Why Alex Anthopoulos has an opportunity to become a legend in Hogtown

The city of Toronto has longed for a Championship team and the sports talk radio shows as well as television channels remind us daily of the ‘glory’ days. The glory days for the hapless Maple Leafs were 45+ years ago. The Toronto Raptors have never really had any. Remember the Vince Carter debacle? How about the football Argos? Although they have won CFL championships, they are always 4th or 5th fiddle in Canada’s largest city. Toronto FC has a loyal fan base; yet their apparent incompetence emulates the other Toronto pro teams. Lastly, we have the Blue Jays. For the Jays, it’s been a twenty year drought from the playoffs. Twenty years ago was also the last time they won the World Series. Yes, the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s were definitely the glory years for the Jays. People still talk about where they ‘were’ for both 1992 and 1993 World Series wins and Tom Cheek’s “Touch ‘em all Joe” still gives me goose bumps. For the first World Series, I was at my part time job closing a restaurant. We had the game on the radio and eagerly awaited the final out. In 1993, I was at home watching the game with my brother and recall jumping for joy. Yes, those were fantastic times and the City of Toronto as well as Southern Ontario (If you ask someone from Toronto, they would probably say,”Southern Ontario” who?) ache for a Championship team. This past autumn, the NHL locked out the players and the Jays were ending a disappointing season. The off-season looked bleak until AA pulled off a coup from the Miami Marlins. The trade and players involved have been well documented. The city and local sports radio were buzzing with the excitement of having the likes of Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and others on the Jays. Then came the signing of Melky Cabrera and the future looked brighter. Furthermore, AA traded highly regarded prospect Travis D’Arnaud (who has now been traded twice for Cy Young award winners) and others to the lowly Mets for R.A. Dickey and his personal catcher, Josh Thole. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas now have the Blue Jays as favourites to win the World Series. In magazines and on-line, most people predict them to either win the division or at the very least a wild card berth. The hype is here and I am hoping they succeed.

Truthfully, I have not always been a big believer in AA. This past winter has changed my mind and I would like to see the Jays’ Glory Years return. The time is right as the Leafs fired the fiery Brian Burke and the circus that surrounded him. Burke’s plan never brought a Stanley Cup to Toronto. In fact, they never even made the playoffs. Burke did a lot of talking and that was about it. The Blue Jays had a GM who talked a lot too. His name was J.P. Riccardi and he also promised brighter days. We all recall how that worked out. They had mediocre and underachieving teams. Riccardi also was the culprit of some bad contracts. J.P. signed big names, unfortunately, they were either past their prime (Frank Thomas) or were over-hyped (B.J. Ryan). Let’s not forget the Alex Rios (who finally has become the player we all hoped he would be) and Vernon Wells. The Wells contract could arguably the worst contract signing in baseball history. Or even pro sports. Which leads us to Alex; he somehow convinced another GM (Angels) to take Vernon Wells. Alex’s shrewd trades and hoarding of young talent has served him well. How else could he manage to pull off that trade with Miami?

This year, the home opener sold out in less than ten minutes and ticket sales are up. Can the Blue Jays get over three million in attendance? They did it from the year the SkyDome was opened until 1993. The strike of 1994 was the beginning of lost interest and honestly, I believe it will never be as big as the 1990’s. There are way too many other things people can do with their money. This is no slight against the Jays as Toronto will always be a hockey town first. However, if the Leafs are #1, why can’t the Blue Jays be 1a?

In the early ‘90’s, Cliff Fletcher was the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs and of course, Pat Gillick was the architect of the back to back World Series Championships. Both made trades that turned a franchise around or for the very least, put them over the top. Gillick’s acquisition of Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter was legendary. His signings of Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor helped the Jays immensely. Fletcher made the lopsided, ten player deal with the Calgary Flames. The big prize was Doug Gilmour. To this day, people still talk about those trades. Will AA’s deal with the Marlins be talked about like the aforementioned deals? It will depend on what happens this season and beyond. If the Jays somehow (am I hoping) win the World Series this year, then AA will be a part of Toronto sports lore forever.

Thanks for reading and Go Jays Go! (Less than a month for the season opener!!!)

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Blue Jays Preview 2013

We may have snow and sub-zero temperature here in Ontario.  Yet, our hearts are filled with warmth and our eyes glisten with hope as another season of Blue Jays baseball is upon us.  This is a feeling that myself and others get every year.  However, this year has even more people anticipating because of what transpired over the off-season.   The future was bleak after a frustrating end to the 2012 season and the defection of their coach John Farrell to the division rival Red Sox.   Then came the winter and AA proving many of us (myself included) wrong.      Alex didn’t just make a splash; he made a tidal wave of enthusiasm through monster trades and gutsy free agent signings.    In a span of less than a week he acquired two legit starting pitchers (Johnson, Buehrle), a perennial all-star/lead-off SS (Reyes), a super utility player (Bonifacio), a former all-star(Cabrera) and John Buck.   All of the aforementioned, less Melky Cabrera were acquired in a trade with the embarrassment called the Marlins.   People were still buzzing about that trade when Melky Cabrera was signed the following day.   Fans were satisfied with the efforts of AA  and the he decided to give them an early Christmas present.   His name?  The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey and his personal catcher Josh Thole.   Poor Johnny Buck was traded away along with some unproven prospects.    There were other minor trades and signings that helped make the Blue Jays favourites to win the World Series.

Predicition:  91-71  1st Place, World Series?

Last year I predicted they would win 88 games.   The Jays actually finished with 73.  It seems year in and year out they do worse than I predict.   Let’s hope that changes this season as a team needs (in my opinion), +90 wins to make the playoffs.

Here is my projected lineup for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays

  1. SS           Jose Reyes – If Reyes stays healthy, look out.   This guy makes things happen on the base paths and will score 100+ runs with the likes of Cabrera, Bautista and Encarnacion batting behind him.  This marks the first time in a long time that the Jays have a legit lead- off hitter.  Rajai Davis?  No thanks.  Prediction:  .292, 48 SB’s, 115 Runs
  2. LF            Melky Cabrera—  After getting caught using illegal supplements(and then trying to lie his way out of it), Melky has a lot to prove.   Will he remain the .330+ hitter from last season?  Or will he regress.  If he’s the latter, then Jose and Edwin will be licking their chops as he and Reyes will be on base plenty of times.   Truthfully, I see a low .300 average with 10-15 home runs.  Prediction: 93 runs, 17 SB’s
  3. RF           Jose Bautista—Another ‘if’ he stays healthy.   Jose damaged a tendon in his wrist last season and missed substantial time.   He had surgery and some question if he will lose some of his power.   Perhaps he hits doubles instead of home runs.    He’ll still succeed because of the top of the order being on base.   Prediction: 28 HR’s, 123 RBI’s,  100 Runs
  4. 1B           Edwin Encarnacion—After being a Nomad in the field, Edwin has found a home at First Base.   Will he be even better knowing where he plays everyday?  Prediction: 38 HR’s, 115 RBI’s, .278 AVG
  5. 3B           Brett Lawrie—Is our Country’s own ready to bat behind the Bautista and Encarnacion?  If not, perhaps Gibbons goes with Lind or Arencibia.   Can new/old manager John Gibbons harness the aggressiveness of Brett?   If the answer is yes, an all-star appearance could be in the cards.  Prediction:  .269, 14 HR’s, 78 RBI’s, 18 SB’s.
  6. DH          Adam Lind—This selection turns my stomach a bit.  Is Lind finished?  Or can he bounce back to 2009-2010 form?   For Adam’s sake, I hope so.  Toronto fans can be very harsh and Lind is a nice guy who doesn’t deserve it.  If Adam fails, Gibbons will probably use the DH to rest his regulars.   Prediction:  .244, 14 HR’s, losing starting job by end of June.
  7. C             J.P. Arencibia—  Arencibia is AA’s guy.   This guy doesn’t get the credit he deserves.  Yes, we all know he can hit (18 home runs in 102 games), yet people fault him on his defense.   JP has steadily improved his play and to me, is an average Catcher.   Put that with his offense?   How can you complain?  Prediction: .251  27 HR’s, 74 RBI’s
  8. CF           Colby Rasmus—One of my least favourite Jays will bat 8th and play CF.  Will Colby ever mature?   He better as John Gibbons does not take any crap from players.   Look to see Colby ask for a trade and whine about his treatment by Gibbons.  Prediction:  Traded mid-season.  Good riddance.
  9. 2B           Emil Bonifacio—This guy can run and play just about any position.   I can see him spelling the likes of Bautista, Cabrera and Reyes(with of course them playing DH that day).  Having him bat 9th is like having two lead-off hitters.    ‘If’ he stays healthy, Emil and Reyes will torment pitchers and catchers with their base running all season long.

BENCH

AA signed a few veterans to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.   Journeymen Langerhans and Andy LaRoche will compete with Anthony Gose, Moses Sierra for the 5th spot.   A late addition to the 40 man roster is Mark DeRosa.   I have always liked Mark and hope he makes the club.  Rajai Davis will remain the 4th outfielder and Macier Izturis will get playing time at second base when Bonifacio plays the OF.   Josh Thole is R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher.   Look to see him play at least once a week.

Starting Pitching

Last season, Ricky Romero was the opening day starter.   This year, he is the 5th pitcher behind:

  1. R.A. Dickey—The reigning Cy Young knuckleballer will excel in Canada.  Prediction: 20-6, 2.50 ERA, 225 IP’s,  215 K’s
  2. Josh Johnson—Josh hopes his arm troubles are behind him.   He is a free agent at season’s end.  Will AA re-sign him during the season?  I guess that depends on how Josh feels about the Jays and where they are in the standings.   This guy can be a solid #1 pitcher for years to come.  Prediction:  18-11, 3.14 ERA, 2 CG
  3. Brendan Morrow – Can Brendan finally become consistent?   He’s going to be 29 years old this season.  It’s time for him to make the next step.  Prediction: 14-8, 3.31 ERA,  200 K’s
  4. Mark Buerhle—On most staffs, he would be a #2 or 3 starter.  His amazing consistency will be a blessing for the Jays.  Same with how deep he can go into games.  Prediction: 12-12, 3.51, 4 CG
  5. Ricky Romero—Perhaps the pressure got to Ricky.  Only he knows for sure.  I’m not convinced and see him being nothing more than a back of the rotation pitcher.   Prediction: 11-10, 4.05 ERA

Bullpen

Casey Janssen was giving the ball for the 9th and he ran with it.   He isn’t your prototypical closer, yet he gets the job done.  Only 2 blown saves in 2012.   Last year’s opening day closer, Sergio Santos, looks to bounce back from shoulder surgery.   Former first round flamethrower Brad Lincoln looks to become more consistent.   The acquisition of Esmil Rogers will help branch the gap between starter to the 8th inning.  Darren Oliver is back for one more season as the bullpen’s #1 lefty.   Delabar and Loup are penciled in for the last two bullpen spots.   Can Brett Cecil, Happ and the always injured McGowan steal one or both of those spots?   We’ll find out in the next month or so.

Coach

John Gibbons is back for his 2nd stint as the Blue Jays manager.   His first time was not always pretty.   Gibby had runs in with players, but in retrospect, the two main culprits Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand had attitudes and it was nice to see a manager stand up to some spoiled millionaires.  His no nonsense approach should help a clubhouse who apparently had issues.   Will Gibby and Lawrie have run ins?   They may as both are emotional and want to win.   I’m hoping that Lawrie’s enthusiasm is harnessed for all the right reasons.   Good luck John as the whole country is rooting for you and Brett.

 

General Manager

Am I AA’s biggest fan?   No.   I have been frustrated in the past with his coyness and arrogance.  However, this off-season, he has made me a believer.  It takes guts to pull of trades of that magnitude and to sign an All-Star who was suspended for illegal substance use.   Will everything that AA did work out?  Only in a perfect world it would.   I hope the media and fans don’t jump all over him once/if one of the players he acquired doesn’t perform well.   AA traded a lot of prospects to get these guys and some people worry that the prospects could turn out to be all-stars.  The key word in the last sentence is COULD.   To me, making the team a contender and bringing enthusiasm back to a dormant fan base is good enough to me.   Speaking of ‘could’.    Could this be the year?   Is the World Series coming back to Canada?   It could happen.

Thanks for reading and let’s go Blue Jays!

The Faith has been restored

Dear Mr. Alex Anthopoulos,

Thank you for restoring my faith in you and the Blue Jays organization.   For the past few weeks, I have been preparing to write a blog blasting you for not making the Jays better.   Well, this past week has definitely proved me wrong and I appreciate that.  Honestly, I would much rather write something positive about Canada’s team than negative.   In the midst of the NHL strike and an ever growing disgruntled fan base (both hockey and Jays fans), you have inspired hope and dreams.  Dreams of finally making the playoffs and possibly the World Series.    In one evening (mind you this deal probably took days and maybe even weeks), the Jays went from a potential bottom feeder to a World Series contender.   The odds for them to win the World Series after that one evening;  15-1.    However, AA was not content with those odds.   Two days later, Melky Cabrera was signed to shore up the left field position.   The odds are now 11-1.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, or to some who don’t know all the names in the trade, let me tell you.   Tuesday evening, a story broke via the world wide web (I believe it was Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and Ken Rosenthal) of a trade between the Miami Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays.   The Miami Marlins trade All-Star SS Jose Reyes, a STUD in the making Josh Johnson, a workhorse called Mark Buehrle, super utility Emil Bonifacio and former Blue Jay, John Buck.    What do the Jays exchange?  The enigma name Yunel Escobar, hot shot prospect Adeiny Hechavarria, young Henderson Alavarez, backup C Jeff Mathis and prospects Justin Nicolino, Jake Marisnick and Anthony DeScalfani.   If you want, please re-read the previous two sentences ………….finished?   Good.  After hearing of the deal, a friend of mine said that it almost sounded like a trade from a fantasy baseball league!

Now for my synopsis of this team changing trade:

To me, the Jays win this deal, hands down.   Perhaps four years from now people may think otherwise.  Remember the contracts Vernon Wells and Alex Rios signed?  At the time, fans were pleased with those contracts.   Hopefully this will not be the case.   IF the Jays contend this year and make the playoffs, then it can never be questioned.   I personally believe that both sides should ‘win’ a trade for their own reasons.  This happens in quite a few trades.   In this case, perhaps not.  The Marlins were clearly dumping salary and unless Alvarez turns into a top starting pitcher and the prospects become all-stars, then they lose.   It’s a travesty what Miami’s Owner Jeffrey Loria has done and I hope Karma comes to bite him in the butt.

The Players:

Jose Reyes   SS  –  He gives the Blue Jays an All-Star lead-off man who wreaks havoc on the base paths.  His glove is above average too.

Josh Johnson  SP –  A front line starter in the making.   Someday he will be the leader of a starting staff.  The past couple of years have been filled with injuries and hopefully he came remain healthy for the Jays.   I am expecting big things from him and hopefully he doesn’t disappoint.

Mark Buehrle SP – A veteran starting pitcher who has poise and endurance.  He is an innings eater, which is something the Blue Jays lacked last season.   He isn’t cheap (18 and 19 million owed in the final two years of his current contract) but he should help the young starters.

Emil Bonifacio Util –  This guy could be the hidden gem of this trade.   Most Blue Jay fans probably have never heard of him.  Well, you will.   He can play various positions (LF, CF, 2B, SS and 3B) and is an excellent base-stealer.  The day after the trade, I predicted that he will be the starting 2B and bat 2nd.   The latter has changed since then.

John Buck C – Former Blue Jay was thrown in because of his salary.  Buck is owed 6 million this year.  Ironically, he left the Jays two years ago because they didn’t want to pay him that much.   And the fact J.P. Arencibia was waiting in the wings.

The Marlins receive:

Yunel Escobar SS  –  Remember when you were a kid and there was an ugly wart on your foot?   It was gruesome and bothersome?   Eventually you had enough and went to get it removed.   That is what AA did with Escobar.  Yunel was a wart on the Blue Jays wing and it HAD to be removed.   His lackadaisical attitude and opinions were not good for the organization.   He is not a smart man as you don’t need to be in order to hit a baseball.   Honestly, I believe my wife’s guinea pigs have a combined IQ higher than Escobar.   Good riddance.

Adeiny Hechavarria SS – He was the SS of the future.   Adeiny’s glove is legit but his hitting still lacks.   In order to acquire great players, you need to trade someone with potential.   Personally, having Reyes for the next five years is worth moving Adeiny.

Henderson Alvarez SP – At age 22, the sky is still the limit for Alvarez.   Or has he reached his potential?  I personally see him as 4th or 5th starter with maybe one above average season.   It’s too bad that the Jays couldn’t have kept him in AAA for one more year.

Justin Nicolino SP  – Considered a top five prospect, but #1, 2 or 3.

John Marisnick OF – Apparently the Marlins preferred him over Gose.

Anthony DeSclafani  SP –  A 6rdp that has good stuff and should be a major league player

Jeff Mathis C – He was moved because of the backlog of catchers owned by the Blue Jays.  It’s too bad as he is a great backup catcher.    But when you are receiving players like Reyes, JJ and Buerhle, then Mathis is a guy you sacrifice.

The Jays payroll jumped over 40 million for the upcoming season because of this deal.   They now sit roughly at $115 million.   But wait, there is still the Melky signing to talk about.   First, let’s look at the monies for the above acquired players.   Buerhle and Reyes both have backloaded contracts.  Meaning, they will make respectively, 11 and 10 million this season.  However, Mark will earn 18 and 19 for 2014 and 2015.  Reyes?   His annual salary jumps to 22 million a year for 2015-2017.  Yikes.   That Miami owner is a smart man.  A douchebag, but intelligent.  He signs these guys to huge contracts, gets a stadium built with taxes payers money and when the team goes  to crap, he moves the players with exorbitant amount of money owed.  I don’t agree with it and it’s too bad people like him are in baseball.

The trade has yet to be official as the Owner’s Meetings are currently being held.  That and the magnitude of players and money have slowed the process.   Plus, there are no games currently being played, so why rush?   Unless you’re a Blue Jays fan and might think the deal could be rejected by Commissioner Bud Selig.  I doubt it as the deal is legit.   Miami wanted to dump salary and rebuild.  The players they received should help them do so.

Yesterday, the Jays signed Steroid user Melky Cabrera to a two year contract worth 16 million.   Cabrera was suspended 50 games last year for using PED’s.   He was having an All-Star season and I wonder how he will be this year without the drugs.  Will he be the player from 2010?  When the Braves released him.  Or could he be the all-star from 2011?  When he played for the Kansas City Royals.   This is a gamble worth taking and I hope it works out.    This contract is cheap compared to what Melky could’ve received if he hadn’t been caught.   Probably 20 + a season.

So with this week’s acquisitions, here is my projected starting lineup for the Toronto Blue Jays:

  1.  Reyes                   SS
  2. Cabrera                                LF
  3. Bautista                RF
  4. Encarnacion        1B
  5. Lind                        DH
  6. Lawrie                   3B
  7. Rasmus                                CF
  8. Arencibia             C
  9. Bonifacio             2B

That is a pretty stellar lineup and could inflict damage on starting pitching.   The only weak spot is the DH.   Can Adam Lind bounce back?   Perhaps, but I think that ship has sailed.   AA needs to move him and sign a cheap DH.   Or, use it as a ‘floater’ position.   Perhaps Buck can play there occasionally as well as players in the field.   It wouldn’t hurt to give the likes of Reyes and Bautista a day off without actually not playing.

In closing, I want to say that my faith in AA has been restored.  My self and countless others have bashed this guy for the past season.   Most of it was legit, the trade with the Astros last summer still bothers me, his secretness and lack of contact with the media.   AA and the organization needed to do something as the roster was not complete and hasn’t been for years.  Last winter, the team lacked starting pitching, a left fielder and second baseman.    They ended the season the same way.   In one week, AA has strengthened all three.

Congratulations Alex and thank you for restoring hope in a Country that wants to be Blue Jays fans.

World Series?   I guess we will find out in just less than a year from now.

 

Thanks for reading and it’s a great day to be a Blue Jays fan.

Can the Cards go for 12 in 2012?

                It’s that time of year again;  The days get shorter, the leaves turn colour and my (yours?) beloved Cardinals are in the post season once again.   Just like last year, they have entered via the Wild Card spot.   What makes this year slightly different is the fact that there are now two Wild Cards per league.   Each league’s wild cards play a one game playoff Friday.  The winner plays on Sunday and the loser goes home.  Wow.  Talk about intense, nerve wracking and exciting all at the same time.  My shattered nerves?  Or are they?  Could the Cardinals of 2012 break my trend of Champions and win back to back?   I most certainly hope so.   In case you have forgotten or did not read my blogs from last October, I will type it in a nutshell.  Every five years, either my Cardinals or Colorado Avalanche win the World Series or Stanley Cup.   As everyone is aware, my Cardinals are the defending World Series Champions.  So, history dictates no championship this season.   Personally, I would like to see that trend change.  Especially with everything that has happened to this storied franchise in the past year.

 

1.      Won the World Series

2.      Greatest Manager ever, Tony LaRussa retires.

3.      The Greatest Player of my generation (and up there for all time) leaves via free agency for the sunny beaches of Los Angeles.  No playoffs this year, eh Albert?

4.      Pitching Coach Icon Dave Duncan takes the season off to be with his ailing wife.

5.      New manager is Mike Matheny.  He has zero experience as a manager.

6.      Co-Staff ace Chris Carpenter hurts his shoulder in Spring Training and is slated to miss the entire season.   Heroically, he makes it back in September

7.      Starting SS Rafael Furcal is lost with over a month remaining

8.      Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allan Craig are offensive juggernauts and almost makes you say “Albert who?”

9.      Yadier Molina breaks out and in my mind, should be the NL MVP.  HE IS the St. Louis Cardinals.

10.  Cardinals win 12 out of the last 16 games and finally clinch a spot with two games remaining.  The over-priced and hyped Dodgers would just not go away.

 That is a lot to digest. 

So is this team destined to win again?   They have a solid staff, above average bullpen and can hit from batters 1 thru 8.  It all starts Friday (time tbd) with Kyle Lohse taking the ball for the Red Birds.   Go Cardinals and let’s make it another exciting, memorable autumn!

2012 Blue Jays Mid-Season Review

In a couple of days, the mid-summer classic will be held and that usually exemplifies the half way point.    Blue Jays very own, Joey Bats (Bautista) will be in the home run derby on Monday evening.  Let’s take a look on how the Blue Jays performed in the first few months:  Italics are excerpts from my Blue Jays Preview 2012 blog.

Bullpen : This is the obvious weakness from 2012.This is correct as the Blue Jays closer Sergio Santos fell to injuries and may miss the entire season.   Fransisco Cordero faltered as Santos replacement and has disappointed pretty much every time he stands on the mound.   I believe that father time has caught up to the man.   Because of incompetence and injuries, the Jays have used 20 pitchers in the bullpen.   Twenty!  We’re only half through the season.   Needless to say, it hasn’t been pretty, with the exception of Darren Oliver and Casey Janssen.   Oliver has an outstanding ERA of 1.48 and Casey has been exceptional, closing 11 out of 12 save opportunities.   Both aforementioned pitchers have kept opponents batting average below .200 (.198 and .197).   If the Jays want to stay in the wild card race, they will need to rely less on the bullpen and have their starters pitch further into the game.  Any bullpen will wear down with overuse.  Especially with hotter days ahead.

Pre-Season: B+

Mid-Season: C

Starters: Where to begin?   The staff ace, Ricky Romero is a good place to start.   Ricky has regressed this season.  His W-L record does not show that (8-3), but his ERA (5.35) and WHIP (1.49) certainly do.  Number two in the rotation is Brendan Morrow, who was coming into his own until an injury sidelined him.  After that……Too many question marks and inexperience.  First, the question marks.  Brett Cecil has really lost his swagger and I’m doubtful that he will have another season like 2010.  Dustin McGowan?  I like the comeback story, blah, blah.   However, the fact remains that he missed over two seasons because of an arm injury and other ailments.  Heck, he may start the season on the DL.  Now for the inexperience.  Last season, Kyle Drabek’s age was in full view as his maturity isn’t quite there yet.  I still think that he can/will be a middle tier starter and probably needs a full season in AAA.  Henderson Alvarez lacks the experience and has roughly a month of big league experience.   I personally think that AA should’ve signed a veteran to help this young staff out.  Not much has changed since I wrote that in late March.  Cecil started the season in AAA and was recalled because of necessity after three starters hit the dl in a matter of four days!  Since his recall, the numbers have not been okay, (2 W 1 L 5.64 ERA), but what else do the Jays have?   Aaron Laffey has been effective and same can be said with Carlos Villeneuva.  I’m just worried about them burning out later in the year.   As for McGowan?   He has yet to throw a pitch this season.   The young Kyle Drabek is out for the season after having Tommy John Surgery.  The last player mentioned from the pre-season preview was Henderson Alvarez.   He has been an enigma as some games he is lights out and others it looks like he is over-matched.   I still believe a full season in the minors would do him wonders.  Unfortunately that will not happen as the Jays needs starters and I still believe that AA screwed up by not signing a veteran starter in the off-season.   What the Jays really need is someone who can eat up innings.  Will they acquire one before the deadline?   That’s for another time to discuss.

Pre-Season: B

Mid-Season: C-

Infield: The infield has been solid with the exception of first base.  Lawrie, Escobar and Johnson have played day in and day out.   In regards to first base,Adam Lind is looking to bounce back from a disappointing second half and I believe he will do so.I was wrong on that one as a month ago, Lind was put on waivers and spent some time in AAA.   Since his recall, he’s been ordinary, with a few home runs but not much else.  Look to see him traded by the deadline or waiver deadline in August.  I just don’t see how Adam fits in the plans of the Blue Jays, especially with the emergence of Encarnacion as a hitter and fielder.   He has definitely held his own at first base.   Thankfully, John Farrell has moved Escobar and Johnson from the 1 and 2 spots in the lineup.   Kelly Johnson has really regressed in the past month, but to have him batting 7th is not that bad and his defense is fine.  Same goes with Escobar; there is a rumour that the Jays brass are not happy with his non-shalant attitude.   Perhaps he too gets moved, especially with the Cuban Hocheviar lurking in AAA.   His time will be soon.   Now to a positive and its name is Brett Lawrie.   Lawrie’s hustle and enthusiasm is great for fans to see and the defense?  Wow.   Lawrie makes some nice plays on the hot corner and will only get better.  One slight on him is his temper.  The kid needs to control it as you don’t want the umpires against you.

Pre-Season Defense: B

Mid-Season Defense: B

Pre-Season Offense: B+

Mid-Season Offense: B+

Catcher: J.P. Arencibia is the man. Apparently not so much anymore as there are rumours swirling that he could be moved because of prospect Travis D’Arnaud.  A knock on JP is his defense and throwing out runners.  I personally would wait and see, because why not have a superb platoon? The one thing that will remain constant, is his low average.This part is true as Arencibia is batting .224 with 13 homers.   His backup Jeff Mathis has been great and is now Cecil’s personal catcher.

Pre-Season Defense: B

Mid-Season Defense: B-

Pre-Season Offense: B+

Mid-Season Offesne: B+

Outfield: Center field and Right field are secure with the likes of Rasmus and Bautista.  the enigma called Colby Rasmus needs a break out year and finally hit and field the way he is suppose to.   From what I’ve read, it sounds like he is better prepared mentally this season.16 hr’s and 50 rbi’s?  I’d say that Rasmus is better prepared.   Farrell has him slotted in the #2 spot and he looks great.   Hopefully he’s gotten over being treated ‘unkind’ by one of the greatest manager’s ever, Tony LaRussa. (that’s right, Colby, get over it.)  As for Bautista?  27 dingers at the break?  Will this man ever slow down?  Look for him to win his third consecutive home run trophy.   Left field has been a problem until recently when Rajai Davis took over the job full time.  His defense is still only average but he can wreak havoc on the bases paths.  As for the man he replaced, Thames?  He is in AAA. I for one, am not overly impressed with Eric Thames as an everyday player.  To me, he is just a younger version of Ben Fransisco, who ironically, is the back up outfielder.   Look to see him lose the starting job because of inconsistency or injury.

Pre-Season Defense: B-

Mid-Season Defense: B

Pre-Season Offense: B+(Bautista Factor)

Mid-Season Offense: A

Designated Hitter:  When Encarnacion is not playing first base, he is the designated hitter.  He really came into his own last June and I think he will do the same this year.When he is in the field, the replacements have not been as good.  See Adam Lind.

Pre-Season: A

Mid-Season: A+

Management: John Farrell has done a great job, given the circumstances.  His persona is great for this team and it seems that the guys respect him.  It’s hard to grade him on the management of his pitchers because of the injuries and ineffectiveness.   The team has been much better since he inserted Colby at the top of the lineup and moved KJ and Escobar down.  I do enjoy the aggressiveness on the base paths and the effort to ‘manufacture’ runs.  Especially recently as the Jays have scored more than a few runs on sacrifice flies and bunts.   In my mind, Mr. Farrell gets an A.   The GM Alex Anthopoulos does not receive an A.   Frankly, I believe that he can do better with this team and his idea of going with young, inexperience starting pitchers has bitten him in the butt.  One thing that I am growing tired of is his secretiveness with the media.  I don’t expect him to divulge everything, but to me, he comes across as a self-centered, ‘I’m better than you’ attitude.I still believe that.   Some people think that he should trade for a Matt Garza or a Cole Hamels.  Would that be a good idea?  Probably not as both would require at least four top prospects and what for?  Hamels is a free agent at the end of the season and will Garza really put the Jays over the top?  Not with the injuries and ineffectiveness of the other Jay starters.  Therefore, don’t sell the farm, but at least do something, because the Jays are only 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.  I may sound harsh on AA, but the truth remains that he has done more good than bad.   Most of his trades have been in the Jays favour and according towww.mlbrumors.com , AA is always calling other GM’s, asking on availability of players.   I just wonder if he over-values his prospects?  Time will tell.

Pre-Season Grade: B

Mid-Season Grade: B

 

OVERALL:

Pre-Season: B+

Mid-Season: B

I gave them a B because of the state of the pitching staff.  Yes, they are over .500 but the fact remains that the bullpen is weak and same goes with the starters.   For now, they are still in contention, but without the acquisition of a veteran arm, they will fade and probably end up with a decent record of 82-80.  Obviously not good enough for a playoff spot.  Whether they are in the AL East or not.

Pre-Season: 88-74

Mid-Season: 82-80

 

Thanks for reading and I hope John Farrell and his men prove me wrong.

Long Live the Starting Pitcher

Relief pitchers are too volatile to invest too much money or years.  So far this year, over half a dozen ‘closers’ have either been placed on the DL or lost their job.  Some notable names;

DL –  Mariano Rivera, Sergio Santos,  Andrew Bailey , Drew Storen, Joakim Soria and Brian Wilson

Lost their job due to incompetence: Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol

That is just to name a few.  Some people believe in the closer and there are businesses and websites dedicated to the research of this role.   Not to be left out; the rest of the bullpen.   If you are not a closer, then you are a either a specialist, set-up or long man.   The majority of the time, the aforementioned pitchers are not good enough to start or close.   It could be the number of different pitches they throw, age or stamina.   Personally, as a fan and a ‘numbers freak’, I find the bullpen to be a necessary evil.   You probably have some questions and disagreements with what I’m typing, so let’s get started

  1. If you don’t use your bullpen, the starting pitcher will get injured  –   Ironically, there are over seven current closers on the disabled list.  So even non-starting pitchers get hurt.  I read an article stating that at least 50% of all pitchers will spend time on the disabled list this season.   A very bold prediction and I don’t necessarily believe it will be that high, but probably 35% +.  Reason being is that with all that is invested, teams are quick to pull them out of the lineup.    Another reason that teams pull their starters is because of ‘pitch count’.  Typically, a hundred pitches is the time when a pitcher is pulled.  Some managers pull a pitcher whether he is on a roll or struggling.   I disagree because in doing so, you are bringing a pitcher in who a) is in the bullpen because of injury or the fact that he was not good enough to start.  Or b) pitcher is cold (I realize they warm up) and that could cause a ‘shift’ in momentum.
  2. If you over use the starting pitcher, they will be tired for the playoffs – This may be true, but what happens if you don’t make the playoffs?  Isn’t the reason they play 162 games is to make the post-season?  So why not have your pitchers give everything they have leading up to the playoffs?  I believe a strong, competent pitcher needs to pitch as much as they can.

Now with that being said, believe it or not, there is a place for a bullpen.   It’s just that it is over-used and if there are 7, sometimes 8 pitchers in the bullpen, the manager is more opt to use them.  I say have less and use them sparingly and accordingly.  Most teams don’t manage their bullpens properly because they don’t trust the starter or rely too much on the pitch count.   If a pitcher is throwing effortlessly and is having quick innings, then leave them in.  Whether it’s pitch 99 or 120.   Obviously there are times and certain players where you have to have a count.  I get that.  Especially with younger guys.  But if you keep them on a count, how do they build up their endurance?

This is just something that has been on my mind and I thought that it needed to be said.

Thanks for reading and long live the starting pitcher.

E5 – A new meaning to a negative nickname

In case people don’t recall, a few seasons ago,  Edwin Encarnacion was the everyday starting third baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays.   He was one of three players acquired from the Reds for Scott Rolen.   Personally, that deal worked out for both as Rolen is still in Cincinnati and E5 is starting to come into his own.  Yes, he did hit 26 home runs back in 2008 for the Reds and yet, the average and consistency wasn’t there.    I remember two Father’s days ago, when my little brother and I took our Dad to the baseball game.  We sat in the 200 level on the third base side (it was the game where Johnny Mac hit a game winning homerun in the 9th, less than a week after his father had passed).    I heckled E5 and received some cheers and laughs from the other spectators.   Two days later he was sent to AAA.   This season,  Encarnacion started a new path.   It was to play DH and 1B.  Personally, I think not having the pressure of  being on the other side of the infield helped.

Some of you may still be thinking “What does E5 mean?”.   It’s the ‘code’ that is used on a baseball scorecard when the third baseman makes an error.   Since, Edwin played third and had many errors, he was subsequently nicknamed ‘E5’.   His career fielding percentage is .940.  Enough said.

Since this is a new season, full of hope and electricity from us, the fans.   I will give Encarnacion, five positive E’s!

  1.  Energetic –  This past week, Mr. Encarnacion stole two bases!   His new found confidence shows on the base paths and his play at first has been better than expected.
  2. Excellent Attitude – You will never see Edwin cut up the team, coach or teammates.    He is one of the first guys to congratulate someone on a great play, hit or anything else.    Nor do you see him disgruntled or saying something detrimental.
  3. Embracing new role – When he signed a new contract in the off-season, knowing full well that he would be the full time DH and not a fielder, showed that he WANTS to be a Jay.   And he will play or do anything they ask him to do.
  4. Everyone in the clubhouse loves him –  He seems to be a guy who others want to be around.  Sure, he is not the most outspoken, but his quiet, confident demeanor must certainly be seen by the young guys.
  5. HomE Runs –  (I know the ‘e’ is not first, but does it matter?)  So far, he has three dingers and I can see 30+ home runs this season.

There you have it.  So next time you hear Encarnacion called E5, think of the five e’s above.   I know that he has made a believer out of me!

Thanks for reading and let’s be positive and support our Toronto Blue Jays.