108: Major changes to your “Blue Jays Experience” in 2016

EXPECT TO SEE A LOT MORE OF MICHAEL SAUNDERS IN 2016. SECTION 108 ALSO BREAKS DOWN SOME OF THE OTHER (GOOD AND BAD) CHANGES JAYS FANS WILL HAVE TO FACE THIS SEASON. (PHOTO: JOHN LOTT/NATIONAL POST)

EXPECT TO SEE A LOT MORE OF MICHAEL SAUNDERS IN 2016. SECTION 108 ALSO BREAKS DOWN SOME OF THE OTHER (GOOD AND BAD) CHANGES JAYS FANS WILL HAVE TO FACE THIS SEASON. (PHOTO: JOHN LOTT/NATIONAL POST)

By Tyler King
Canadian Baseball Network

OK. Let me just get this one out of the way ... David Price is NOT coming back!

‘You good? Alright, let’s move on.

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If you, like many other fans, banished yourself from baseball after the heartbreak that was Game 6 of the ALCS, then I have two things to say:

1. I know your pain. 2. Welcome back.

But while you’ve been busy pretending to care about the Maple Leafs, alot has happened in Blue Jays land. So in order to get you up to speed, here are seven changes Jays fans will have to get used to this season:


THE BROADCAST

1. 4K TV:

Rogers recently announced that they will be broadcasting all 81 Blue Jays home games in 4K.

Hooray ...

If you don’t know what 4K means, don’t worry. I’m convinced nobody does. It obviously has something to do with “better picture” or “ultra-high def”; however I ask, what the hell was wrong with what we had?

Furthermore, this news will only matter to you if you actually own a 4K TV. Personally, I have absolutely no clue what kind of TV I own, but I can tell you that since reading about this 4K business I have become awfully self-conscious about it.

If you, however, do own of those voodoo 4K TV sets, along with a Netflix subscription, then you’ve probably already been exposed to it’s high-definition glory (almost all Netflix Original Series are streamed in 4K).

If you’re not one of the lucky few but still curious, I’ve sifted through pages of internet research and created this dramatization to better illustrate the 4K experience:

Normal TV

4K TV

Note: For anybody whose childhood was deprived of the GameBoy classic “Ken Griffrey Jr.’s Slugfest” please know that this dramatization was, in fact, a joke.

2. More (American Network) coverage: 

No matter how hard they tried last season, American networks such as ESPN (and the MLB more broadly) could not avoid discussing the Toronto Blue Jays. 

First and foremost, it helped that the team was actually good. It also helped that the Jays had a potential MVP candidate right from day one in Josh Donaldson. 

And when the Jays made the playoffs for the first time in two decades, our friends south of the border had no choice but to relent. 

The ratings don’t lie - the Jays popularity is growing. Five of the top 10 most-watched sporting events in Canada last year were Blue Jays playoff games, which were carried by Sportsnet but produced and broadcast by select American Networks.

The growth in overall exposure will likely continue into 2016, as the Jays first game of the season has already been bumped to ESPN’s Opening Day broadcast. Originally scheduled for April 4th (a Monday) the Jays season opener will now be played a day earlier, as part of ESPN’s Sunday triple-header.

I have to say, this is a great relief for me. Last year’s opener against the Yankees was also on a Monday and I remember essentially calling in dead to work the next day. Although as I write this I’m realizing that Sunday also precedes a workday. So, damn.

(This would have been a good place to also talk about Toronto’s expanding image as a truly global destination, but I promised myself a long time ago that I’d never willingly talk about Drake in an article, no matter how pertinent the subject matter.)


THE STADIUM

3. Dirt-Infield track:

No I do not get to triumphantly announce “real GRASS” just yet, but it does seems as if Blue Jays ownership is finally trying to bring their stadium into this century. The announcement that they will be inserting a dirt track between the base paths this season is a good start (they are the last team in the MLB to do so).

To be fair to ownership - something I must do begrudgingly for reasons somewhat unknown - this project will not be an easy transition, especially from an economic standpoint. By some reports they will have to remove 12 inches of concrete all around the infield, so I suppose the suits deserve one or two (but certainly not three) pats on their backs.

Now if only they’d focus on the real issues ... Like the ludicrous beer prices.

4. Ticket Prices:

The first law of economics says, “Whenever a team has a breakout season, the fans doth pay more. No matter how much they suffered previous.”

Almost immediately after the Jays were eliminated from the playoffs last year, ownership announced that ticket prices would be raised by 10%. Many fans felt that this was unfair, that somehow prices should be lowered to reward their 22 years of loyalty. The thing is, this will actually be the second consecutive season that prices have increased (they went up between 10% and 40% last year). 

Hey, if you want a competitive team somebody has to pay for it. Even the infamous Moneyball only worked for a year.

Now if you were one of those fans shaking your digital fist on the comment boards after this announcement, I ask you to consider the ticket prices of the other major sports teams within the city of Toronto. Do you now feel a cool calm immediately descending over you? You should.

To be honest, the 10% increase that was reported is actually slightly lower than many rational people expected. As a comparison, in 2014 the Kansas City Royals won the American League Pennant and claimed their first postseason birth in 29 years. Their ticket prices spiked by 20% the following year.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, it could be worse. 


THE TEAM

5. No Munenori Kawasaki: 

Known more for his clubhouse antics than his on-field play, the guy whose claim to fame is the phrase “Bush Party” signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs this off-season.

I really don’t really know what else to say here ... I’m not going to lose any sleep over this.

6. The Left fielder:

Bad news first: Ben Revere, aka Mighty Mouse aka the sparkplug aka 8-Pack, is gone. He was dealt to the Washington Nationals in exchange for reliever Drew Storen. 

After being acquired at the 2015 Trade Deadline, Revere had become a reliable bat at the top of the order (although, I still contend that his OBP left something to be desired, and can quite easily be replaced).

The good news: the Jays new left fielder will likely be a Canadian. Barring anything totally unforeseen, the starting job will pass to the capable hands of Michael Saunders (Victoria, BC) or Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, ON). 

If you’re a betting man, the safe choice seems to be Saunders. Even the former GM Alex Anthopoulos (remember him?) had mentioned that a healthy Saunders would be his left fielder, even with Revere still on the team.

However, after showing just how big of an asset his speed was in the postseason, Pompey does appear to be a more classic leadoff-type hitter. 

It’s a battle worth watching come Spring Training.

7. The rotation:

No Mark Buehrle. No David Price. No ... body knows what on earth happened to Drew Hutchison.

Instead, fans get a Blue Jays returnee by the name of J.A. Happ. Ah, the poor guy.

Having acquired Happ at about the same time fans began to realize the team wasn’t going to resign David Price, he unfairly received a good chunk of that backlash.

Happ is not David Price. Hell no. But he isn’t bad either. He actually had an incredible second half to 2015 with the Pittsburgh Pirates (going 7-2 and posting a 1.85 ERA). If he can manage anything remotely close to that this season, the offence should be able to carry most of the load.

But don’t take my word for it. David Schoenfield of ESPN.com recently made this bold prediction: “Happ has the best year of his career, winning 15 games and posting an ERA under 3.50.”

And if you’re shocked that an American writer is commenting about the Blue Jays this early, please see above.

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Follow Tyler and #Section108 on twitter: @TylerJoseph108

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Photo credit:

Marcus Stroman Wallpaper - Hamish Sterling