The Toronto Blue Jays have been for the most part dormant since their glory days in the 80s and early 90s. Since they won the World Series in 1993, the Jays have not made the playoffs. This is partly due to the fact they play in the toughest division in sports: the American League East.
However, I seriously believe that the Blue Jays will contend in 2014 and possibly make the playoffs as well in 2012 and 2013 for these five reasons.
1. The Blue Jays have serious young talent coming up in their organization, either in the farm system or at the major-league level.
Travis Snider was ranked in most experts' list of the five best prospects in baseball last year, and through bouncing between AAA Las Vegas and the big-league club, he showed real potential. Snider should develop even more this season, enough to play as an every day left-fielder. He should enter his prime in 2014, a prime that includes 40 HR power potential to go along with a .290 or better average.
Brett Wallace, one of the players acquired in the blockbuster Roy Halladay deal, has great potential as a corner-infield slugger. His bat has been said to be already major league ready, the Jays are just trying to develop him into a first basemen, instead of third where they fear he will be an error machine. He has tremendous upside and isn't just a power hitter, he has a great approach to hitting and should draw plenty of walks while hitting at a .300 clip.
The Jays have a ridiculous amount of starting pitching talent, Kyle Drabek simply adds to the long list of young pitchers the Jays are working hard to develop. While most of them were christened last year at the major league level and so aren't "prospects" anymore, they have a bright staff of the future shaping up.
Brett Cecil, Mark Rzepczynski, Brad Mills, Robert Ray, Drabek, Zachary Stewart, Jesse Litsch, plus Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan (who are still developing). Out of that list of nine Jays hopefuls, plus Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, it shouldn't be too hard to at least turn one of them into the ace of the future, the face of the post-Halladay era in Toronto.
2. The Jays already have a top flight offense, contrary to popular believe they scored the eighth most runs in the Major Leagues last season.
The Toronto Blue Jays already have a terrific framework to score as many runs as possible: Adam Lind and Aaron Hill are both young, talented, .300/30/100 threats, as they both performed at that level in 2009. Hill has basically hit his potential, but Lind could have even more improving to do, enough to bring up MVP whispers.
3. The Blue Jays are a big-market team, as Toronto has the fourth most populated metropolitan area in North America. They are capable of making free agent pickups and will when they believe they can contend for a pennant.
In recent years, the Blue Jays have been labelled as a small-market team simply because they haven't made many notable free agent acquisitions recently. Torontonians have an excellent capacity to love baseball, and when the team was playing well last year (or Roy Halladay was pitching, the Jays must've made a fortune off of him) the Rogers Centre was usually pushed to capacity.
This is a ballclub that signed Roger Clemens to a $25,000,000 contract before the 1997 season and has previously signed other impact players such as Paul Molitor, Dave Stewart, and many others. I believe if the Jays win 88 or so games in 2011, management will go out and pursue a highly-touted free agent.
4. Am I the only one who remembers the Blue Jays' torrid start last year? Everyone suggests it was a total outlier, a downright fluke, but it was the start of something good.
It is May 19th, 2009. The Toronto Blue Jays have the best record in the American League with a 27-14. There is a growing trend to rank them first or second in MLB power rankings. People are finally waking up to the fact that they are "for real," and "should follow Tampa as consecutive non-NY/BOS AL East pennant winners."
They then fall into a terrible downward spiral and finish with only 75 wins, good for fourth in the AL East. It seems baseball is about streaks. If you lose a few games in a row, it becomes a habit, a habit the Jays are particularly susceptible to since they're terrible with pressure added in.
But the new Jays should change the culture. I sincerely believe that if the Jays wouldn't have fallen into that terrible losing streak, they would have finished with over 90 wins. They fell back to .500, and the players looked at the season as a rebuilding year.
5. Alex Anthopoulos is a good GM, willing to make blockbuster trades and sign key free agents if it means strengthening his team.
People must remember that it was Anthopoulos, not Ricciardi, that dealt Roy Halladay. Ricciardi may have publicly announced that the America League's best pitcher was up for grabs, which was a total failure, but it was Anthopoulos that ended up pulling the cord on the deal.
He succeeded in tearing Drabek away from the Phillies and Wallace from the A's. He's younger than most general managers, which is a good thing since we're in the midst of a baseball revolution: new stats that older GMs don't believe in or don't care much about.
Anthopoulos is also willing to take risks. Taking risks is necessary when you play in a division with the Red Sox and Yankees. One of them is a mortal lock for 95 wins, you can't just have a "good" season, the type of season Ricciardi was always happy with.
No, if you want to win the AL East pennant, you're going to have to take calculated risks and have them pan out, which seems to be something the Blue Jays' GM of the future is willing to do.
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To conclude, I don't see why the Jays can't win it all in 2014, if they continue to make good decisions regarding their future and sign a few impact players after the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the fans will get behind them again and they can renew their dynasty.
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