Last night, the landscape shifted. The Earth moved. According to early breathless reports on Sports Talk Radio in Toronto, the shifting was seismic, the movement monumental -- naturally resulting in overdue joy in Mudville. And mirth in Muddy York.
Stuck in my car, I listened as the drama unfolded over the airwaves, as rumors first surfaced on Twitter, and then confirmations began pouring in. The Toronto Blue Jays -- Your Toronto Blue Jays, as they're oh-so-possessively known in these parts (at least when they're winning) -- had pulled off a historic 12-player deal with the Florida Marlins.
After a dreadfully disappointing 73-win campaign in 2012, wherein early season optimism was swiftly reined in by reality, and eventually altogether unsaddled by injuries, incidents and accidents, Blue Jays' General Manager Alex Anthopoulos pulled the trigger on the off-season blockbuster, sending prospects packing in return for proven players (and their hefty, proven-player salaries).
(For those keeping score at home: the Blue Jays received starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, superstar shortstop Jose Reyes, plus catcher John Buck and infielder Emilio Bonifacio, while surrendering shortstop Yunel Escobar, pitcher Henderson Alvarez, infield super-prospect Adeiny Hechavarria, catcher Jeff Mathis, along with Justin Nicolino, Jake Marisnick, and Anthony DeSclafani).
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As the evening wore on, the hype and hoopla on Sports Talk Radio in The Big Smoke was ratcheted. The deal, listeners were initially told by assorted 'insiders,' immediately rescued the floundering club and lifted the team back to relevancy in the logjam that is the American League East. A few hours later, by the time I got out of the car and separated myself from all the radio static, the talking heads were suggesting that the trade pretty much guaranteed the blue birds a shot in next year's playoffs. If not an actual berth in the World Series. If not a high-percentage shot at, you know, a... dynasty!
Not given to overreaction when it comes to their more-laughable-than-laudable sports franchises, Toronto sports fans -- guys who get giddy when their Toronto Maple Leafs stretch one of their winning streaks to two games, and who call it a moral victory when their Toronto Raptors stay close to an opponent for three quarters -- began calling in to Sports Talk Radio to share their elaborate plans for championship parade routes, and the cutting of keys to the city, to be given to anyone even remotely associated with their Toronto Blue Jays.
All heady stuff. Communal love for the blockbuster deal. Communal agreement: the Jays had fleeced Florida. Contention was imminent. Championships inevitable.
Ah, but Toronto being Toronto, all that giddiness, all that love, all that manic mirth was... short-lived.
By the time I turned on Sports Talk Radio this morning at 6 a.m., confidence in the trade had turned to caution. Mark Buehrle is getting on up in age, you know. His best days are behind him. Josh Johnson is a stud of a pitcher, but a stud with a history of being injured more often than he's healthy. Oh, and he's a free-agent (bye-bye, Blue Jays) at the end of this season so, at best, he's a stud for hire. Reyes? Hell, he's more injury-prone than Johnson. Buck and Bonifacio -- forget about 'em.
By the time I shut down Sports Talk Radio at 9 o'clock this morning, caution was starting to oddly imitate pessimism: forget contending, forget the World Series, and you can sure as hellfire forget the damn dynasties. Your Toronto Blue Jays have traded away the future!
Hopefully no one broke a leg leaping off the bandwagon.
Somewhere, dear sports fans, is this crazy place we like to call Middle Ground. Alex Anthopoulos did not trade away the future: the vast majority of Blue Jay prospects remain in the fold. Nor did he buy a World Series winner, or a dynasty-in-the-making.
It's sports. Anything can happen. Everything is a gamble. Particularly in baseball, over the marathon 162-game season, anything and everything may well happen, and often does. The Jays are now set up nicely. Not shoe-ins. Not also-rans. Just a team with a solid shot of being in the mix, of playing meaningful games next autumn.