I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about any of my sports teams.
Blazers? Well, in the NBA, if you don’t have one of the top 3 players in the league then you aren’t winning the championship. Period. There was excitement over winning the number one pick in the draft in 2007, but as soon as we drafted Greg Oden over Kevin Durant I had my doubts. These doubts were confirmed when Oden had his tonsils out and couldn’t play in his first summer league and then subsequently missed his entire first season because Santa’s little helpers put him together all sorts of broken.
When Brandon Roy showed he had the MJ gene, I felt hope even without Oden because Roy showed he had top 3 player potential. Unfortunately not having an elite NBA teammate may have led to his downfall as he routinely had to kill himself for a team that frequently trotted out Sergio Rodriguez, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Jerryd Bayless, Joel Przybilla, and Steve Fucking Blake as his supporting cast. When Roy’s knees died so did my hope for the Blazers and when the Blazers cut him they also cut my loyalty to the team.
I don’t really have an NFL team, so that’s moot. But rarely in the NFL do you see one move lead to a championship. There are 53 players on an NFL team and all you have to do is look at the Eagles to see big acquisitions mean little in a league where coaching is what really matters. Here’s looking at you, Andy Reid.
But there’s nothing quite like baseball. At the beginning of every 162 game marathon each team’s fan base can look at their 0-0 record and feel hope. “Maybe this is the year we break through. Maybe this year our top prospect will turn into the next Albert Pujols or Roy Halladay.” For most teams, this excitement fades a month or two into the season. Rooting for a baseball team that is clearly out of the playoff picture when there are still 100 games left in the season is an extremely disheartening thing. Some might even call it pathetic or masochistic.
Baseball is a sport, however, where big moves do prove to work out. Deadline deals often propel teams to the playoffs or even championships, and one big bat in the number 3 hole or a new staff ace can really change the prospects for a team. Even more than that, big acquisitions in baseball bring something beyond hope. They bring excitement. Let me explain the difference.
Every year I “hope” the Blue Jays do well. I feel good about the hitting and I hope the rotation stays healthy. I also hope they have one, just one, decent bullpen pitcher.
Despite this hope, I’m never “excited” for the Blue Jays. Yes, we’ve had our fair share of great players in recent years, including Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells, and the immortal Roy Halladay. Shit, even Scotty Rolen and Troy Glaus were near great at times. Yet even with the Jose Bautista development, we’ve never really made “that move.” If you’re a fan of any team, you know “that move.”
It’s the one that makes you feel you can actually win a championship.
I never bought into the whole “Jays can’t compete because they are in the AL East” line. Yes, it makes things more difficult trying to compete with the Sox, Yanks, and Rays, and yes, records show that had we been in another division we likely would have made the playoffs a time or two in recent years, but… big breath… every year we see teams like the Astros, Rockies, and Marlins make the playoffs or even the World Series with subpar payrolls. Shit, even the Orioles made the playoffs this year.
The Lakers had “that move” when they acquired Shaquille O’Neal in the 1990s. The Miami Heat had “that move” twice, first with Shaq and then with LeBron James. The Broncos had “that move” when they swapped Tim “My accuracy rating on Madden should be 28” Tebow for Peyton Manning. The Yankees, well they have “that move” every couple years it seems, but even a trade like when Texas acquired Cliff Lee a couple years back made Rangers fans subsequently just know they would make the Fall Classic
This Reyes/Johnson/Buehrle trade is “that move” for the Blue Jays. In Reyes the Jays acquire arguably the best shortstop in the game who will finally provide Jose Bautista with a consistent target to drive in, in Johnson we acquire one of the best pitchers alive, and in Buehrle we get a wily veteran who has been there and won it all. His tutelage for our young staff will be invaluable over the course of the season.
What makes this “that move” even better is that we didn’t get one or even two great players, we got three – a virtual ménage a trois of jettisoned Marlins talent. Last offseason, there were rumors the Jays wanted to be big spenders in the free agent market. Seeing as how I’m a fan of overweight vegans, I really wanted the Jays to sign Prince Fielder. Dude had cool dreadlocks and would be the perfect left handed complement behind Joey Bats.
I realize now though that even if we would have signed Fielder: 1) our rotation still would have sucked, 2) our bullpen still would have sucked, 3) we still would have had no consistent leadoff hitters, and 4) we still would have had the stain known as Yunel Escobar. With this trade we have solved 3 of those problems and vaulted into legitimate contender status.
To feel your team can truly compete for a championship is the greatest feeling a sports fan can have. Alex Anthopoulos has given Jays fans that feeling and for that I am eternally grateful.
Our bullpen may still be questionable, but Sergio Santos is coming back and Alex Anthopoulos does have 5 more months to pull off another blockbuster. I couldn’t be more excited to see what will happen next.