Blue Jays Jump Out of the Gate in 2010 – dr.joeyonly
The Toronto Blue Jays for the second straight season have jumped out of the gate going 4-1 in their first week and leading the intimidating American League East. They began the 2009 season much the same way leading the east deep into the month of May, until such time that the New York Yankees got their act together and ran away with the whole damn thing. One thing seperates this years Blue Jay team from last years and that is the presence of Roy Halliday pitching every five days for the Jays who gave them a chance to win every time he stepped on the rubber. Halliday has departed to the Phillies and the Blue Jays are not talking this year about penant races the way the did with such hope in their hearts last season. They are in first place today and are not over-achieving, the Jays are an underdog team with perhaps more going for it than most people have given credit.
However it would be hard to imagine that the Blue Jays would remain in first place deep into the season, they have the intimidating challenge of facing the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox 18 times each before the season closes this fall.
I been a baseball fan my whole life. It’s one of the greatest games ever invented. A lot of Canadians just don’t understand what baseball is about, they compare it to hockey and don’t give baseball the chance it deserves. It’s a past-time, it happens everyday in the heat of the summer. Baseball was never meant to be a sport of high intensity the way hockey is, it’s a way to pass the hottest months of the summer away, tuned into the radio while sittin in the shade somewhere waiting out the blistering heat of the south. Over 162 games baseball just happens, you can tune in and kill an hour here or there. It’s like a soap opera, it progresses everyday.
However baseball is not a fair game anymore. There is a direct link between a teams payroll and their chances of advancing to the post season. The lowly Blue Jays would be hard pressed to topple the Yankees or the Red Sox. If the Blue Jays had of landed in any other division in baseball they would stand a chance of being a competitive team, they wouldn’t have to play the powerhouse of Boston and New York 36 times for starters, nor would they have to defeat them in the divisional standings. This dynamic is sucking the fun out of being a baseball fan in my opinion, we face at each seasons start a hopeless grind through 162 games with no chance of ever being able to return to the dynasty the Blue Jays once were from 1989-1994. If the strike of 94 had never happened the Blue Jays may have won the World Series a third time, but it was not to be and the strike shortened season was moment that the Blue Jays fell back down to reality…and have never quite been the same team since.
Now the Jays have a dynamic young GM who did well this off season putting together a team that could compete on a budget that should not have. Let’s be honest with the state of the Blue Jays, JP Ricciardi did not leave this team in a position to grow and that is the challenge Alex Anthopoulous now must deal with. Ricciardi threw money at players who did not come through and ultimately are in the history books of the Jays rosters.
However things aren’t as bad as it might seem. As heart breaking as the loss of Roy Halliday was, it was an unavoidable reality and it was the new GM’s first job as a Blue Jay. The returns he got were good, the Jays are a young team with a lot of 2nd string talent but still possess a handful of excelent players in Aaron Hill and Adam Lind…plus a few players that are due for a bounce back season like Dustin McGowan and Vernon Wells. Wth a little luck this season might not be so bad afterall. Maybe the Jays could be one of those rare teams who with a low payroll could turn an entertaining season the way the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Oakland Athletics have in the past few years.
Now there is no Roy Halliday, but things aren’t as bad as they could be for the starting rotation. This young rotation is loaded with talent and is bound to produce at least a couple who might excell. Shawn Marcum opened the season with 7 no hit innings, it was his first start since 2008 when he went on the DL and faced the long process of shoulder surgery and recovery. He seems to have come back right where he left off, except now he doesn’t have the cushion of Roy Halliday ahead of of him. It is up to Marcum to be that number 1 guy down the stretch. But if Marcum can’t post 12-15 wins perhaps some of the depth in the Blue Jays pitching staff could relieve the pressure.
Inspiring left hander Ricky Romero won 13 games in his rookie season and got out to a good start in 2010 defeating the Texas Rangers over 7 innings of work. He’s only 25 but is a hard worker and approaches the game like a veteran. Lefty Brian Tallet’s first start went well, he has at times shown himself capable of being a quality pitcher in the majors, though at 33 it’s hard to imagine he will get any better than he is, though Tallet could put up 12 wins if given the chance. Brendan Morrows first start didn’t go so well however the Jays offense pulled a win out of it. 5th starter Dana Eveland blanked the Orioles for the Jays 4th straight win earlier today on April 10th. Those are encouraging signs, however even more hopeful is that on the 60day DL are a few more quality starters in Marc Zypcinsky, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch. All three of those pitchers have proven they can win at the major league level.
Despite having no Roy Halliday it would appear that the Blue Jays have a deeper and better starting pitcher staff this year than in the last few seasons past. This is a pitching staff that can handle losing a three of their best to the disabled list and still continue on.
The bullpen has three great weapons at its disposal, Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg and Scott Downs are all good enough pitchers to close for a team like the Blue Jays. None of them are Mariano Rivera, but the three of them together a reliable bunch who could again absorb the loss if any one of them succumbs to injury. If Frasor hadn’t blown the save on opening day this Jays team would be 5-0. Casey Jansens, Shawn Camp and Jeremy Accardo have all had strong stretches in their major league career. The Jays have a fairly deep bullpen and I think they have been too quickly written off. Again, could they topple the Yankees and Red Sox? That might be hard to imagine, but I don’t think we are going to see a bottom dwelling finish. The Jays will keep it entertaining.
The offense hasn’t dried up either. Part of the reason they have just won 4-5 games is that the bats are swinging. But the most important part is whose bats they were that did the hitting, Vernon Wells hit four homeruns in his first three games giving fans hope that he might return to his all-star form he enjoyed before injuries slowed his statistics. Aaron Hill who plowed more than 30 homeruns last year has only played in 2-5 games so his offense has not been a factor so far this year.
Alex Gonzales at short is an improvement from the disaster that was David Eckstein two seasons ago, another of JP Ricciardi’s management blunders. The worst part of the David Eckstein experience was that it was he who gave Aaron Hill the concussion that ended Hills 2008 season. Add Gonzales while local favorite John MacDonald adds some defensive depth and pinch running wheels.
Jose Bautista, Lyle Overbay and Travis Snider worry me. Overbay should have been sent packing, he’s batting .071 through the first 5 games. Traditionally 1st basemen are relied upon to be offensive providers and his number have continued to plummet. Snider is batting .214 and hasn’t proven himself able to touch a ball that’s left the hand of a major league pitcher looking completely stumped at breaking balls, change-ups and behind on fast balls. I don’t think Snider will stay at the major league level all season long, he needs to work out his game still in Dunedin Florida. Juan Encarnacian is not an improvement at 3rd base to Scott Rolen who manned the corner last season, he’s batting .083 so far this season and has proven to be a defensive liability .
There are some holes in the line-up. However if Vernon Wells can keep batting .500 perhaps the weaknesses won’t need to be addressed immediately. I think the pitching staff will be competitive and will keep the Jays close in games. That every game so far has required someone to come close it out lends me to believe there will be a lot of close games this season. The question will be how many times will the Jays come out on the top end of the equation? How will they manage 36 games against Boston and New York? How will the rotation change when the three starters on the DL come back in June? Could this team surprise everyone and challenge for the wild card slot, seems improbable but in the magical world of basball…you never know what might happen.
There are a lot of questions, the answers will only be known in time as the season plays out.