AL East Foes a Reason to Watch the Jays This Year

Title: AL East Foes a Reason to Watch the Jays This Year
Date: March 10, 2009
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: Without much hope for the 2009 Blue Jays, I argued that any baseball is still worth watching and enjoying.  72 games against elite competition should provide more than enough reason to watch, if you need more than the usual “die-hard mentality” to stay interested for 162 games.

Look, cheering for a losing team sucks. Especially when they admit to you in advance that they might suck. However, baseball is far too great a game to spend the season bitter at your favorite squad.

Jays fans, of course, I’m talking to you.

Somehow though, when you cheer for a losing team, playing in the AL East can actually be a blessing. Normally, being overmatched in the AL East is unfortunate – I’ll reiterate that the Jays have the most wins over the past three years of any team that didn’t make the playoffs. Trying to compete on a medium-market budget in a major-market division makes being a playoff team extremely difficult. You’ve heard all this before, it’s the general Blue Jay Way to use the Yankees and Red Sox as a crutch for missing expectations.

But seriously, this year being in this division could be a blessing for fans. We’re probably not cheering for a playoff team, but we do get to watch AL East teams all year. In fact, the Jays play other AL East teams a combined 72 times.

So today, I present to you 72 reasons watching the Jays will still be enjoyable in 2009. Actually, there’s no way I’m giving you 72 reasons, but here are some reasons to look forward to 18 match-ups against each of the usual AL East rivals.
 More after the jump!
Toronto Blue Jays
There are actually still a lot of reasons to watch the Jays this year. Foremost, they probably won’t be as bad as people (myself included) are making it seem. Playing .500 ball is still a realistic goal for this squad, and anything north of 85 wins would be considered a major achievement. The prospect of several young pitchers filling in rotation slots is reason to watch every 5th day, and Roy Halladay is reason enough to watch whenever he takes the mound, too. Additionally, the offense should provide more thrills than last year, with healthy corner infielders, a full season of Vernon Wells, the continued emergence of Lind and Rios, and the rookie season of Travis Snider. Over a 162 game season, sometimes you have to search for reasons to watch, but the Jays won’t have any fewer reasons than years past.

Baltimore Orioles
Foremost, Baltimore presents the Jays best chance to finish outside of the AL East cellar. The Jays and Orioles battled for 3rd in the division for quite a while, but now the battle appears to be for 4th. The Orioles have a pretty thin pitching staff and a mediocre bullpen, so the Jays should realistically finish better than the Os. The Orioles offense, however, provides a serious threat and several reasons to watch Jays/Orioles match-ups. Nick Markaikas is one of the most likable emerging stars in the American League, Adam Jones has the potential to be a top tier outfielder, and Brian Roberts is always entertaining.

Oh, and they’ll more than likely be starting Matt Wieters at catcher all year. Who is Matt Wieters? Well, he’s the consensus #1 prospect in baseball, the best hitting catcher since…well, ever, apparently, a strong defensive player, and Baseball Prospectus’ #1 catcher for 2009 based on their PECOTA formulas. The Orioles might choose to keep him in the minors until June to prevent him from being arbitration eligible in two seasons as a super-two, but at some point in 2009 he’ll emerge as This Year’s Evan Longoria, so stay tuned.

Tampa Bay Rays
They lost Eric Hinske, and that hurts a lot. Still, this was the 2009 bandwagon team, a team the whole baseball world outside of Philadelphia rode all the way to the World Series. The talent is pretty much the same, laced with young studs like Scott Kazmir, David Price, James Shields, BJ Upton, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, and way more, and they have a very enjoyable team dynamic. Additionally, it’s fun to cheer for an underdog against the powerhouse New York and Boston clubs (until you realize they’re spending less money than the Jays and winning more games). I doubt they’ll be quite as incredible as the 2009 version, solely because the division got better while they’re relying on their young players to make the jump (again), but they’re a safe Bandwagon 2.0 pick this year.

New York Yankees
Love them or hate them, they’re the most star-studded team in the league. If you can’t enjoy watching them just to see the talent they trot out every day, there are a few other reasons to tune in, including: watching Sabathia grow larger by the start; rooting against A.J.Burnett or hoping he falls on the DL (this isn’t something I’ll do, I love the guy, but I’m sure some of you will); cheering against A-Rod (again, that aint me, but go nuts with the A-Roid chants); laughing at the payroll; laughing at Hank Steinbrenner trying to be his father and slowly killing Brian Cashman; and finally, getting to know the division champs.

Boston Red Sox
They’ve become just as easy to hate as the Yankees in recent years, and it’s not just because of Jimmy Fallon. They’re basically the trendy version of the Yankees – New York overpays for high-priced talent that does or doesn’t work out, while the Sox grow their own high-priced talent and, well, it seems to be working out. People hate the Yanks for spending so much money and winning…people hate the Red Sox for doing things a better way but being so smug about it and forcing it down everyone’s throats…and then overpaying their own talent. Still, they have a lot of really good players, and they’re your best bet if you’d rather not see the Yanks take the division.

Youkilis, Pedroia, and Ellsbury have been shvoed down our throats, sure, but they’re also fantastic players to watch. Beckett and Dicey are the best 1-2 you can find when healthy. And finally, my boy J.D. Drew, the owner of The 14 Million Dollar Grand Slam and the owner of J.D. Drew’s Back, is the man.

So come on, the Jays won’t be that bad. if they are, there are still reasons to watch – like the talent-rich teams the Jays have to face over and over and over and over…

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