It's here. The longest six months of the year are finally over, and us Jays fanatics can go back to partaking in the best addiction of all - Baseball.
It's been quite an eventful offseason for the Blue Jays - new manager in John Farrell, new bench coach in Don Wakahotsu (uh, I mean Wakamatsu), Cy Young award winner Pat Hentgen has returned to the team as the bullpen coach...not to mention the departure of Shaun Marcum and a past franchise player in Vernon Wells.
But all of that has been rehashed many a-time by all those other reputable blogs out there. I'm behind on the times :)
Words cannot describe how excited I am about the 2011 season. This year, I was finally able to go to Dunedin to catch some Spring Training action. Even though the Jays only won one of the "fake" games I saw, I could tell this team would be different than last year's. They seem nowhere near as "uptight" (for lack of a better word) as last year.
But how can I define my excitement for a team which Sports Illustrated believes will finish last in the AL?
Last year, the Jays seemed to follow the philosophy of hitting the ball long and hard with a former hitting coach at the helm. Leading the majors in HRs, and having Bautista slugging 54 dingers in the season probably won't end up happening in 2011 as much as we all would like it to.
I'm a fan of the "smallball" - home runs don't excite me unless they're in a clutch situation. Everybody who follows me on Twitter knows I love the bunts, and triples absolutely drive me wild. Could that be why I'm giddy about the acquisition of Rajai Davis? Tremendous speed, great bat (in ST), and - yes, I'm going there - he's got the high sock mojo.
With our past pitching injuries, no matter what the theories may be (*ahem* Arnsberg), how will our young pitching staff be handled now that the manager is a former pitcher/pitching coach? Better? Worse?
How often during Spring Training have us Jays fans been so excited to see a player be called up? The acquisition of Brett Lawrie had mostly a positive reaction from fans when AA pulled the trigger on the trade with the Brewers. There were attitude concerns, but those all dissipated after he tore it up in Spring. Last year, the excitement was 99% about Bautista's chase to 50HRs which came out of nowhere. But to have this much excitement about a player before he even gets the callup and to even be upset he didn't make the team out of Spring Training? It's been forever since I've seen that kind of passion.
And, I'm sorry - I have complete faith in Edwin Encarnacion this season. Sure, it was a bit of a surprise that he came back to the Jays in the first place after being claimed by Oakland (correct me if I'm wrong - I truly can't remember how Oakland got him!). After seeing him play, though it was at 1B in Spring, he seems to have a different attitude as last year. Many disagree with me, but I think he could have a better offensive season than Bautista. Who knew after Bautista's career thus far that he would have had a season like last year's? I also think Butter can work wonders on his defense if EE puts his mind to it. I BELEEVE!!!!!!
Of course, no one can forget Roberto Alomar's induction into the HOF this year with Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick. The first player to be inducted as a Blue Jay is excitement that fans have not yet felt. Unfortunately, Tom Cheek isn't being inducted this year which would have made it an even more amazing induction.
My final reason for being so excited has nothing to do with what happens on the field and within the game. It wasn't until August last year that I started to make new friends through social media (primarily Twitter) and the amount of Twitterfriends that I'll be seeing in the next 6 months can bring me more joy than a walk-off Grand Slam. To me, Baseball isn't just a game - it's an atmosphere, and getting a bunch of Jays fans together to root for the guys says more about the game to me than 25-men on paper.
So, speaking of Twitterfriends, to add some sanity/non-rambling to my blogpost, I asked what some Tweeps were excited about for 2011. I got a decent response, but I'm going to quote as much as I can with the wonders of 140 characters. So in no particular order, here are the highlights!
(she said a lot haha so here's some of what she said)
"There is no doubt that if you look at your time
line everyone is talking about the Jays - has Twitter made the excitement over
baseball in Canada more popular or has that been AA's work too?"
"I'm excited about Farrell and having fresh leadership. How will he progress as the season progresses? [Wakamatsu] too. Looking forward to his guidance. The young pitching staff!! So much support for each other. Hill and Lind - pulling for them! And visits to TO to just watch them play as much as possible! Keeping the excitement alive!"
"Farrell and the game he brings...small ball, speed. Hoping for bunts, hit and runs, double steals, super excited for Roberto andthe HOF. Players I like most: Snider, Escobar and Cecil. I think if these guys reach potential then we're set. I'm most excited for my new Blue Jays Tweeps!"
"i am excited about jpa of course, as well as the young pitching and the excitment around the team! also ditching flashbackfri."
"I'm looking forward to Lawrie's first game."
"This year's inevitable John McDonald feel-good moment."
"I'm excited to see the young guys get a full time opportunity to prove themselves and showcase their skills to us."
"The development (Snider, Drabek, JPA) just excited to see those guys in the line up. Future is bright! looking fwd to Lind @ 1st. Can Lind/Hill bounce back, is Cecil for real, who emerges as closer, Farrell decisions..."
"I'm excited about what a new manager can bring to this team in terms of strategy and philosophy."
"different change in offensive strategies. Small ball and Rookies :)"
" I'll go out and say it...the #Jays make the post-season this year. Not even a biased opinion here. stats don't lie. Youth, power and solid arms trump big bank accounts. Hey, the Rays did it a few years ago, right?"
"it just feels right, a sign of the season, love the sport, and (insert James Earl Jones speech from field of dreams)"
"I'm stoked to see how Lind does at 1B (w/@VernonWells10 gone, my favourite Jays player). The emergence of Drabek in rotation."
"Excited about #Jays multifaceted offence & young/soon-to-be top tiered starting rotation. Morrow/Romero 1-2 punch & speed! U can add comraderie and chemistry to the list as well!"
"What excites me most is seeing if the young starting rotation can build off the successes they had last year."
It's crazy to see how many Jays fans are excited pretty much about the exact same things. Remember when AA said this team wasn't rebuilding, it was just building? Fans seemed to freak out before last season...now with all of this excitement, hopefully there'll be less blue in the stands (excluding hats and old school jerseys) and the Jays'll make the postseason this year!