The Toronto Blue Jays will or will not win the AL East
I listen to podcasts. It’s a thing I do. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts about the AL East because, you know, Red Sox. I’m excited for this season. The low expectations are like Ben-Gay on my aching legs after running the marathon of giving a shit that was the Red Sox against the Yankees for nearly a decade, while living in New York. This year, it doesn’t… fucking… matter. This year, the only thing that matters is improving, and the Red Sox will improve. It is a near-certainty. It could never be as bad as last year. The only place to go is up.
One thing I’ve learned from listening to these podcasts, specifically SBNationa’s Over the Monster, I believe, is how unlikely the Orioles are to repeat what they did last year. The Red Sox and Blue Jays were abhorrent last year. Someone had to win those games. I had never put that together with the Orioles’ magical run, but it seems obviously in retrospect. I like a good Orioles team, but I’m not hopeful.
After them, you’ve got the Rays and Yankees, who both could win the division with a subpar record by their standards. The Rays could age up into it, or the Yankees could age down into it, but “it’ could easily be 93 wins. The Red Sox will be better. They’ll probably break .500. They’re actually pretty good.
And then there are the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays are, somewhat remarkably, the favorites to win the AL East in Las Vegas (or Barbuda). They’re a really popular team in supra-baseball circles, which is really fucking strange. They’re the Blue Jays. They were really bad last year. Then they made two trades, and they went from nobodies to a team the general public liked. How the shit can the general public get behind a team anymore that hasn’t been good for two decades? What makes the Blue Jays different?
I’ve thought about it, and I think there’s nothing to make the Blue Jays any different. And that’s what convinces me they’re not different.
I mean, they could win 90 games, and win the division. That’s one possibility. If everything broke their way — Josh Johnson staying health, Jose Reyes at 80 percent of his breakout season, Jose Bautista at 80 percent of his — they could pull it off. If the players on their team were necessarily capable of it for more than one or two years over the course of their life, they wouldn’t have landed on the Blue Jays. At a time where it is as easy as it ever has been to predict how likely a player is to repeat a career performance, and the exponentially more unlikely idea that every successive player will contribute 100 percent is well known, people will want to believe the opposite. It’s something of a hysterical pregnancy. It’s been so long since Toronto has been around that it seems like a novel idea, fraught with whatever projections we didn’t heap on the previous four teams.
And again — the Blue Jays could win the division. In fact, if they did, it would be fucking awesome. I am so comfortable with an 85-win, non-playoffs Red Sox season that I realize it is the upper bound of expectations. The fact is, anyone could win the AL East this year, and that’s cooler than the idea of the Blue Jays running away with it. It turns it into the NFC East, where every game is a bloodbath. I can’t imagine anything cooler than that. It’s baseball where every pitch matters, the whole season. and one where power changes hands every day. The Blue Jays have had it for one long day. When the season starts, it’ll up to anyone to grab it. It could be them, but I wouldn’t bet on it.