Kings of the North; Toronto the Championship City

The Raptors have done what we in Toronto have waited 26 years to do: Toronto is finally a winner again. Not since the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays has The Big Smoke been the winner of a major sports trophy, until now.

Fuelled by star power, supported by elite talent, and defined by hard work, the Raptors have set the new standard for Toronto sports teams. So what can the Leafs and Blue Jays learn from this never-back-down, no-quit team?

Patience.

Patience to develop your team and build a winning culture before playing the first minute of game one.

Masai Ujiri said it best, “championships aren’t built in one year.” Despite adding Danny a Green, Marc Gasol, and oh yeah Kawhi Leonard all this season, the backbone has been in place for years. Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet are all long term Raptors and have massively impacted this team’s developed culture far beyond this season.

Can the Leafs take a page out of the 2019 Raptors playbook?

The Leafs are deep into the process of making their team into a championship squad. All the pieces are here: generational drafted talent, world-class free agent signing, recent playoff experience. So what lesson can they take from this season’s Raptors?

Sometimes you need to bet on yourself and take some risks to take the next step. Moving on from DeMar DeRozan was a massive risk, not to mention mortgaging the future with a first your draft pick to get a better return on the player, too. At the time of the deal it was a heavily criticized move, I mean Kawhi barely played last season!

Hindsight is 20/20 and now with a franchise-first Championship secured, the deal was a home run even if Kawhi doesn’t stay. The Leafs don’t need to make this much of a massive deal with the talent already on the roster, but moving out players and picks to push your chances over the top could be that next step for the Maple Leafs’ search for a cup.

Culture, culture, culture, for the Blue Jays now

The less glamorous lesson the Blue Jays can learn from the Raptors is to invest in creating a winning culture in the locker room now. This Blue Jays team is loaded with young talent, but without motivation and leadership, it could be wasted.

Kyle Lowry, that type of talented leader is what the Blue Jays need… to keep because the equivalent is Marcus Stroman and he’s already here. Yes he’s loud, yes he’s polarizing, but more than anything he’s talented and he hates losing. If that winning mentality can rub off onto the young core entering the league now, it can only have positive results.

Ken Giles, Freddie Galvis, Justin Smoak. All of these players are being brought up in trade talks but all of them play an integral role in the team’s development. Galvis’ Latin leadership role, Giles’ intensity and winning mentality, and Smoak’s even-keeled mindset are all assets to this team.

These players aren’t superstars but they lead by example and they are currently trying to hold the young players on the team to a higher standard of play. Invest in more players like this and the team culture will continue to develop alongside the players.

Now is the time for celebration, Toronto. The only city with a non-US NBA team has lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy. As unlikely as it was to happen the blueprint is there for the other big Toronto sports teams to follow. Boiled down: don’t be afraid to bet on yourself, and a winning culture breeds success.

Wake up with Vladdy Guerrero Jr. smashing a classic homerun

The Blue Jays have already won the series with the Yankees ahead of game three. Game two was a showcase of home run crushing strength and team hitting led by the ever so legendary Vlad Guerrero Jr.

Guerrero’s three-run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning gave the Jays the lead as well as flashbacks to his dad hitting dogshit pitches out of stadiums:

The deep, one-handed swing on a ball that was an inch off the dirt – it’s an absolute carbon copy of Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and some of his absurd home runs. As much as the hitting gene clearly got passed on, so to did the clutch gene. Jr. bashed that ball in a time where the Yankee’s superior bullpen should have taken over this game. Instead,

The youth movement was working last night in the Big Smoke, with Guerrero leading the way. Gurriel scored twice on two walks, Jansen had a hit an a walk, Guerrero had two hits for himself including this three-run bomb, Cavan Biggio had a hit, two walks, and an RBI, and Teoscar Hernandez had a pair of doubles in his return to the big league club.

Shout out toe Randall Grichuk and Brandon Drury, too. The two more veteran players collectively had three home runs on four hits totaling four RBI’s to keep the Jays in the game. It’s early but it appears bringing in Drury and extending Grichuk is paying off for Atkins and Shapiro.

The team that is often criticized for not being competitive enough, but that’s simply not true as proved last night. The young-guns will get more and more comfortable with MLB pitching, and with that will come development and progress in the wins/losses column. One thing is certain when the bats are working, this team is VERY fun to watch.

Are Toronto Blue Jays fans the LEAST informed fanbase?

The Toronto Blue Jays are 62 games into the season and some fans are still shocked that the team isn’t pushing for the playoffs. The complete lack of understanding on what this team is built to do is astounding and really sheds light on the title question: are Toronto Blue Jays fans the least informed fanbase?

The short answer is an emphatic NO. But some can’t seem to grasp the idea of a rebuild and what it entails.

Rebuild. Say it with me, re-build.

Look over to the Toronto Maple Leafs of a few years ago. They brought in a management team to fill the cupboard with prospects and develop them, brought in a coach that has an individual style of managing his team, and insulated a young core with NHL veterans who would later be sold for prospects or picks.

Look around, Jays fans, that’s what’s happening here. The Toronto Blue Jays are amidst a rebuild, and while the product on the field isn’t all too exciting right now, it is well on it’s way to being a fully loaded, threatening AL East beast.

I guess the hardest part to swallow with the rebuild was the illusion that the team didn’t need to be rebuilt because of the success in the 2015 and 2016 season. Back-to-back playoff appearances with one down season to follow made the nose-dive into a rebuild a shocking turn of events.

However, when evaluating the farm system, it was needed. As great of a job as Alex Anthopoulos did bringing in top-tier talent, it was at the expense of prospects and draft picks. Now with Shapiro and Atkins at the helm, the Blue Jays have focused more on compiling and developing prospects to become MLB stars over selling them for aging veterans.

Realistically…

The frankly rude question this blog is focused around (are Blue Jays fans uneducated), is not directed at most members of the Blue Jays fanbase. No, it’s towards the loud minority who take to social media to either troll other fans or voice their displeasure while simultaneously boasting their lack of education on the process.

Drown out the negativity with realistic and appropriate expectations for a young, growing team. Losing can’t become an accepted norm, however, but the desire to prove their MLB chops should keep the young core motivated to continue performing all season long.

Jays fans can look to the Leafs and Mike Babcock for an immediate understanding of the rebuild process. Namely that pain is coming. Most of this pain has already happened or is currently happening so that’s a positive. The other biggest positive is the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Rowdy Tellez, and Danny Janson already making an impact on the team and getting MLB experience.

Prepare for veterans to leave like Stroman, Sanchez, and Giles, and prepare for more losses. Bide your time with the losses, though. The way this team is being constructed is not for one or two more seasons of boom-or-bust playoff excitement, but for dynastic sustained success.