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It’s not that he’s wrong, it’s just that Jeff Blair always seems to be the first to jump headfirst into negativity when the Jays hit a rough patch. In his column in today’s Globe and Mail he points out the fact that sure, the Jays have a great record, but against the Yankees and Red Sox they are 1-4. Yeah, thanks, we know.
The Jays send rookie Robert Ray to the mound tonight against Jon Lester. If the Jays can find a way to beat these guys tonight, they leave Boston with a 2 1/2 game lead in the East going into a weekend series against the underwhelming Atlanta Braves.
Oh, inter-league play, how I loathe you. You see, I’m a traditionalist. In my mind the only time a National League team should play an American league team is the World Series. I never warmed to inter-league play, even when the Jays played the Expos (it’s the closest I came to liking it). It has taken away the novelty of the two leagues facing off for the championship.
No surprise there: I’m also totally against the Designated Hitter rule in the American League. I love the fact that managers in the National League are forced to make decisions once their pitcher goes deep into the game. Yes, I’m an advocate of small-ball, as opposed to just grip-it-and-rip-it baseball. I’ll take a Rickey Henderson over a Jim Thome every single time.
In essence, then, I suppose inter-league play is good for one thing, and that’s to see the Blue Jays play some real baseball. Cito is going to be forced into making decisions, which will quiet down all the haters (ok probably not). We can also see if Roy Halladay’s boasts about his hitting prowess are true!
- Aaron Hill still leads the Majors in hits with 64 (tied with Victor Martinez)
- Marco Scutaro still leads the Majors with 36 walks (tied with Adam Dunn) and 36 runs (tied with Adam Jones)
- Roy Halladay still leads the Majors with eight wins (Zach Greinke has 7) and overall awesomeness with infinite
At what point does it become acceptable to truly believe in the 2009 Blue Jays? Should we wait for May to be over? The All-Star game? Do we need to get right into August and have the Blue Jays in the thick of a pennant race? Or is it ok, after 41 games (27 of them being victories), to let our guard down and fully embrace the fact that this team is for real?
Although I’m an optimistic guy, I keep waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. Scott Richmond can’t possibly be for real, right? His five wins must be some sort of Copperfield-esque illusion? Surely Brett Cecil and Robert Ray will soon be outed as frauds perpetrated on a vulnerable fan base?
And the hitting…well, the hitting cannot continue at this clip – it’s impossible (right?). Marco Scutaro cannot sustain his .415 On-Base-Percentage, which is 83 points higher than his career mark. Opposing pitchers will figure out the kids: Lind and Snider will come crashing down at some point. Oh, and Aaron Hill will NOT hit 44 home runs, which is his current pace.
Those doubts were valid three weeks into April, but we’re now into the final stretch of May and the Jays show no signs of slowing down. If anything, the pitching will get better if Janssen, Romero and Litsch come back strong (they are currently being held back in the minors because of how the kids are performing in the Bigs). To top it off, all of this is going on with Rios and Wells struggling (although Rios has been showing signs of waking up recently), which theoretically allows for some relief when they get going (Wells is a perennial slow-starter).
No, you can count on me to destroy this protective wall I’ve put around my emotions and fully embrace this team as the real thing. The Jays go into their first series against the Red Sox leading them by 3 1/2 games in the East. The Jays have the second best record in baseball. They are free of players that are lightning rods for discontent (except for maybe B.J. Ryan), like A-Rod on the Yankees or closers for the New York Mets. Even the city of Toronto is waking up from their winter slumber and getting their butts to the games (37,000 on Saturday for a game against the White Sox). Heck, I’ve even taken a second look at my budget to check if a quick weekend trip to Toronto might be in the cards!
I’m an optimist but a realist. I know not every Blue Jay is going to have a career year. I know one of these pitchers is going to have a monumental collapse. It’s strange, though: I feel like even when the bump in the road does come for some of these guys, there will be someone right behind them to pick up the slack. They’ve shown a keen ability to do that so far this season. It’s made for the most compelling Jays season in a long time.
- Where are we on my request for 10 victories in 16 days? Five wins and two defeats, which means nine games remaining to get another 5 wins. Going just above .500 for the rest of this stretch does not seem like too much to ask at this point. Fenway awaits, and it’s time shove the arrogance of the Red Sox fans down their throats.
- Rogers and CTV Globemedia finally buried the hatchet, so Rogers customers will be able to join the rest of the country in watching the Jays and Red Sox from Fenway on TSN2. About freaking time.
- Fox and MLB have come to an agreement to start playoff games earlier. We are being promised a first pitch no later than 7:57pm. Again – about freaking time.
‘Twas s nice little weekend in sport, that. Let’s dive right in with another edition of The Twit!
- Robert Ray made his Major League debut and went (almost) 6 innings, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits. Best part is that he seemed to settle down after conceding a first inning home run to Adam Jones.
- If you have a young child, and you are looking for a professional athlete for them to treat as a role model (careful now), look no further than Jays 2nd baseman Aaron Hill. As far as I can tell he is loved equally by his teammates, management and the members of the media who cover him (and probably his Mom). Plus he delivers heroics as witnessed in the bottom of the 10th and 11th innings of Saturday’s game. First he booted the ball in the top of the 10th, spotting the O’s a one run lead, only to homer in the bottom frame to tie it again and in the 11th sealed the game with a walk-off base hit. NAILS.
- It was extremely difficult to juggle between watching the Jays game and the Pens-Caps opener. My brain was saying “playoff hockey is special, it only comes once a year (for two months, but still), and this series will be the most compelling story”. My heart was singing:
I managed to do a decent job as I didn’t miss any of the goals, and caught most of the pertinent Jays moments. Most importantly I got to watch every second of extra innings.
- Here’s hoping that the Pens/Caps series continues to be as good as the first game. Crosby and Ovechkin scoring, physical play from both sides, and the goalies stood on their heads (and sticks). If you haven’t yet seen the amazing save by Varlamov that preserved the final score, here it is in all its glory:
- I think there was a horse race or something. People wore hats. Not sure on the details though.
- The Jays and Scott Richmond (4-0) just kept on rolling Sunday, getting the brooms out in what surprisingly was their first sweep of 2009. Goodbye Orioles, come back soon! They Jays now have eight of the 14 wins I requested when their current 20 games in 20 days started. Two more wins and they go .500 for that stretch. Starting tonight the Jays will see the Indians twice, the Angels twice and finish up with a three game set against the Athletics. Something tells me they can scratch two wins out of those games.
- Triple overtime in the Ducks-Red Wings game yesterday was pretty cool, and once again was the scene for two outstanding goalie performances. Chris Osgood held up a middle finger to all his critics and Jonas Hiller showed everyone why he was the right choice over Jean-Sébastien Giguère.
- I’ll come right out and be the first to say it. Maybe it’s time for Travis Snider to head to Las Vegas to work on his swing. I realize this comes after a weekend in which he made some spectacular plays in the outfield (Brian Roberts won’t soon forget The Travis). However, he’s in a 6-for-33 slump which leaves him with a .229 average. My reasoning includes an excuse to send him down six weeks, which would give the Jays an extra year of control over Travis, as Bart Given explained before the season began. Everyone kinda forgot about it after Snider jumped out to a fantastic rookie-of-the-year-ish start, but now the question needs to be asked: Would a platoon of Jose Bautista and Joe Inglett really be a downgrade at this point?
- Caught the last period of Bruins/Canes last night and it was highly entertaining. Cam Ward (recurring theme alert) was spectacular facing wave after wave of Winnie The Pooh attacks. At one point during a series of successive Ward saves, the usually staid Gord Miller ran out of octaves to which he could climb. Doesn’t get better than that.
- The Jays send Brian Tallet (1-1) to the mound tonight, and the Jays hitters will face Fausto Carmona (1-3).
It wasn’t quite the SI curse, but the Jays did accomplish something last night despite losing 11-3: they put an end to Zach Greinke’s 43 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. It’s a long season, and you look for positives where you can.
Brian Tallet’s E.R.A. ballooned to 6.45, but believe it or not I thought he was a hard luck loser last night. Sure he gave up a couple of no-doubt bombs, but many of the other hits he gave up seemed to be bloops, squeakers and 1st or 3rd base grazers. When it comes down to it he allowed 10 runs, but I don’t think it was as bad as it looks in the box score.
The other issue that is soon to become urgent is the fact that Cito can only rely on two starters right now; Roy Halladay and Scott Richmond. Jesse Litsch and Ricky Romero are apparently very close to returning, which is good news. If Casey Janssen can continue his rehab successfully we can ship the Bri(y)ans back to Las Vegas or the bullpen.
On top of all that: SIGN PEDRO.
Aaron Hill continues his feel-good season. He leads he Majors in hits, stretching his advantage to four over Victor Martinez, who has 34. The man is on fire and we’re all happy to see it. I’m also ready to declare Marco Scutaro as leadoff hitter a success. His OBP is .422 (22nd in MLB) and he’s second in the league in walks with 22 (Jason Bay leads with 23). What more can you ask of a leadoff hitter not called Rickey Henderson than to get on base almost half the time? I really enjoyed his hustle during his first at-bat last night, hitting a bloop and stretching into a double when Mitch Maier lazily fielded the ball. Way to go get ‘em, Scoots.
Today’s game, which will be the Jays attempt to earn a draw in this series, goes at 2:10 Eastern. Ex-Ottawa Lynx Brian Burres gets the call for the Jays while Kyle Davies is the man for the Royals. We’ll see if I get hit with the blackout rule on MLB.tv!
Doom and gloom abounds when sifting through the piles of MLB previews and predictions concerning your 2009 Toronto Blue Jays. The obvious steps backwards taken by the franchise are easy to point out: losing A.J. Burnett, Shaun Marcum out for the year, Dustin McGowan doubtful in his ability contribute this year, two rookies in the starting rotation, no free agent activity to speak of…yup, that’s the easy part.
The front office has announced that they’re working towards contending – in 2010. The media has done a bang-up job of toeing the company line, predicting a dire 2009 season. Most outlets predict a finish no better than 4th place in the American League East. With the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles rounding out the division, I can see the logic in that.
So with no expectations and such dire predictions to live up to, where are we really?
1. Roy Halladay
2. David Purcey
3. Jesse Litsch
4. Ricky Romero
5. Scott Richmond
Although this does seem like the Jays are going into the season light on arms, it’s not all that bad according to Batter’s Box. Reading his post really lifted my spirits concerning this starting grid, and if things work out with just one of the youngsters, the Jays shouldn’t be too far off of what they were in 2008.
The bullpen poses a lot of questions, mind you. Jeremy Accardo was just sent down to the minors and B.J. Ryan hasn’t been able to hit any higher than 87 m.p.h. on the radar gun in Florida. Cito has actually begun musing about using Scott Downs in the closer role. Brandon League has had a fantastic Spring and Casey Janssen should be back to 100% after suffering through injuries. Jason Frasor is what he is, and the rest of the cast should be shuttling back and forth between Toronto and Las Vegas.
I get the feeling that watching the Jays pitch this summer will be anything but dull. How Brad Arnsberg manages the arms will be fun to monitor, and if one of the youngsters emerges as a stud we could be in for a heck of a fun ride.
Here’s what I’ve got for a batting order this year:
The Jays were near the basement in offense last season. Should a few “if’s” come through, it will be fairly easy to surpass last year’s numbers. The “if’s” are the following:
- if Aaron Hill overcomes his concussion to return to 2007 form;
- if Adam Lind continues to improve;
- if Scott Rolen stays healthy and re-emerges as a slugging 3rd baseman;
- if Travis Snider is as good as advertised;
- if Lyle Overbay can start hitting doubles again;
If none of these happen, we have the 2008 Jays offense; nothing lost, nothing gained. If however some of these “if’s” pull through, we’ve got something to cheer about it. It means the Jays can score more than one or two runs in support of Halladay. It means the young pitching staff can pitch with a lead on occasion. It means Wells and Rios can start taking more risks on the basepaths.
It means; a better offensive ball club than last year.
My advice to Jays fans watching their team this year is this; enjoy watching these young kids develop. It’s going to be a hell of treat to watch Purcey, Lind, Snider and Romero come of age. Sprinkle a little greatness with Halladay, Wells and Rios and you’ve got a compelling product to follow. Some days will be frustrating, as stupid mistakes are inevitable with such a young team. But whatever you do, don’t get down on these guys. Cito Gaston and Gene Tenace are going to work this bunch into a hitting powerhouse, and by the end of the season we’ll have no trouble imagining a pennant in 2010.
My prediction for 2009? 84 wins and 3rd place in the division. That’s right, only two wins less than last year. That’s how much I think we’ve improved on offense, and I don’t think we’re as terrible on the mound as some are saying. The Yankees are nowhere near as good as advertised, and will miss the playoffs; they’re the team the Blue Jays will beat for 3rd place.
Can’t wait until Monday.
Seems like everywhere you turn recently, you’ll find someone eager to pile on the 2006 Blue Jays and label their season a total failure, a huge disappointment and a colossal waste of money futilely spent.
That may well be the case for people who had predicted the Blue Jays as their dark horse World Series winner, or touted them as winners of the AL East. Meanwhile, those of us who kept our heads and knew this was a long-term project meant to secure key pieces of the puzzle for half a decade, are left scratching our heads at all the talk of gloom and doom.
The Blue Jays are currently 8 games above .500 with 10 games to go. With a four-game series on tap against the Red Sox, the Jays could easily finish higher than 3rd in the division for the first time since their last World Series season of 1993. They have already tied their win total from last year, sitting pretty with 80 victories.
A.J. Burnett has been dynamite for the past 2 months, Doc has been Doc, Stavo Chacin has gone 8-3 in an injury-riddled season and the bullpen has been steady. Aaron Hill has emerged as a stellar infielder (11 errors while playing short and learning 2nd), while his bat has caught up to its potential (.290 as of this writing). Brandon League has made jaws drop with his 100 mph fastball, and been retiring the league’s best consistently.
The big money free agents have delivered exactly what was asked of them: Troy Glaus, AJ Burnett (after recovering from injury), Benji Molina and BJ Ryan have strengthened the lineup considerably. With Ted Rogers’ proclamation that he wouldn’t mind pumping even more money into the lineup, JP Ricciardi should be well-equipped to go get a solid #3 starter and a shortstop since Ted Lilly will surely leave for California in the offseason, and John McDonald looks as bad at the plate as he looks good on D.
With all this in mind, it’s mind-boggling to witness the Toronto media’s negativity towards this season, when such obvious improvements have been made. Then again, it’s the Toronto media.