This was supposed to be the year the Toronto Blue Jays took over the local sports landscape. This past winter, the Blue Jays finally flexed the financial might afforded by their owner, telecom giant Rogers Communications. They cashed in a few chips from one of the game’s better farm systems, and soon enough, just about everyone who makes predictions about baseball (including me) foresaw a season that would end with the Blue Jays in the playoffs, their feet sore from having kicked so much ass and their notebooks full from having taken so many names.
The context made it even better — the Yankees and Red Sox, the two teams that had dominated the AL East standings seemingly forever, were set to have down years at the same time for the first time since, well, the last time the Blue Jays made the playoffs.
And on a local level, the NHL lockout meant that hockey might not be on the sports page when the season kicked off, and even if it did, the Maple Leafs were on a famous run of futility, one that had Canadian sportswriters flipping through their dictionaries to see if “moribund” is spelled with an extra “u” in the Commonwealth of Nations.
And yet here we are: The Red Sox and Yankees lead the division, and the Maple Leafs are not only back, but in the playoffs for the first time since Nazem Kadri was in middle school.
The Blue Jays, once again, are in last place, 8½ games behind division-leading Boston, eight games under .500 with playoff odds in the single digits.
The Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins pulled off a 12-player trade, one that's being hailed as a gigantic upgrade for the Jays and the latest fire sale for a Marlins team with a long history of them. All of which overlooks one critical takeaway from this blockbuster for the ages: Jeffrey Loria is a genius.
In dealing Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, and $4 million to the Jays for Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Jeff Mathis, the Marlins shed nearly $160 million in payroll. They're now committed to only eight players for next season — Ricky Nolasco, Greg Dobbs, Mathis, and Escobar, major league contracts for recently arrived prospects Jacob Turner, Zack Cox, and Hechavarria, and $4 million for Heath Bell to play in Arizona. For 2014, they owe money to only two players, Mathis and Bell.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Mariners icon Ichiro Suzuki was traded to the Yankees hours before the two teams played in Seattle, a game the Yankees won 4-1 as Ichiro went 1-4 with a stolen base. I'm not really supposed to editorialize in this space, but I think it's fair to say that the trade is the worst thing to happen to Seattle sports fans since Starbucks hero Howard Schultz was forced to courageously move the Supersonics to Oklahoma after it became clear that the city didn't love them enough.