The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
1. The blue is back!: It was with no small amount of pomp and circumstance that the Toronto Blue Jays returned to being just that: Blue Jays. After eight years in the edgy black wilderness, the Jays brought a retro feel to their new (old) uniforms. Harkening back to the days of Lloyd Moseby and Ernie Whitt, Blue Jays fans across the land went bananas for the new digs. Will a return to the uniforms of the glory days mean a return to glory on the field? Of course not! They are just blue hats, be serious for a minute.
2. The silent assassin: Blue hats with (very prominent, very conspicuous) maple leaves are one thing. Having the best young GM in the game is another. Alex Anthopoulos might not have the full trophy room to deserve all the effusive praise he receives from all corners, but he is a man with a plan. A plan to make the Blue Jays better while slipping through the baseball's loopholes.
Under the Montreal native's watch, the Blue Jays stockpiled draft picks, hired reams of scouts, added minor-league affiliates (and moved one to Vancouver to strengthen the bond between Canada's only MLB team and its second-biggest city), and went after talent. Young, cheap talent coming at pennies on the dollar after many wore out its welcome in other cities.
AA and his baseball operations team operate under a shroud of secrecy, springing surprise deals on an unsuspecting baseball world. If you hear a rumor about a potential deal between your favorite team and the Blue Jays, it probably isn't going to happen. Notice a highly touted young player spending more and more time in the manager's doghouse? Be ready, he'll be a Blue Jay in a heartbeat.
3. The great Canadian hope: One such shock deal took place in December 2010, when the Blue Jays shipped former opening day starter Shaun Marcum to the Brewers for a 20-year-old kid from British Columbia named Brett Lawrie — another one of those so-called problem children.
After clashing with Brewers management and minor-league coaches, Canadian Jesus dominated at Triple-A Las Vegas in the Blue Jays minor-league system. Only a June hand injury pushed his big-league debut back to August. Lawrie burst onto the scene in style, putting on a rare offensive show for such a young player in baseball's best division. Lawrie amassed an absurd 2.7 Wins Above Replacement (from Fangraphs) in just 171 plate appearances. He hit game-winning home runs while playing with an energy level usually reserved for MMA fighters. He bounced, vibrated and electric shocked his way into the hearts of Canadians everywhere.
He's a bona fide star in the making, a Canadian kid playing for the Canadian club in a most un-Canadian way. Brash, tattooed and — if we're being honest — totally obnoxious; if you happen to be a fan of any other team. Jays fans salivate at the thought of a high intensity guy going all out while putting up video game numbers and making enemies all around the league. The Blue Jays marketing people sure don't mind, either.
4. Jose Bautista lives and breaths #beastmode: After 2010, Jose Bautista was a fluke. A blip. A Brady Anderson or a Davey Lopes — one sudden season of "unexplained" home run power with ample supplies of patience and swagger on the side.
After 2011, Jose Bautista is a superstar. He graces the front of video games, stars in promotional videos and ad campaigns, and nets All-Star votes by the truckload. Since the start of the 2010 season, Jose Bautista leads baseball with 102 home runs, 18 more than Albert "Just Park The Truck of Money Behind the Other Three Trucks Full of Money" Pujols and almost 30 more than Prince "What Am I Going to Do with all These Sacks of Diamonds" Fielder. He walks more than any other player in baseball while limiting his strikeouts. He plays right field but dabbles in third base. He's a Movie of the Week storyline wrapped around one of the best hitters in baseball. His is ours and he isn't going anywhere.
5. Brandon Morrow's stuff: Another castoff from a franchise unsure of how what to make of the diabetic ace with Base Wars stuff but middling results, Brandon Morrow is thriving within the structure of the Blue Jays system. The strikeouts come in spades and the rest might just be down to luck.
In the interests of playing good baseball, Morrow is hard at work improving his secondary offerings, trying to find the balance between unhittable and efficient. There just might be a Justin Verlander-type pitcher lurking inside. For now, who cares? We just want to see that easy cheese explode on hitters and the curveball that gets them waving.
6. Twitter: Lots of baseball players use Twitter. But few teams have wider representation on the social media network or use Twitter to its maximum potential like the Blue Jays. The personalities represented run the full gamut of professional athlete archetypes from Grown-up Fat Kid to Inspirational Quote Guy to Fight the Good Fight Against Haters Dude to Aloof/Acerbic Wit Man and Possibly Deranged Child with ADHD. As far as athlete twitter account goes, the Jays are a hugely entertaining bunch. (For athletes. You are still better off following your Nana on Pinterest.)
7. Blue Jays fans are legion: If you think there are a lot of Blue Jays players on Twitter, you should see the fans. Blame the cold weather, the fast connection speeds or the fact that Canadians just spend more time online, but the Internet is lousy with Blue Jays fans.
They (we!) start blogs and make a general nuisance of themselves online. More and more, this rabid online fan base manifests itself in huge bands of traveling spring training fans to the good people of Vancouver occupying Safeco every year, much to Seattleites dismay. In a word, we're everywhere.
8. Revenge is a dish best served cold: Alternate title: anything less than the best is a felony. I believe it was famous German philosopher Nietzsche who said "to be the man, you've got to beat the man." When the Blue Jays finally climb the mountain and return to the postseason, it can only be extra gratifying to have bested the game's true elite. There will be no finer feeling than finally edging the Yankees and Red Sox and Rays, with their wily front offices and galactic payrolls. Slaying the giant is a lot more fun than being the giant, if you ask me.
9. The OriLOLes: Some people might not envy Blue Jays fans. The idea of a lukewarm, even-Steven, mayonnaise-sandwich-on-Wonderbread perpetual 81-85 win afterthought franchise like Toronto does not appeal to all baseball fans. Orioles fans, however, would kill for one season in the Blue Jays shoes. The simple pleasure of watching a team win more games than they lose cannot be overstated. Similarly, what can be better for a baseball fan than resting secure in knowledge that the fates aligned just enough to get you out of Orioles fandom? Nothing, that's what.
No matter how dire things look in Toronto, no matter how great the distance between the Jays and the division contenders, the Orioles remain steadfastly underfoot — propping up the team from Toronto with their aggressive incompetence. There might not be a great deal of glamor in the immediate history of the Toronto Blue Jays but hey, at least we're not the Orioles.
10. Live from the centRE of the universe: Have you ever been to Toronto? It's an amazing place! Sure, the stadium leaves much to be desired, but it has a leg up on every other park in the league: The Rogers Centre is located entirely within the city limits of Toronto, Ontario. Sure, you can't tailgate but who wants to sit on sweltering asphalt when there is an entire cosmopolitan metropolis just outside the doors? And hey, 20 years without a rainout!
What are your favorite things about being a Blue Jays fan?
Previous "10 Best Things": Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants,Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates