In some ways, the Toronto Blue Jays have been exactly what the Florida/Miami Marlins are not. You know, that "The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference" thing.
The Marlins managed the love and hate parts in just a few months, which is what happens when an organization has not the slightest idea who – or what – it is. Emotion is emotion, I guess – joy/despair, welcome to the funhouse/outhouse. But that's their little place in the world.
For the common man, the Blue Jays have spent the last generation in that gray – or grey – area between sort of relevant and mostly uninteresting. They haven't won enough to garner attention, and they haven't lost enough to do anything but clear out their ballpark. Generally, if they haven't finished third in the AL East, they've finished fourth. A great year is second (and yet not second enough for a playoff game) and an awful year is fifth (though not fifth enough to lose 100).
There's little shame in third place in the East. There's also no glory, which, for those 19 years, is exactly what the Jays had coming.
That brings us to today, with elbow joints being checked and blood being drawn from the 12 men involved in Tuesday's trade between the four-alarm Marlins and the there's-nothing-to-see-here Blue Jays. Assuming everyone checks out in his physical and the commissioner's offense can stand the stench long enough to approve the transaction, the Blue Jays should have themselves a legitimate chance at real October baseball for the first time since the early days of Huck Flener.
Presumably, they'll need a field manager.
But, first things first. On the occasion of the Marlins razing their franchise, ordering in prospects and preparing to trade them when their arbitration years arrive, the Jays became contenders. In what could be an off year in the East – the New York Yankees have a somewhat real budget, the Boston Red Sox are rebuilding, the Baltimore Orioles are good but not a juggernaut, the Tampa Bay Rays have decisions to make – the Jays have become contenders.
Wait around long enough, run through some managers, let the young and industrious general manager grow into his job, spend a little money, spend a lot of prospects, and sometimes the situations align. Even better, when the time is right, force the situations to align. After three years on the job, Alex Anthopoulos has reached – really reached. He has risked some of the club's future and some of the owner's comfort. He likely has risked his adherence to the organizational plan, assuming the long-term plan wasn't to build a sturdy farm system in the hopes the Marlins went belly up. Or perhaps he simply discovered tomorrow's plan all in one place, that being south Florida.
Either way, the Jays are better because the climate was right and their management was prepared. At a significant cost of about $175 million in contracts and seven players – five of which figured in the team's long-term plans – the Blue Jays are richer on the mound with Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
Another season removed from his shoulder issues, Johnson, 28, is more likely to be the pitcher who was 26-11 and averaged nearly 200 innings in 2010-11. Buehrle is an American League guy at heart who won't be bowed in the East. An already reasonable offense adds Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio to an offense of Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and, presumably, a full season out of Jose Bautista.
They still need another starter, or more from Ricky Romero and J.A. Happ. They still need more out of their bullpen. They still need to show up healthy and stay healthy. They still need, like we said, a manager.
But the Blue Jays got better, significantly better, at a very good time to get better. Maybe they'll be good enough to win. Either way, you can't be indifferent about them anymore.
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