy in that? Isn't it better to let yourself go and fall for a team once in a while?
We're a third of the way through, and the Jays are just a game back of the Yankees, four and a half back of the Rays and sporting the sixth-best record in all of MLB. They are setting themselves up to be in the Wild Card race, which probably only begins in July, but you can at least consider these first eight weeks the preliminary heats.
And thus far, it's been pretty frickin' fun to watch.