As we approach the end of 2013, there is something strange and uncomfortable in the air amongst Blue Jays fans.
There’s always your garden variety off-season angst, but this doesn’t feel quite like that. There are some fans who are locked into the more direct mindset that the Jays need to just “do something” to demonstrate signs of life in the organization, but those types emerge almost every off-season, regardless.
But with a growing contingent of the fan base, the promise from last off-season’s binge and the bitter disappointment from the awful season that ensued has resulted in something resembling an existential crisis.
Certainly, fans would like to see the team add a starting pitcher, maybe two, and possibly a major-league calibre second baseman — if such an animal actually exists. But the uneasy dread that has settled upon Jays fans like a fog after two terrible season leads to a shuddersome thought.
Does it even matter what the Blue Jays do to improve the team?
It’s hard to imagine the team embarking on a second consecutive all-in push, and if the results of last year’s acquisition of proven veterans ended with the dullest of thuds, how can we get excited about Ervin Santana, Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez? Or for that matter, Masahiro Tanaka?
If adding one of the most dynamic offensive shortstops of our era, a reigning Cy Young winner, a former ERA champ, and the previous year’s All-Star MVP is essentially a meaningless exercise in improving over the awful results of an injury-riddled 2012, how excited are we supposed to get over the signing of sub-ace-level pitchers to premium contracts?
Is it even possible to conceive of the deal that would spark enough excitement to pull us out of our malaise?
What if we’ve become too numb to engage in the sort of wishcasting that keeps hope alive through the winter, and drives us as fans to buy in to the coming season’s squad, both literally and in spirit.
The easy outlet to unleash these feelings of nihilistic frustration is to declare a series of grievances with the front office. But even that seems less than satisfying to all but the most braggartly windbags, whose superhuman hindsight has yet to fail them in affirming their unbroken streak of being smarter than the Jays’ brain trust and everyone who isn’t calling for their immediate deposing.
Outside of that small minority of predictable wiseacres, talk of Alex Anthopoulos’ uncertain future as the GM — a discussion that would have been unthinkable 18 months ago — takes on a strangely fatalistic tone. Fans might be loathe to place the blame on AA, but if the Jays’ 2014 campaign ends in a fourth- or fifth-place finish in the AL East, how much more latitude can you imagine him receiving?
As the last pages of the calendar are torn off of this year, it’s hard to even fathom the excitement and broad enthusiasm for baseball in Toronto that was in the air twelve months ago.
If there’s an insight to be drawn from the way in which the Jays’ annus horribilis affected the team’s supporters, it’s that optimism has its limits. It might not be finite, but once it has been eroded to this degree, it will take something extraordinary to replenish those ephemeral positive vibes that become material in the butts in seats and eyes and ears drawn to the game.
It’s going to take winning. Really winning. Now. In 2014.
If only that was an easy feat to achieve.