When the Major League Baseball schedule comes out, it’s always a fun exercise to see which games might be the most meaningful. However, it comes out so early (before the prior season even finishes, in fact), that we never know *exactly* which games will bring us the most intrigue. Off-season transactions heighten the suspense, with players returning to old stadiums usually topping the list.
With spring training coming to a close, and (most) major transactions complete, we have a clearer picture of which games on the 2022 Blue Jays calendar we should be circling.
Before we start the list, Opening Weekend against the Texas Rangers will get an honourable mention. Opening Day is always dramatic, but even more so this year for the Jays as it’s their first true Home Opener since 2019. There’s the added intrigue of their old rivals the Texas Rangers, but also the return of Marcus Semien. His one-year cameo as a Blue Jay will go down as one of the most remarkable seasons in club history. He finished third in MVP voting, won a Gold Glove, and set an MLB record for home runs in season by a second baseman with 45. He should get a huge ovation.
April 22-24: Blue Jays @ Astros — George Springer Returns to Houston
When the Blue Jays visited Houston last year, Springer was just beginning his second stint on the Injured List after aggravating the quad injury that caused him to miss the start of the season. He was in the building but didn’t play, and will surely be looking to put on a show for his former fans. He also missed the series when Houston visited the Jays in Buffalo in mid-June, meaning he has yet to even face the franchise with which he won a World Series.
May 16-18: Mariners @ Blue Jays — Robbie Ray Returns to Toronto
Ray was perhaps the biggest surprise on the roster last season, pitching well enough to win the Cy Young award. This series will present his opportunity to return to Toronto for a healthy ovation. However, there are rumours Ray is unvaccinated which would mean he will not be allowed to enter the country when his Mariners come north in May. That would push the reunion to later in the season in Seattle.
May 20-22: Reds @ Blue Jays — Joey Votto’s Final Trip To Toronto?
The 38-year old Etobicoke native enjoyed an incredible season last year, but there’s still reason to wonder how much he has left in the tank. A new schedule format next season means the wait for Cincinnati to visit Toronto again won’t be as long. Plus there’s always a chance the rebuiling Reds trade him to a contender (Greg Bird being released from his minor league contract on Monday will push the “Votto to Toronto” rumours back into hyper-drive.) So while it’s not set in stone this will be his swan song in his hometown, any opportunity to go support a local legend is welcomed.
June 20-26: Blue Jays @ White Sox / Blue Jays @ Brewers — Playoff Previews?
This road trip in the middle of the season will present a tremendous opportunity to measure where the Jays are among the game’s other elite clubs. Both the White Sox and Brewers made the postseason in 2021 and are among the Top 10 in 2022 preseason power rankings. Both bolster strong lineups and starting rotations. Facing both clubs on the same trip will offer a preview of October baseball, as it’s not out of the realm of possibility this could be a preview of both the ALCS and the World Series.
July 4: Blue Jays @ Athletics — Matt Champan Returns To Oakland
Chapman played over 500 games across five seasons for the Athletics, winning three gold gloves, making one All-Star appearance, and twice finishing in the top 10 of MVP voting. But he was sold for peanuts to the Blue Jays last month, and disgruntled Oakland fans will get to say thanks as they celebrate America’s birthday.
July 7-10: Blue Jays @ Mariners — First ‘Toronto Takeover’ of Seattle since 2019
Blue Jays fans from Western Canada taking over Seattle has become a baseball tradition. But thanks to the pandemic-shortened season in 2020, and border restrictions in 2021, those fans haven’t been able to pack Safeco Field since 2019. This year they’ll get to see a much better version of their team battle against a club that is trying to snap the longest postseason drought in baseball. Plus, it could be the first time his old teammates get to face Robbie Ray (as mentioned above).
July 26-31: Angels @ Blue Jays / Cubs @ Blue Jays — Trout/Ohtani Visit; Stroman Returns
The 2021 American League MVP vs the 2022 one?
The Angles road series against Toronto last year was held in Dunedin, Florida, and the teams didn’t face each other at all in 2020. That was Shohei Ohtani’s second season in MLB, and he didn’t pitch that season. So this could be the first look for Blue Jays fans to see the two-way sensation hit and pitch in the same series in Toronto.
It’s easy to argue that Vladimir Guerrero stands a better chance of repeating what he did last year, but Ohtani is still a marvel to watch.
Later that homestand, the Chicago Cubs will bring Marcus Stroman back to Toronto for the first time since he was traded to the New York Mets in 2019. He had some choice words for the front office, criticizing their willingness to spend big money on the roster. Well, they’ve proven him wrong. Since those comments, they’ve signed Springer and Kevin Gausman to massive free agent contracts, in addition to trading for Matt Chapman and Jose Berrios (then signing him to a large extension). Their opening day payroll this season projects to be around $175 million.
Stroman has yet to face the Jays as an opponent. He opted out of the 2020 season and wasn’t on the bump for any of the three games in New York last season. There’s no guarantee he’ll pitch in the series this year, of course, but it will be his first visit to Rogers Centre since the deal, and I expect a nice video tribute and loud ovation.
September 12-15: Rays @ Blue Jays — 5 Games in 4 Days; Playoff Implications?
As a result of the first two series of the season being pushed back because of the lockout, the Jays will host the Rays for two separate five-game series. The second comes over four days in mid-September, and with both clubs expected to be in the race for the American League East pennant, these games could have massive implications on who wins the division. While facing the Rays is never easy, the Jays will be happy to hold the home-field advantage.