In a few short years the Blue Jays have gone from a rebuilding club to a team that many expect to contend for a World Series title in 2022. That’s not an overstatement by a bias Jays fan either, as MLB.com went as far as placing them at #2 in their preseason rankings.
The hype across Canada is very real, and so is the excitement for a new season. It’s largely deserved as well, as the front office has done a great job of bringing in talented players to complement a very strong core. While they lost Robbie Ray, Marcus Semien, and Steven Matz in free agency, they managed to sign Kevin Gausman to help lead the rotation, extend Jose Berrios’ contract, and brought in Yusei Kikuchi to round out the starting group. They also acquired Matt Chapman in a trade with the Oakland A’s, and he should make an impact on both sides of the ball.
I think it’s very valid that Blue Jays fans are excited for a new season, and that many of us expect them to compete for the AL East crown, and hopefully a lot more. Their young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and many others have gained a ton of important experience over the last few years, and especially during that particular pair’s first full 162 game campaign in 2021. The Jays will also get a full season from Alek Manoah this time, and hopefully a much healthier go-around for talented arms like Nate Pearson, Julian Merryweather, and more.
On top of the important experience the young Blue Jays gained during their 91-win effort last year, they should have a lot more stability as far as where they’ll be hanging their hats. With the pandemic keeping them from playing home games in Toronto until mid-summer, they had to do a lot of moving around in 2021, and never really felt like they had the “home field advantage” until they could return to the Rogers Centre. It’s hard to say how much that impacted the final results of the regular season, but missing the playoffs by just one game certainly doesn’t help the case against this argument.
I also believe that part of the excitement is the way the Blue Jays’ division rivals handled business this offseason. The Red Sox made a few nice moves, including swooping in late to sign Trevor Story, but they also lost Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers, and Chris Sale is starting the year with question marks about his health again. The Yankees made a big trade with the Twins to acquire Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but they left some question marks in their rotation, among other areas. They certainly have the potential to be very dangerous, but things could go sideways as well. As for the Rays, they’ll probably still find a way to be themselves, but they also continue to trade away solid players, such as the Austin Meadows deal we saw yesterday.
For long-time Blue Jays fans, it’s not hard to remember previous seasons when things were supposed to go our way. The 2013 Blue Jays were supposed to be one of the best teams in baseball, but things never materialized the way they did on paper. Injuries and underperformance not only saw that team miss the playoffs, but they finished dead last in the AL East. Now, I’m not suggesting that the 2022 version of this team is headed for anything like that, I’m just saying that we shouldn’t count our chickens until they’ve hatched. Frankly, I’m probably more comfortable (or just used to?) the Jays being viewed as underdogs.
That won’t be the case when the regular season opens on Thursday, and especially not when the Blue Jays kick off the 2022 campaign on Friday. There is a massive amount of hype around this team right now, and even if I’m reluctant to let my excitement fully overtake me, I’d be lying if I said that I can’t wait to see what this team can do. It should be a special year ahead.