After being pushed around by the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays since last winning the American League pennant in 2015, the homer-happy Toronto Blue Jays plan to be the neighbourhood bullies in 2022.
For Canadian baseball fans, it could be an enjoyable season.
All the tangible assets are in place, such as a lineup featuring young and talented players such as first baseman Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., shortstop Bo Bichette and a strong pitching staff bolstered by free agent acquisition Kevin Gausman, who won 12 games for San Francisco Giants in 2021 and finished sixth in Cy Young award voting.
Gausman will help to offset the loss of Robbie Ray, who won the A.L. Cy Young last year and then promptly cashed in with a huge free-agent contract with Seattle.
Gausman joins Jose Berrios, Alex Manoah and Hyun-Jin Rhu in a Jays’ rotation that’s not spectacular, but certainly solid.
Many intangibles are also lining up in favour of the Jays, particularly the fact that the team will have a post-COVID home base for the full season.
Two years ago, the Jays played their home games in Buffalo, while last year, they started the season in Dunedin, Fla., moved to Buffalo for a good chunk of the spring, and were finally allowed to play at Rogers Centre in Toronto from July 1 on.
Of course, when you’re talking about intangibles, the injury factor is always a concern, but if the Jays can avoid any serious, long-term absences by any of its starters, the 2022 season could be one to remember.
Guerrero, Jr., is coming off a campaign where he slammed 48 home runs, and was runner-up to Shohel Ohtani as most valuable player in the American League. At only 23 years of age, there is no reason to suspect he’ll hit fewer homers.
The Jays could score an astronomical number of runs this year and be one of the most entertaining teams in MLB as a result. With centerfielder George Springer finally healthy and leading off, followed by Bichette, who hits for both power (29 homers last year) and average (.298), it is conceivable that Guerrero, Jr., will often approach the plate with either Springer or Bichette, or both, already on base. With sluggers Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel and newly acquired Matt Chapman (27 homers last year with Oakland) following in the 4-5-6 positions, opposing pitchers are going to have sleepless nights before facing Toronto.
It says here that the Blue Jays will threaten the Major League Baseball record for most homers hit by one team — 307 by the 2019 Minnesota Twins — and round the bases laughing to the A.L. East Division title.
• Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune, on Bucs QB Tom Brady’s unretirement: “Brady obviously loves his kids, but after two months of seeing too much of him, Gisele told Tommy to go spend more time with much larger children.”
• NOTSportsCentre, on Twitter: “BREAKING: After watching Will Smith assault Chris Rock on live TV, the Cleveland Browns have agreed to a 7-year, $400 million deal with Will Smith to be their new hard hitting safety.”
• Speedy receiver Tyreek Hill, on his departure from Kansas City to sign with Miami: “It’s tough. But when someone comes to you with a lot of money, feelings change a bit.”
• Vancouver comedy writer Steve Burgess, on Twitter: “Might be time for the Canucks to replace their post-game song from Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’ to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.’”
• Jack Finarelli, at sportscurmudgeon.com, after Tampa Bay Bucs coach Bruce Arians quit: “Memo to TV network execs: Please take pity on your audience and resist any and all temptations to hire Bruce Arians as a colour commentator. He did that for one season, and he was as bad on the microphone as he was good on the sidelines.”
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Bruce Arians, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has retired. At least for the next 40 days.”
• Headline at theonion.com: “NFL Satisfies Outraged Fans With New Overtime Rule That Both Teams Win”
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Let’s hear it for the Seattle Kraken’s DJ, who, upon seeing a first-period fight last week, immediately spooled up the theme song to Will Smith’s ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.’”
• Nick Canepa of The San Diego Union-Tribune, on the Browns giving QB Deshaun Watson the thumbs-up despite 22 sexual-assault charges against him: “Seems Deshaun’s baggage got lost on its way to Cleveland.”
• Tim Hunter of Everett’s KRKO Radio, with a sign you’re a lousy golfer: “The people playing in front of you are wearing helmets.”
• Charle Gay of Seattle: “It’s obvious we need to add one more metric for Oscar nominees: slugging percentage.”
• Comedy writer Paul Lander, via Twitter: “Next year’s Oscars host has to be Michael Buffer!”
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by Bruce Penton