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Just some hope the Blue Jays can keep it interesting

So we’re a couple of days away from Opening Day, when time begins and hope springs eternal.

Cool.

An aside:

It won’t be the same all summer because I read this dude’s retiring and the game’s gonna miss him, even if Mune didn’t play it particularly well.

Anyway, the Local Nine goes into the season with a lot of question marks, a bit of trepidation among The People as far as I can tell from my interaction with them and far, far less enthusiasm and fewer expectations than we’ve seen in a while.

Good.

I’m obviously not as tied into it as some but I do keep tabs and have some interest in how the Blue Jays do because I want them to be relevant when September Baseball rolls around because it’s the greatest time of the year.

And I suspect – maybe hope is a better word – they might be more interesting late in the year than many think right now.

This, of course, is predicated largely on Aaron Sanchez’s fingers and blisters being okay and while that certainly didn’t happen for the entirety of the 2017 season, there seems to be some reason for optimism this time around.

I don’t know how good Stroman is going to be – I think he might Tweeter himself into too much angst to be able to handle his responsibilities – so that’s going to make it doubly important that Sanchez be the 2016 version as opposed to last year because pitching, I’d suggest, is going to have to carry this team.

I don’t suspect Smoak will have the same kind of year he had last year, Russell Martin may still be a good catcher and leader but not sure you can’t call him an offensive force and Josh Donaldson’s words aside, how much is he really going to be able to play?

I’d love for Devon Travis to have a great, full year but I’d also love someone to give me an island in the South Pacific with a mansion on it that I can retire to.

I would suspect we’re eight weeks away from Tulowitzki announcing his retirement because of chronic ankle pain and I don’t know how good or bad the corner outfielders might be.

But I do have the sense, for no real reason except that I want Gibby to do well and not get fired, that they’ll find a way to hang around as long as they don’t get off to a 2-11 start and be in some kind of race after Labour Day.

That’d be fun, wouldn’t it?

It’s absolutely a franchise muddling along in some kind of middle; not blown up, not bursting with a highly-paid, still productive core but not sure there’s much shame in that. You get through this year and keep in touch with the playoff race, get ready to hand things over to the group of Guerrero, Bichette and Alford. I don’t think “tearing it down” this year made any sense, the next wave is coming, why not milk this group as much as possible?

Maybe it doesn’t work and there’s some kind of selloff in July but that’s still months away; maybe it does work and it’s still fun to go to the ballyard in the fall.

Nothing wrong with that, I don’t think.

This was a fave group growing up so …

All right, we’ve established that I do not care one bit about your brackets, right?

But it’s come to my attention that I need to now become a huge Loyola Chicago fan.

Forget the 98-year-old chaplain. The great Brian McIntyre, NBA savant, Hall of Famer, bon vivant, long-time friend and confidant is not only a Loyola alumna but he was once the manager of the men’s basketball team and the sports editor of the student newspaper.

B’s one of the best. Anyone who’s had any dealings with the NBA in the last quarter of a century would agree with that so …

Go Ramblers!

Shameless plug.

We’re back for another one of the wildly entertaining Hoop Talks tomorrow night at the Rivoli.

A cast of stars will be there and you should be, too.

Go here to find out about tickets – I cannot believe there are many left – and we’ll see you then, right?

It seems a weird week ahead, a game tonight and then three days of practice before a road game, two days, another road game.

Now, that’s going to be hard eventually for me to come up with something mildly interesting each day they’re away and it’s also going to force me to change up a bit of the routine.

We’ll have to do the mail on Saturday morning this week and some post-game slop on Sunday while eating chocolate eggs and that means you better start filling the mailbag now.

Go to askdoug@thestar.ca and do what you do, which is to help me out.

Much appreciated.

Now, for the Raptors.

Was a bit of an extra long film session yesterday, we were told, and then some work on the court and that’s going to be the norm for the foreseeable future.

While we were discussing Serge Ibaka for this little tome and a multitude of other items, Dwane kept coming back, often unsolicited, to the need for time in the gym.

He’s been mindful all season of days off and time off and getting rest and I never thought he entirely bought it. Sure, he understood the grind and how necessary recuperation is but the feeling I got was that he thought the pendulum was swinging too far towards idle time from work he deemed necessary.

This last minor lull has given him the chance not to ramp up a lot of hard work but at least get ‘em in the gym every day for a little bit of instruction.

Two quotes from yesterday:

“This game is about rhythm and habits, mentality. I think a lot of times guys think they’re tired and maybe not. Again, it’s a long season, I understand that, but we purposely throughout the year cut back on guys’ minutes so they would be fresh this time of year and not have to think they needed days off or minutes off, or (have) a ‘I need a game off’ mentality.”

And

“That’s the biggest phenomenon in our league right now, rest versus rust. For us, we need practice time, we need to get in the gym, we need to do work.”

Can’t say I disagree with him. The load on his top players – heck, the load on any of his players – has hardly been arduous all season and that should allow him to pile on work as many days now as possible.

Maybe one of the three days this week should be off just so the players can start taking care of some of the off-the-court things before the playoffs hit but, other than that, they need to be together in the gym every day for at least film and individual work.

TORONTO STAR