So, if you are a Jays Droppings regular, then you know that I grew up in the wonderful stomping ground of St. Catharines. The good ol’ Niagara region is a land rich with wine, call centers like SITEL, and little gem towns like Thorold and Welland – you should probably read the latter part of this sentence with your best sarcastic Ron Swanson voice. (And for all my friends still residing in these two alluring Southern Ontario cities, I’m just kidding about them being little gems and, ah, alluring.)
So, one thing that my friends and I loved doing in the late nineties was making the short trip down to Buffalo to eat some savagely good chicken wings and buy a pack or two of Lucky Strikes before heading on back to the finer country of Canada.
We were teenagers back then and, of course, were ‘licensed to ill’ (okay, not really), but the Beastie Boys were definitely a go-to for any road trip, that’s for sure, and they still are, to be honest.
Damn it, those were fun times. And I’m really not trying to date myself here, but we were just kids in boring suburbia, who drove around aimlessly, went to high school bush parties, and played N64’s Bond for hours.
I think my favorite road trip to Buffalo was when a couple of us drove down to see WCW Monday Nitro back in December of 1997 at the Midland Arena. Sting came down from the rafters at the end of the event to ‘scorpion death drop’ the NWO, and it was one of the greatest wrestling moments we ever saw live.
So before I got lost wandering down some kind of dumb memory lane, this piece is actually about the Buffalo Bisons and how if you live within driving distance, this is a great season to make the road trip to Upstate New York to eat some wings, watch some awesome Blue Jays prospects, and try to count as many Cellino and Barnes billboards as you can – or William Mattar… ‘Hurt in a car?’ Anywho…
The Bisons are going to be an awesome club this season. It’s not going to be a team made up of aging, shitty, free-agent offseason signings like previous years. This team is going to have all the hype around it with, ya know, the one and only future king of the turf, Anthony Alford down there. This isn’t going to be the team that last year went 65 – 76. The Bisons are going to compete and they are going to be good.
Now, over the past week, so many Blue Jays bloggers and Toronto sports writers have jumped all over the Alford hype, making a ton of typed-up noise to remind fans that you shouldn’t forget about him – not that you did. But, Atkins recently had some more awesome things to say about Alford’s skillset:
And let’s not forget that at Pitch Talks, Atkins also had this to say about Alford:
So, it’s crystally clear here folks that the good ol’ GM is very high on Alford, who will eventually steal Pillar’s job and thank the good baseball Lord for that because Kevin Pillar is kind of dogshit – sorry Pillarmania, but he’s really not that good and watching his shitty at-bats is painful most of the time. He's the Ryan Goins of the outfield - that is a true story. Moving on ...
I honestly can’t wait for Alford to claim his proper place in center field at the Dome, so we can all say goodbye with a big goddamn godspeed to Pillar. But, until that glorious day comes, many Blue Jays fans can watch Alford in Buffalo, demonstrating why he should be with the good Birds of Summer. And why he’s better than Pillar and is the long-term center fielder for the Birds.
So, obviously Alford is a great effing reason to get in the car and take the QEW to Buffalo. But, to be honest, the whole damn Bisons outfield is going to be pretty bat-flippin’ good this year and it will also be fun to keep our eye on Pompey and Hernandez. That outfield alone is reason enough to get to Coca-Cola Field on a lazy hot Saturday afternoon and watch some good minor league ball.
But, the Bisons roster doesn’t just have a damn good outfield; they kind of have the Blue Jays’ future star catcher, Danny Jansen. Jansen might see some time, at some point, with the Birds this year, but he will most definitely get to play everyday in Buffalo before his time in Toronto comes.
So Buffalo has a fun outfield, a great catcher, and some damn good pitching prospects who Ross Atkins feels very confident about. He told me when I interviewed him in early January that he expects a good story in Buffalo from pitchers Ryan Borucki, Thomas Pannone, Chris Rowley, Taylor Guerrieri, and Luis Santos this year.
And he just recently said on the Jeff Blair Show that he feels very confident about his options beyond the starting 5. And, of course, all of those options – who were previously mentioned - will be taking the ball on the ol’ dirt hill at Coca-Cola Field.
And, the truth is that you can probably add Joe Biagini to the list of pitchers, who you will see in Buffalo's rotation, because Atkins seems to feel very strongly about converting Biagini into a starter, as he suggested in the same interview on the Jeff Blair show.
This years options for the good Birds of Summer are going to be promising, younger arms that aren’t in their mid-thirties, and who won’t be tossing shitty ‘Mat Latos’ meatballs when called up by the big club.
The Bisons infield isn’t the most exciting at this point, but it isn’t exactly dogshit either. It would also be a nice feel good story to see Rowdy Tellez put together a comeback year - that’s for sure. But, because the infield will probably be made up of Jason Leblebijian, Tim Lopes, Gift Ngoepe – or maybe, Ivan Castillo, the real infield question is: when will Vladdy are-you-kidding-me Jr. join the Bisons?
And if Vladdy Jr. gets the call to Buffalo, you better reserve a ticket for his first game because I’m guessing that it will be a sell-out. I’m not trying to rush Vladdy along here folks, but I think that it’s very realistic that the Blue Jays' future 'sultan of swat' ends up with the Bisons at some point this year.
As I mentioned, Buffalo’s infield isn’t the strongest and if big bad Vlad can do what he does best in New Hampshire, well, Vladdy might just be another star you can add to the Bison list.
We all might have to wait until late summer for this Vlad promotion, but it isn’t crazy to think that he ends up in Buffalo at some point this summer. Shit, he might even be able to get there faster than it takes Joey Chestnut – the Major League Eating champion - to eat 100 hot dogs. Okay, maybe not, but still.
You know at the end of the baseball day, it’s kind of cool to know that there are exciting pieces in the pipeline at all levels for fans to go and watch. But, if you live in Southern Ontario, there really is no reason to not plan a Buffalo road trip this summer and check out some of the great future Blue Jays who will be donning Bisons caps. I know I will.
And, shit, if you’re going to go anywhere for wings, go to Gabriel’s Gate in Allentown – or just hit up the always-popular Anchor Bar. And, don’t forget – that if you’re hurt in a car, call William Mattar – 444-4444. Let's Go Buffalo!