Another Major League Baseball season is set to begin this weekend, and there are many reasons to be optimistic about the Toronto Blue Jays chances.
Like many people, I witnessed my first Blue Jays playoff victories late last year. Many of the players that were difference makers during the playoff campaign remain on this roster, including Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Colabello.
Now expectations are higher and members of the team have some playoff experience that will help if Toronto makes it in to the playoffs this season. There is also a weight off the team now as they have now had some playoff success and likely will play looser and with more confidence this season.
Despite an off season that was somewhat disappointing, only because there was no big trade or signing by management, the Jays still boast a rotation that includes an improved Marcus Stroman, the re-signed Marco Estrada, veteran R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ and 23 year-old former first round pick Aaron Sanchez who currently has unlimited potential.
As well, the Jays are currently already having success in spring training. As of press time, Toronto has a preseason record of 17 wins and 5 losses. Sanchez has shown good form so far, with a 1.35 E.R.A. and 19 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched. First baseman Justin Smoak is also having a great preseason, with 7 runs and 4 home runs.
This may also be Edwin Encarnacion’s last season with the Blue Jays as he has publicly said that the Blue Jays “don’t have it in their plans” for him to stay in town. This could lead to him having the best season of his career as he either tries to show management why they need to keep him around or to drive him to want to win with this team now.
Jose Bautista’s stats have been climbing the past few seasons from 28 home runs in 2013 to 40 in 2015, and there is no reason that the trend won’t continue. The Jays have one of the best offences in the league, with Bautista, Donaldson and Encarnacion among others. The big three combined last year for 120 home runs.
Now the slate has been wiped clean, and there is potential for anything to happen this season, but there are reasons to believe that the boys of summer will be showing Toronto some playoff baseball in the fall
I don’t think I would have been able to make it this far without a special member of my family, my cat Darcy.
Darcy, a tabby calico mix, has been a part of the family for over ten years and I have always felt a special connection to her. We always seem to understand one another. I can always tell when she is hungry, or thirsty or is in need of some attention. She seems to know whenever I have had a bad day, as she always comes over to see me during that time. She is a great stress reliever. Darcy also seems to know when anyone in the house is sick, as she will go and lie with them to provide some comfort.
Some avid readers of this column have probably already determined that she is named after one of my favourite Maple Leafs Darcy Tucker. In ways she is similar to Tucker as well. She is small, but tough and feisty as she has been through a lot. She doesn’t give up. She also likes a good hockey game as well, as I have watched them with her from time to time.
She is also very bright. When she was younger, Darcy used to try to turn the doorknob by jumping and trying to put both of her front paws on the knob. Nowadays, she just keeps reminding us to let her out over and over until we get up and do it. Another trick that she seems to have picked up from us is she always wipes her paws before leaving the bathroom.
It is always nice when I come home after a long day, as she is usually on the windowsill waiting for me, and a chance to go outside. When she does get outside, she immediately flops down and starts to roll around on her back.
She also seems to be very family oriented. She doesn’t like to spend too much time alone, if either me or my mom or my sister is in the house, she is likely to come over and spend some time with us. If one of us is alone, she will keep us company wherever in the house we happen to be.
She can also be shy around strangers as she usually goes to find somewhere to hide when there is someone different in the house.
Despite being a bit older, she is always a bundle of energy. Whenever I first come home, Darcy is always ready to either run outside or to play with us inside.
I have been very happy to have Darcy around for a lot of my life adventures so far, and I look forward to more great memories in the future.
The past few weeks, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs have been witness to an impressive teardown of the team’s roster.
The scorched Earth approach began with the trade of Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators. That then led to a list of players moving to greener pastures featuring Shawn Matthias, Roman Polak, Nick Spaling, Daniel Winnik, and James Reimer.
These moves just further proved that the Leafs management team is still dedicated to the future of the franchise.
The Leafs have now amassed a whopping total of 12 picks in the 2016 NHL draft, and a total of 28 over the next three years.
This teardown has also meant that the future stars of the franchise now have a chance to show just what they have. On Monday, Feb. 29, the team recalled a large number of members of the Toronto Marlies including Toronto’s golden boy and former first rounder William Nylander, as well as Kasperi Kapanen, Nikita Soshnikov, Zach Hyman and recently acquired Ben Smith.
The Leafs are also currently poised to add to their prospect list with one of the top five players in the 2016 draft. As of press time, the Leafs were sitting in last place in the standings. With the mass exodus, it seems Toronto has dedicated themselves to falling down the standings and at least trying to win the right to choose American Auston Matthews.
Funny thing about this season though is that fans have become so invested in the teardown plan that the fact that P. A. Parenteau was not dealt by the deadline came as a large surprise. In the days leading up to the deadline, fans kept looking for signs that Parenteau would be moved. When he left practice early because of “soreness” fans briefly thought he had been traded. When he left the Leafs game against Montreal early, again there was speculation. But nothing happened.
With the cap space that was moved during the last few weeks, Toronto could also potentially take a run at Tampa Bay’s superstar forward Steven Stamkos when or if he hits the free agent market on July 1.
The future of the team is slowing becoming clearer and brighter days may be closer than fans first expected. Hold on Leafs fans, the best is yet to come.
Is a reporter for The Standard Newspaper, so if you see him, feel free to say hello. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @dancearnsy