Everything Blue Jays

For Toronto Blue Jays fans

Monthly Archives: April 2013

Are We Over Thinking It or Thinking It Over?

With less than 5% of the Major League Baseball season complete, there are all sorts of people second-guessing moves by the coaches, pitchers and staff of the Toronto Blue Jays. Hey, it is the fun part of baseball where we take in a few statistics and make a gut-felt assumption and find more stats until they point to what we thought all along. It is akin to booing at a game. We pay to watch and we are permitted to show our displeasure and voice our discontent at any member of the team.

Even I was wondering why the Jays trotted out the lineup they did Sunday for the finale against the Boston Red Sox. I can see resting one player due to injury or providing another a chance to play in a certain game but to appear to throw in the towel against Boston, a division rival,  and a chance to go up 2-1 in a three-game series? I have to admit, I had my doubts. The score vindicated my thoughts.

However, you have to know the Toronto Blue Jays bats and pitching will recover from this blip in the schedule. There will be those 10-game slumps and those other 10-game streaks that will all even out over the course of a 162-game schedule. It is the true indication of a team that they never let something like a 2-5 start upset the club house.

It is my opinion; everyone went out on the town for a few beverages to get to know one another Saturday night. That, my fellow Jays fans, can mean more in July than a 7-game win streak. Getting to know your teammates is as important as the next RBI. Whether a person “fits in” the team chemistry depends upon the players’ makeup and their acceptance of one another. While each of them shares a bond and team logo, it is up to the entire staff to play as a team.

No one will care about what we write about (I am certain even fewer care what gets written here), few will remember what analysts say about certain individuals and only an embarrassed lot remembers a struggling Edwin Encarnacion and what we thought of his production on a mediocre baseball team two years ago. The coaches never gave up on the player who is now indispensable on the Jays team.

No, the club is not experimenting right now, nor is it platooning individuals in key roles. The organization is trying to win games but it is also keeping an eye on the bigger picture: establishing itself as a winner this season and the next and perhaps even a third year in a row that experiences post season play.

It is only a matter of time before the shuffling stops and all the pieces fall into place. R.A. Dickey will find his groove. I am certain the roof being open will have a dramatic effect on his pitches. Also watch how many games he pitches out of doors. I have seen how the team works to the strengths of its staff.

Last season, just before the all-star game, the Jays club shook up its pitching rotation to permit its strongest starters to oppose division rivals. While the club faced an eventual collapse at that point in the season, the team showed it was looking ahead and reassured fans of the club’s commitment to winning by just tweaking the rotation enough to get an edge. It was such a radical move, radio announcers disagreed that the Jays would even try such a maneuver.

No, no one will be moving Jose Reyes from short stop or taking Jose Bautista out of right field until Brett Lawrie comes back and I think Encarnacion has seen the last of third base until he rounds that bag to head home. No, it is time to see this team for what it is and what it will remain – set.

Get ready to see the real Toronto Blue Jays next time they come to Toronto. Who knows, we might even see Lawrie back at his usual position before they come back from their next road trip.

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The “Unusual Suspects” Secure Blue Jays Win

A Toronto Blue Jays shutout win over the Boston Red Sox felt great didn’t it?

While I never feel comfortable with Dustin Pedroia coming to bat for the Beantowners any time in a game but with the Jays in a comfortable 5-0 lead, I was able to breathe easier in the ninth inning than usual.

Speaking of “usual”, there are some things we can count on: the media riding the abilities of Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia. This makes the trio “unusual suspects” in the grander scheme of a Blue Jays win.

Granted, Rasmus struck out in his first two plate appearances in Game 2 but he made up for it with a three-run blast that would still be sailing through the city if the Rogers Centre was not an enclosed facility. Wow!

So quickly now…think, who leads the team in stolen bases? Fine, so Jose Reyes is leading in almost every category but who is second? The answer is Adam Lind. He and Mark DeRosa shook up the Red Sox with half a hit and run. DeRosa failed to hit the ball but Lind still ran and pulled off a stolen base – his first since 2011.  It seemed to shake up the Red Sox enough to walk Derosa and serve up the insurance runs the team needed in the ninth inning.

Rasmus also did something pitchers have wanted to do for the last few years: take the bat out of the hands of Jose Bautista. Before Rasmus went to bat, Bautista was in the dugout obviously warming up to step in as a pinch hitter. After the three-run homer, one can only surmise that manager John Gibbons told his tender-footed slugger, “Never mind.” Mind you, it could have been a ploy to make the Red Sox believe Bautista was ready to come in and hit. Check that, Bautista has just one walk in 6 plate appearances vs. reliever Alfredo Aceves. Gibbons wouldn’t be playing head games with his own staff would he? Naw! (BTW – It would be a fitting gesture to indicate the location where the Rasmus homer hit on the facing of the third level – for the second time this season!)

Well, for whatever the reason this victory was one of the more unusual ones we have witnessed. However, nothing was more exciting than to watch Reyes perform his impression of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson in Game 1 against the Red Sox.

There are many videos of how Robinson used to torment pitchers into throwing wild pitches to the plate or to fellow fielders just to keep Robinson close to the bag. In Game 1, Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks collected a sharply hit ball but he was distracted by Reyes who threatened to go home on the throw. Middlebrooks looked toward Reyes who just stood between third and home waiting for a commitment. Middlebrooks took a couple of steps toward first but that was when Reyes broke towards home. Middlebrooks stopped his attempt toward first and turned toward Reyes and third base in an attempt to tag the baserunner. Middlebrooks failed to tag Reyes and all hands were safe on the play.

If this is the kind of excitement Jays fans are in for this season, even the losses will be easier to take. 

Getting on base is Everything Blue Jays

“Welcome to the home of Everything Blue Jays!”

I had to write that slogan. Thank you Rogers Communications. What a boost for this website.

Down two games in the series, you knew it would only be a matter of time before the Toronto Blue Jays players started driving the baseballs into the stands.

Game 2 against Cleveland was a close affair that could have gone either way. The Indians took full advantage of the Jays’ defensive lapses. Good teams do that. Better teams don’t commit those kinds of errors.

The tables turned a complete “one eighty” in Game 3 when the Jays took advantage of two mental lapses by the Indians’ defenders. Sure, credit the “GO-GO” attitude of both Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Reyes who never stopped running on two different plays.

Bonifacio is making everyone realize what a complete player/competitor he is for the Jays. On a hit to centrefield, the Jays’ utility player ran out of the batter’s box and sprinted to second base. To his credit he never slowed down. Cleveland outfielder Michael Bourn made the routine throw on a play that turned out to be anything but routine as Bonifacio slid into second with an “all-out” hustle for a double.

Reyes also showed off his running prowess on a ball put into play by Jose Bautista. The .750 slugger drove a shot to the Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera who collected the ball and fired it to first to get the sure out. However, what he did not see was that Reyes had quickly rounded third and was headed home. By the time the out was recorded, the Jays’ base runner had run through the base coach’s stop sign and was about to score easily. Bautista’s “routine” out provided him with his fourth RBI of the season and Reyes’ hustle added to his teammate’s hitting statistics.

We have to appreciate all this offence and the position Bautista holds in the lineup. Last season, everyone talked about how much better the Jays would be with him batting in the third position but also how the lack of depth would not provide management with enough options for putting him in that role. This game proved the rationale for the Jays’ thoughts last season and this season’s moves. Bonifacio (.273 OBP) and Reyes (.357 OBP) seemed to be on base every time Bautista came to bat. Given that first base is not usually open and that slugger Edwin Encarnacion is protecting the power-hitting Bautista, the Jays can count on getting even more production from the heart of the order. The Toronto opposition has to pitch to the top batters. That means more strikes for Melky Cabrera (.286 OBP) to see and a greater opportunity for him to get on base.

All three games against Cleveland provided some insight to what Jays fans can look forward to this season. Pitching, fielding and of course hitting will give the Toronto fans the kind of excitement they have come to expect from this franchise.

Fast start key to Jays’ 2013 playoff drive

This is the most anticipated Major League Baseball season in the franchise of the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball history. 

Jays’ General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has provided Jays fans with answers to every position problem in 2012. In just three years at the post, he poured funding into the scouting staff (where he first started with the franchise in 2003 – happy 10th anniversary by the way A.A.), then he started putting key pieces into place and built an exciting club that shows more potential than their routine fourth-place finish will attest.

Many fans will be snapping up programs to be able to identify some of the new faces on the team, but this provides them with the information they will want to learn about this powerful team.

Not only does the club boast some of the best players at every position but the organization still has some of its future just a couple of hours away down the Queen Elizabeth Way in Buffalo, New York, just itching to show they belong. How do we know? We saw many of them last season. Other prospects are now on teams playing for other organizations after Anthopoulos showcased their talents at the major league level through the 2012 season.

Some of you may be nodding in agreement but others may be wondering who were these players and why were they traded away if they were so good?

Adeiny Hechavarria, the phenomenal short stop who may still want to ply his trade as a New York Yankee one day, was chased (not just scouted) by Anthopoulos and his staff in order to bring him into the fold. The young infielder did an admirable job of filling in when teammates were sidelined. He is among the top prospects within the Miami Marlins organization. Should his hitting rise above .250 in the organization’s lower levels, the Jays may be playing against him one day soon.

The shortstop is just one of many players who helped provide the MLB club with the players (through trades) who can compete today. This is how many baseball franchises build championships. It is how the Jays were able to get the players they needed to win in 1992 and 1993. The only difference is that Anthopoulos is getting it done sooner than most GMs.

The organization may be among the best in the majors but what prompted the meteoric rise? How could a club that continues to finish out of the Wild Card hunt by August still keep fans interested through June or July? Certainly there is more to this club than just the marketing behind Jose Bautista’s home runs or Canadian Brett Lawrie’s wry humour and national heritage.

The answers may just lie in the club’s bad luck through 2012. Whether it is coincidence or just protecting their players in a lost cause, the Toronto Blue Jays lost more players due to injury than they had in franchise history.

Every position player suffered due to a season-ending injury or a prolonged ailment that caused the club to rethink how it was going to fill the voids. The club needed to address the closer role after it acquired Sergio Santos and came up with the idea of using former starter Casey Janssen. Bautista, Lawrie, Encarnacion, the entire pitching staff all suffered injuries at one point in the season and needed time off or surgery.

Every night, fans tuned into the sports highlights to see which Blue Jays player was injured this time. What made the situation worse was the midseason news that the Boston Red Sox were tired of how that club was performing that thought that the Jays’ manager might fill the void better than any other.

John Farrell’s aloofness and off-hand remarks about being “still under contract with the Toronto Blue Jays” were accurate but did not dissuade the Red Sox from getting their man in an off-season deal. Alex Anthopoulos was forced to make the move and that left him with just a few options for the 2013 season. 

Anthopoulos is a first-class individual but when the Jays open up some big leads this season in Toronto against Boston, he can be pardoned for a smile when the fans start chanting “Dream Job.”

There is an old saying that throwing money at a problem does not make the problem go away but in baseball, it can certainly provide the basis of a solution.

Back to building the club: someone in the front office must have taken pity on the baseball team because when Anthopoulos went to his bosses for money to secure players in a trade with the Miami Marlins, the team approved immediately.

With the trades, Toronto management and staff addressed the holes in the infield including second base, short stop and first base. The trade provided an answer to the DH role, starting pitching and the outfield which already seemed set to compete.

As if to say, “But I’m not done!” Anthopoulos picked up the most coveted pitcher available in Robert Allen Dickey. All before Christmas. Thanks Alex. Everyone was asking what we got you.

While many may say Anthopoulos was just doing his job, he certainly took advantage of making a bad situation good and providing the club with a very real opportunity to win. The Jays are going to need it because with a terrible Houston Astros franchise now in the American League West, there is a very good possibility that the wild card teams will be coming from that division.

The Jays are going to need a strong start, the kind where they win two out of three games or sweep some series because they play all of their division rivals twice over the next two months. Here is hoping the club is on top by the end of May and we will be talking about everything Blue Jays.