10 Reasons to Start Watching the Blue Jays
1. They are a First-Place team.
So often during the early half of this decade, Jays fans bemoaned the team's geographical plight. "If we were in any other division, one where we didn't have to contend with the Yankees or Red Sox, we'd be a playoff team". Then last year, the unthinkable happened to our perpetual third-place team. Tampa beat out both the Yanks and the Sox and took the division. The season started with the Jays tabbed to be a fourth-place club at best. The team currently sits in first place. Also, the team has won all five of its series thus far in 2009. No team has done that in the majors since the Giants, in 2003 (when they won their first 7 series).
2. Recession Busters
Unlike the Leafs, you can get into the game for under $10... sometimes as little as $5. Unlike TFC, there are actually tickets to be had on most game days. And unlike both, you can actually get pretty decent seats.
There are even special nights when you can get in for a fiver, get dollar hot dogs (as many as you want!) and even cheap souvenirs.
3. The Dome Doesn't Suck (at least not as much as it once did)...
OK, yeah, we all miss the allure of an old-time ballpark, but at least with the Dome you know you're going to see a game. The roof will be open if it's warm enough and there's no call for rain. And they've been slowly prettying up the joint with video screens and the like to make it less of a concrete cave.
They've also upgraded the food options with SkySnacks being a relic of our childhood traumas and having brought in food that people would actually want to eat at affordable prices. There's a marketplace in Right Field on the 100 Level that does an excellent burger and a pulled pork sandwich, the lemonade is a tasty non-beer alternative (if you don't feel like dropping $9 a shot) and the kosher dog is still the best food in the joint.
4. The Young Folks
The Jays we've seen falter over the last few years have been based largely around the three-headed PR monster of Vernon Wells, Alex Rios and Roy Halladay. For the better part of the season, Rios and Wells have been average (at best) but a new wave of future all-stars like Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Travis Snider have been hitting the cover off the ball. Add in a revamped supporting cast with a healthy Lyle Overbay and Scott Rolen, Kevin Millar and Jose Bautista and this year's Jays are doing something different from the teams of the past few years... hitting.
5. That's it, Goodnight!
The Jays scored their third walk-off victory on Wednesday night. To put it into perspective, it took them until mid-July of last year to score that many and we're not even a month into the season. This team knows how to win and should you be unfortunate enough for them to stumble during the game, the odds are good that they'll give you a good reason to stick around til the 9th inning.
6. Who's That on the Mound?
It doesn't seem to matter... The Jays have possibly the most unbelievable pitching staff in the majors. Fans have seen the last couple years that our bullpen is top notch, but we'd also been fortunate enough to have starters like Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett, Shawn Marcum and Dustin McGowan 4 out of every 5 games.
The current 5-man starting rotation (after Halladay) had a combined 17 starts last year. AJ took up disappointing Yankees fans, Marcum and McGowan are on long-term injured leave and bright lights Jesse Litsch and Ricky Romero as well as closer BJ Ryan have also gone down to injuries already this month. The Jays staff is still top-3 in most of the American League's major pitching categories
7. Our Man, Vern
Don't look now, but Vernon Wells is quietly becoming one of the best Blue Jays ever. While many (myself included) have shuddered at his ridiculous contract, he just moved into 4th on the Jays' all-time home run list. If Wells hits 24 more this year (he's on pace for 25 more, and has admittedly started slow) he'll pass both George Bell and Joe Carter on the club's all-time list.
8. The Boys are Back in Town
The club has made a point in the last couple years of not only recognizing the past it has physically brought it back to the fans. Flashback Fridays offer up past Jays (both great and forgettable) and makes them readily accessible to the fans for autographs and handshakes. Last week's Kelly Gruber signing went almost a half-hour longer than it was scheduled and the roster for the rest of the season includes Hall of Famers (Paul Molitor), fan favourites (Tom Henke) and on two separate weekends, almost the entire teams from 1989 and 1992/93 respectively.
9. The Suits Have Left the Building
Hey, remember when the Jays won all the time and everyone wanted to go to the game, but no one could get good seats because all those dudes in suits would sit there on their cell phones over the dugout for the entire game? Well, those guys have gone to the Leafs games now and it has left behind some very pleasant and knowledgeable baseball fans that this city doesn't get enough credit for.
Talking to strangers and eavesdropping on conversations about teams past and players current is acceptable and encouraged and makes the game that much more pleasant to watch. The shortage of casual fans makes the game much quieter than one at, say, Fenway, but if the fans ever came back en masse, the city would remember that back in the early 90s, it wasn't the Jays that they loved, it was baseball itself.
10. What Else are you Watching?
Face it, the first round of the playoffs is winding down and most of you are probably out of your hockey pool by now. The Leafs and Raptors both missed the playoffs, the Argos don't start up til summer and TFC has yet to field a squad that can put together a good season.
I can't say this enough, but the Jays are freaking winning. We should all take advantage of that luxury, because we don't often get it in this town.
Written by guest contributor Shane McNeil.
Photo by sjgardiner.
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