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The season opener is an all too familiar exercise, but there's something different in the air this year. The 25 men that will take the field today in Cleveland represent a new hope for a new generation of Blue Jays fans.
Jason Stark of ESPN is very optimistic about what the future holds for the Toronto Blue Jays. Billy Ripken also thinks the future is bright for the Blue Jays. Heck, even Larry King thinks they'll win the division this year.
No longer is it just a few writers and executives on the fringe singing the praises of the Blue Jays. All across the league, people are looking to model themselves after this up-and-coming team.
The way I see it, this many people can't all be wrong. The more and more pundits that recognize the potential of the Toronto Blue Jays, then a winning formula definitely must be there.
It's not just the writers and the executives who are starting to believe in the Blue Jays again, but the fans are as well. They were ravenous to scoop up Home Opener tickets, and they were sold out mere hours after they went on sale.
Whether they wanted to or not, the Blue Jays maintained incredible top of mind awareness over the offseason. Even though they didn't land any big name free agents, they were on the tip of the tongue when it came to being linked to those players.
The new uniform unveiling in November was another way the Blue Jays cultivated interest in the club. In the days leading up to the unveiling, I don't think I've ever seen folks so rabid for something that had nothing to do with a game on the field.
And then there's the Blue Jays incredible Spring Training record. At 24-7, it was the best spring record in franchise history, not to mention the best record in both Cactus League and Grapefruit League play.
A strong Spring Training doesn't necessary mean that this success will carry over into the regular season, but I'm starting to get the sense that this is just another sign. And the signs keep adding up.
Now with the additional Wild Card spot added for this season, you could say the Blue Jays chances to make the playoffs are the best they've been since 1995.
In order for the Blue Jays to have a shot at the post-season, an inordinate amount of things are going to need to break right for them. It's not impossible for them to do it, but the odds are stacked against them.
That's just 2012, though. Despite how some General Managers employ a short-sighted strategy, the road to a dynasty is not a sprint, it's a marathon. It's a slow progression; building little by little, year by year, until a perennial contender is born.
That's how the first Blue Jays dynasty was born through Pat Gillick, and that's how Alex Anthopoulos is hoping to build the second coming of a Blue Jays dynasty.
The praise from the baseball writers, the Home Opener sell-out, the new uniforms, the Spring Training record, the new Wild Card ... I think these are all signs that the Blue Jays are almost there.
In a city like Toronto where the fans have an insatiable thirst to see a team in the playoffs, it's crucial to not only sell hope ... but to preach patience. It's important to convince fans that the organization is going about things the right way, and they have a set plan.
The plan is to win. The timetable for that is not certain, but with all the positive signs, it feels like it's on the horizon. And I truly believe people will look back to the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays season as the beginning of a new era ... a new hope.
And hope springs eternal for the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays.