Lord knows I tried to be tactful. I wanted Cito Gaston to tell Toronto sports fans that this was the summer to chill and not take the things that used to happen in Toronto - like winning - too seriously.
But the Toronto Blue Jays' manager wouldn't bite, and said only: "I think the fans are probably in for a good summer of baseball." Then he had the audacity to suggest the underlying message of my question was that I thought his team wasn't going to win too many games.
The truth is, not many people in baseball expect much from the Blue Jays, certainly not this 5-1 start after another come-from-behind win yesterday afternoon. Toronto had a 5-2, series-sweeping victory over the Baltimore Orioles delivered on back-to-back, two-out home runs in the eighth inning by Jose Bautista and Alex Gonzalez on the heels of a Miguel Tejada error and my god if this doesn't look like last April all over again, no?
Maybe it's old age. I hit 50 last month. But for several reasons, I'm kind of keen about 2010 ahead of tonight's home opener against the Chicago White Sox. I can give you five reasons:
How much fun will it be to see a Toronto team that cannot be accused of underachieving? Think about it. Even the Maple Leafs were worse this year than anybody thought they'd be. You can't say that about the Blue Jays. Even the most diehard optimists don't see this group finishing third in the American League East. You can't trade draft picks in baseball, so general manager Alex Anthopoulos won't go all Phil Kessel this year, and the draft is structured so that there's no point in talking any nonsense about "tanking." The Blue Jays did nothing this winter that even hinted at making the playoffs.
There will be no personnel drama or distraction, no Mats Sundin or Chris Bosh. I mean, J.P. Ricciardi isn't even around to poke sticks in the media's cage and Roy Halladay's gone. Turn the page, people, because Halladay's comments since joining the Philadelphia Phillies - nice to be on a team that expects to win, etc., etc. - suggest he's done so.
The manager is gone after this season, so there's no point in heckling or booing Gaston or even really kvetching about Travis Snider's place in the batting order. It's pointless. Gaston's not demonstrably out of his depth like the Raptors' Jay Triano or being exposed like the Maple Leafs' Ron Wilson. Neither will he throw a player under the bus like Wilson. (Not even Lyle Overbay.) People who don't like Gaston's managing didn't like it in 1992 and 1993, either. There are people who will prevent him from shredding Snider's psyche or Shaun Marcum's arm. There's nothing new here, folks. Nothing to see, so move along.
Adam Lind and Aaron Hill. Not only are they cornerstone players, they're the best bargains in Toronto sports. Lind just signed a contract that guarantees him $18-million (all currency U.S.) over four years and gives the Blue Jays three consecutive club options for 2014-2016 at a cost of $22.5-million. No wonder the Major League Baseball Players Association ripped into his agent, John Courtright. A guy like Lind could break the bank in salary arbitration and a rising tide raises all boats. The Blue Jays can decide before next season to exercise a three-year option on Hill that would pay him $30-million over three years. That's so pro-club that my guess is if Hill has any kind of year, the Blue Jays rip up the deal and sign him to a new contract.
Vernon Wells's contract is what it is: brutal, onerous and, as Anthopoulos says, not preventing the Blue Jays from doing anything this season. And wouldn't you know, there was a Wells sighting in a recent trade rumour on Fox Sports. It said Wells would consider waiving his no-trade clause if not the $63-million he'd be owed by exercising an escape clause after this season, which makes things kind of moot because Mr. and Mrs. Wells didn't raise any idiots. But let's be honest. Booing Wells or making life unbearable isn't going to make him any more likely to leave. The only way he's out of here is if he has a strong year and plays up his trade value. Booing Wells is only going to make a long year longer. Besides, Alex Rios is here for four days. So vent thusly if you must. Oh yeah, happy opening day.