Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The wind chill is -20 and there's a blizzard outside, but mark my words: spring is on the way. Pitchers and catchers report this week and Opening Day is just six weeks away. As I have done every year for the last 12, I will try and figure just how it is that the Jays can make the playoffs. The excuses have run thin in Toronto in recent years as we've realized that only a handful of teams have gone longer than we have without a playoff appearance. The Senators-Expos (1981), Brewers (1982), Royals (1985) and Pirates (1992) are the only teams with streaks longer than the Jays, who last made the playoffs in 1993. I'm glad that the Royals' streak is where it is because they knocked off the Jays in the 1985 ALCS.

It's hard to see that streak changing this year. The Jays have won 80 or more games in 8 of their last 10 seasons, but have also finished 3rd in 8 of the last 10 years. If they played in a different division, they would have gone to the playoffs at least once, and maybe even won it all given the vagaries of a playoff system. As it is, their road to the playoffs goes through the toughest division in baseball. The good news is that this team, at its best, is as good as any in the league. The forecast, therefore, is the same as always: the Jays can make it, but with some luck. The Cubs will be beginning their 100th season since their last World Series, the Jays their 15th. There's always hope and failing that, there's sunshine and seventh-inning pitching changes.

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