Blue Jays are legit

Lost in the excitement of the Stanley Cup playoffs, very few sports fans, myself included, have taken notice of the good start the Toronto Blue Jays are off to in Major League Baseball’s ultra-competitive American League East.
My interest in the baseball season doesn’t usually start until some time around the all-star break.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the game, it’s just that with hockey and basketball both into their playoffs, coupled with the length of baseball’s regular season, I don’t see the need to invest a lot of time watching games in April.
What’s the point? A stellar month of April very rarely ensures a trip to the post-season.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself glued to the television Friday night for an early-season game between the Blue Jays and N.Y. Yankees.
My plan for the evening had been to watch the Montreal Canadiens play the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of their first-round series. I tuned in to watch the puck drop and was enjoying the game as it went to the first commercial break.
It was then that I began channel surfing and came across the Jays-Yankees game.
I had tuned in just in time to see Frank Catalanotto hit a two-run homer off of Yankees starter Jaret Wright in the top of the first inning—fantastic (I can’t stand the Yankees).
The Yankees represent everything that is wrong in professional sports. They overspend to acquire top talent, thereby pricing the smaller teams out of the market and ruining the competitive balance in the league.
They defended first baseman Jason Giambi after it was revealed he admitted using steroids during a grand jury hearing. And their owner is a jerk who requires all his players to be clean shaven.
Worst of all, the Yankees win. Year after year for the better part of a decade, the Yankees have found themselves in the playoff picture. And as a result, their fans are insufferable.
Just try and have a reasonable baseball discussion with a Yankee fan. It’s impossible. They have come to believe the division title is theirs by right.
In short, I was happy to see the Jays leading.
Wright settled down and got the next three batters to get out of the inning but not before I got my first look at the Jays’ top offensive acquisition of the off-season: Troy Glaus.
It’s rare that someone looks big on television but Glaus is intimidating standing in the batter’s box towering over the catcher and umpire. During his at-bat, he fouled a few pitches off that still would be flying if the stadium hadn’t gotten in the way.
As the game went to commercial break following the Jays’ half of the inning, the announcer mentioned Roy Halladay was starting and so I decided to stick around for a little longer.
Halladay is a treat to watch if you’re a casual fan but he’s absolutely amazing if you appreciate the finer points of pitching. Fastballs, off-speed pitches, movement, and location, Halladay does it all.
It is no coincidence that whatever slim chances the Jays had of making the playoffs last year evaporated the minute Halladay suffered a broken leg when he was hit by a line drive.
The half-inning I had planned to spend watching the game quickly turned into six full innings. Halladay plowed his way through one of the most offensively-gifted lineups in baseball not giving up a single run.
I couldn’t change the channel. Two runs was a pretty good lead against most teams, but the Yankees can score runs in the blink of an eye.
In the top of the seventh, the Jays got the insurance runs they were looking for in the form of a Shea Hillenbrand three-run homer. I was loving it.
The Yankees responded with two runs in their half of the inning—just to make me nervous about a comeback. But Hillenbrand homered again in the top of the ninth before Benjie Molina scored on an Aaron Hill sacrifice fly.
It took about three pitches from new closer B.J. Ryan, who had trotted in from the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth, for me to realize finishing games wasn’t going to be a problem for the Jays this season.
April is awfully early in the season to get excited about a baseball team but after the game, I found myself pulling up the Jays’ schedule online to see when they’d be on television next.
This team has the look of a contender—and I don’t want to miss the action.

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