The more things change, the more they stay the same. It was just short of one year ago that I used the 35th Street Review to introduce the good people of Chicago to a couple very similar baseball teams. One was struggling, one was flying high. One year later, the eerie similarities remain. With one key difference. . .
Today the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club have the best record of all teams that do not benefit from facing Washington Nationals pitching. The Toronto Blue Jays, either picked to finish fourth with panache in a tough division or floundering to finish fifth behind a much-hyped youth movement, are in first place in the American League East. They have one of the best offenses in baseball, hitting home runs at a rate unseen since a regrettable time around the turn of the century. They, like your White Sox, are burning the candle at both ends so to speak; hoping for big contributions from kids while praying some on the wrong side of 30 can successfully fight the cruel march of time 162 more times.
This is new and rarefied air for the Blue Jays. First place? The vaunted divisional opponents all stumbled out of the block by way of injuries or the righteous breath of God Himself while the Jays picked on Central and West division foes, winning each of their first 5 series of the season. The Blue Jays, like the 2008 Central division champion White Sox, are spending time ahead of the pack. Getting used to the view, growing accustomed to the leg room. Starting to believe? Hard to say. Injuries and statistical regression will have their say before long. The Jays can only hope their streaky guys string together enough streaks and their maligned guys can shut it all out and do their thing.
So what can we expect this weekend? Runs, and lots of them. The fourth-place-finishing Toronto Blue Jays took 7 of 8 games from the first place Chicago White Sox last year by shutting down the bats (2.5 runs per game) of the mighty South Siders. The patchwork Toronto rotation couldn’t possibly do it again, not before the incomparable Roy Halladay takes the hill in what can only feel like a grim certainty to the opposition.
One last question: how did an early season series between to supposed also-rans turn into the battle of two first place clubs?? I don’t know how, but I know enough to enjoy it. If the Jays keep their momentum and follow the lead of last year’s Sox to a division crown maybe this series won’t amount to much. June 1st could just as easily arrive with the Jays hovering around .500, so I’ll make sure to turn every first place showdown into An Important Series. A fun one at the very least.
Drew aka Lloyd the Barber Moseby runs the show for the magnificent Ghostrunner on First and is also the weekend editor for Walkoff Walk. He currently lives in Toronto, which seems to be working out alright for him.