I’ve been a fan of Toronto sports teams my entire life (a modest 31 years) and to say it has been rough going, would be to make an understatement. Living through some of the Harold Ballard years in Hockey, the Isiah Thomas Years in Raptorland followed by the Vince Carter marriage and divorce has been a roller coaster ride to say the least.
And then there are the Blue Jays. They gave us the only major championship this city has seen in the last 20 years minus a grey Cup here or there. Joe Carter’s blast to left field was the last moment in Toronto Sports we claimed the title of champion.
This isn’t to say things haven’t been interesting since then. The Leafs had some good years with Pat Burns and Doug Gilmour. The Raptors won the Atlantic Division in Bryan Colangelo’s first year as GM and Toronto FC was born a few years ago adding another franchise to the city.
But where are the banners? The championships? The parades?
This ain’t New York City folks.
Being a Toronto Sports fan has been an abusive relationship few of us are willing to leave. We cheer the Leafs every year regardless of their free agent acquisitions. Jeff Finger? Not exactly cover of the Wheaties box material. Tim Connelly? It’s gonna be a long year, isn’t it?
But the stands are full at the ACC every year, lining the pockets of MLSE and the Teachers Pension Plan.
The Raptors brought in Leandro Barbosa last year as their high-priced acquisition and Colangelo continues to force feed the city Andrea Bargnani and his petition against rebounding.
Yet the Raptors have solid attendance numbers on the regular.
Then there are the Blue Jays. The sad, lowly Blue Jays. I can’t get a friend to come and sit with me at the Skydome (I will never call it Rogers Centre no matter how many months of free cable they offer me). I buy tickets and have to beg people to come with me.
It’s been this way since 1994 when the MLB was the first major league to cancel the remainder of their season and post season. No winner was crowned.
The fans have yet to come back in Toronto.
In 1993 the Blue Jays won the World Series in the most dramatic fashion you can win a game and two years later they couldn’t get people to the ballpark.
It’s been a rough go for the Toronto Sports fan, but hope seems to be close.
All three of the major franchises seem to be building things from the ground up and creating a swell of optimism around their teams.
The Blue Jays are leading the way with young exciting players like Jose Bautista, Ricky Romero, Adam Lind, Brandon Morrow and the new guy Brett Lawrie. With the recent acquisition of Colby Rasmus the Blue Jays appear to be a team on the rise.
Like a good investment it might be worth it to start following the Blue Jays again. The sky appears to be the limit for this young franchise and the last month of the season could actually provide something the fans in this town have been craving for a long time.
Alex Anthopolous has seemingly inspired the other GM’s in this city to do something they have never done. Build from the bottom up.
It worked for Pat Gillick back when he was in charge of the Jays and I think his induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame should tell you how his plan went.
It isn’t about acquiring the biggest name free agent. Trust me, New York will regret the Brad Richards signing this past summer. They will regret it big time. Moves like these are quick fixes and won’t get you very far. Today’s 10 year contract is next years albatross you can’t get rid of.
It isn’t bout appeasing fans needs to be immediately gratified. Successful teams that win for many years don’t do that.
They build from the bottom and then use their youthful assets to add pieces as the team gets realistically closer to contention.
Brian Burke seems to understand this. His acquisition of Cody Franson was an inspired choice. So is his reliance on young players like Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri and James Reimer.
I just hope he doesn’t let the noisy media get to him. He dodged a bullet in Brad Richards. He should keep looking to college players like Tyler Bozak and Brayden Irwin.
For the first time in I don’t even know how long, the Maple leafs are building from close to the ground. We still haven’t seen a top three draft pick, but “Burkie” seems to have a battle plan.
The Toronto Raptors let Chris Bosh go last summer and shed themselves of a plug. He was blocking the team from finally accepting that they needed to rebuild. Quickly Colangelo has added youth locking up Amir Johnson and Demar Derozan. He drafted the talented big man Ed Davis and made, possibly, the best pick of the entire entry draft in Jonas Valanciunas who is lighting up international box scores and twitter feeds across the globe.
Colangelo now has a number of good young players under contract and some capspace coming up in the next year or two.
Suddenly the sky is the limit.
All three GM’s of Toronto’s three largest sports teams are building their teams with smart acquisitions and youth. Lots and lots of youth.
Toronto might not be hoisting a large trophy this year or next, but they will entertain the fans with the hope of doing so in the very near future.
It is true that Brett Lawrie could fall flat on his face like Eddie Zosky. Jonas Valanciunas could be the next Alex Radojevic (Who?) and James Reimer could be the next Peter Ing.
But isn’t it nice to have some hope?
For me, I finally have the hope that I might be able to get someone to take that extra Jays ticket I have.
The Zan Tabak Herald