It’s no secret that the Blue Jays have had horrible pitching problems this season. And that may be the biggest understatement I’ve ever made. It’s been painful to watch, especially since there were so many expectations for this team in 2013. While they still aren’t out of a playoff spot mathematically, it’s highly unlikely the jays will be playing October baseball. Again, a huge understatement. I just don’t see the point of being so negative…although you wouldn’t think so if you listen to today’s show. But there is a silver lining…I did find something positive to talk about. Click above to take a listen for 20 minutes.
It was a move everyone was dreading, but no one really believed would actually happen.
On Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 the Toronto Blue Jays announced that Rick Romero would be starting the regular season in Class-A Dunedin.
He was supposed to be the #5 Starter this season. He was supposed to recover from a disastrous 2012 season and be the Ricky of 2011 that we all loved to watch. Romero and Josh Johnson publicly joked that they were likely the best 4-5 starting combo in the majors. And they should be. But that will remain to be seen, until Romero can rid whatever demons are in his head and get back on pace to being the CY-Young caliber thrower we all know he has the potential to be.
So how did this happen?
Two main points:
1. With an increase in artillery in the off-season, the Jays suddenly became THE TEAM to be reckoned with. Gone were the days (thank goodness) of sending Romero out on the mound bad start after bad start because every one else was injured. Being thrust into an “ace” position he wasn’t ready for only worsened the entire situation. Anthopoulos has sent a very clear message this off-season: the Jays are going for it. And there’s no room for error, or “working out the kinks”. One week from today the Jays will field the very best squad they have.
2. J.A. Happ had a heck of a spring. He pitched with attitude. He pitched like he had a chip on his shoulder. Maybe he did. Going from expecting to be in a starting role to suddenly being #6 in a starting rotation of five sure ticked the guy off. So he fought like hell for that last spot, and loudly voiced his opinion over not wanting to start the season in AAA. Happ deserves that final spot. He earned it.
So what now?
Ricky has to peel away all the layers and start over. He’s got to be hurting right now, and there isn’t a Jays fan who doesn’t feel for him. We all want to see him do well. And I think we will. History has a way of repeating itself…
During the 2000 season while pitching for the Jays, Roy Halladay posted a 10.64 ERA in 19 games (13 he started). This was the worst season in history for any pitcher having thrown over 50 innings. At the beginning of 2001 he was sent to Dunedin for the start of the season to work on his delivery. 2002 was Halladay’s break-out season, and, well, if you’ve followed baseball over the years you know what else Halladay has done. Even though Roy has also looked rough this 2013 pre-season, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that he’s going to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
So how does this translate to Romero?
Ricky strikes me as the kind of guy who has the same fight Halladay does. Ricky’s a competitor. A fierce one. And no one is tougher on Ricky than Ricky. While this is currently hurting his performance, in the long run it will help. The kind of horrific 2012 season combined with the disappointment of not making the starting rotation this season is enough to break most guys. Most guys wouldn’t recover from this. But Ricky isn’t most guys.
If there’s one term most Jays fans hate, it’s “re-building”. But that’s what Ricky needs to do now. How quickly he bounces back is beyond anyone’s comprehension at this point. We could see him back in a couple months. Or it might take longer until we see the Ricky we all know and miss.
I have my fingers crossed that it will be sooner than later.
But I’m quite certain that Ricky will be ok.
Each team starts the season with a clean slate. Each with 162 games ahead, all with the same mission that only one will ultimately achieve. But within the road to a World Championship lies a season full of milestones, personal goals, break-out seasons, broken records, broken bats, and even broken bones. Many players will get their major-league debut. Some will shine, and some may never get the opportunity again. And within that 162-game season, there will still be surprises. There will be events that have never occurred before. That is one, of many reasons, why baseball is such a magical game.
So here I present to you my list of wild and magical predictions for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. Even if only a few of the ten actually come to fruition, it will still be a truly incredible year.
10. Jose Reyes will win a Gold Glove & Silver Slugger Award this Year – Reyes is no stranger to winning a Silver Slugger award, although it was last in 2006. He has yet to win a Gold Glove. But if he stays healthy, look for him to win both in 2013.
9. At Least Two Jays Pitchers will each log over 200 Innings – While this might sound like a bold statement, it might be the safest prediction of all ten. Here’s why:
– Mark Buehrle hasn’t thrown under 200 innings since the year 2000! Provided he stays injury-free, he’s practically a lock.
– R.A. Dickey threw over 200 innings in both 2011, and of course last season in his CY Young year.
– Josh Johnson threw over 200 innings in 2009, and fell just short last season.
– Romero threw over 200 innings in 2010 and 2011.
When you do the math, realizing that 4 out of your 5 starting pitchers each have the potential to go 200 innings or more (Buehrle went 245.1 innings in 2004, and 236.2 in 2005!) it makes reaching the 800-1,000 inning range collectively a possibility*, which leaves only 458+ innings (of course there will be extra innings) to be divided amongst the bullpen (which is deeper than it has been in years). The Toronto pitching staff could be the definition of endurance this year. *OK, I realize 1,000 innings is a stretch between 5 guys, but that’s why the title of this post is WILD predictions.
8. A Blue Jay Will Hit for the Cycle – This is a prediction by my buddy Al Coombs (you can listen to us talk about it here), and while only two Jays have ever completed the feat (Jeff Frye in 2001 was the last Jay, and Kelly Gruber the first in 1989), it’s not entirely unlikely. Here’s why: In hitting for the cycle, typically the toughest of the four hits is the triple. With how much speed the Jays have on the bases (Rajai Davis, Brett Lawrie, Emilio Bonifacio, and Mr. Triples himself Jose Reyes), the odds alone are that much better.
7. Alex Anthopoulos will make another big Trade – Oh he’s not done yet. Do you think A.A. went all-in during the off-season, just to sit on his hands during regular season? As the Jays approach the trade deadline, you’re going to see something as a Jays fan you haven’t seen in a long time. Toronto will finally be in a position to be one of the BUYERS, not one of the SELLERS. That is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
6. A MLB HR Champ – In 2010 Bautista was the MLB home run leader, hitting 54 dingers, and led the majors again in 2011, hitting 43. In 2012 Edwin Encarnacion hit 42 HR, which was good enough for 4th in the AL. One of these big swingers (if not both) will take a run at the title again this year. If Edwin gets his usual spot behind Bautista in the line-up and is swinging a hot bat, look for Jose to see some quality pitches to hit.
5. Anthony Gose will emerge as the starting Centre Fielder – I don’t mean to take a stance of hating on Colby. But Gose has such raw talent, and combined with ridiculous speed makes him another deadly weapon in the field, and on the base paths (see #8 above). If Gose can make advancements enough to warrant regular play at the big-league level, look for Colby to take a few more days off than he may want, or possibly become part of something more permanent (see #7 above).
4. Three or more Jays will be named to the All-Star team – On paper, they arguably have a roster littered with All-Stars. Look for at least three to be named to the team.
3. Lawrie will have the break out season we’re all expecting. – His arrival to the majors was highly anticipated, and at the end of the 2011 season he didn’t disappoint, racking up 44 hits, 9 HR, 25 RBI, and a .293 BA in just 43 games. While he was temporarily sidelined by injuries last year, look for more 2011-style numbers consistently through the 2013 season.
2. A World Series Championship Banner Flying North of the Border for a Third Time – That’s a pretty darn bold statement if ever I’ve made one (and I’ve made many). I don’t need a long-winded explanation here as to why I think it’s going to happen (that’s reserved for my #1 prediction). But when you have a gut feeling you go with it. Plus if half of the above predictions actually happen, a World Championship is very realistic.
Allow me to tell you a fun story. Back in 2010 I made a bold prediction (imagine that). On camera in early March, I predicted a Toronto Blue Jays pitcher would throw a no hitter. Let me also preface this by saying that while I don’t believe it to be bad luck to predict a no-hitter well in advance, it’s a definite party foul to use the words “no-hitter” during a game while one is still in tact. In fact, don’t even draw attention to it. If you say something along the lines of “the pitcher hasn’t allowed any hits yet”, or “the other team hasn’t had anyone on base”, it’s basically the same thing. You jinxed it. And you’re liable to get beat up by the true baseball fans in the room.
So, what happened that Blue Jays season?
In 2010, you may recall the following:
– April 13th: While pitching for the Jays, Ricky Romero takes a no-hitter through 7 full innings against the Chicago White Sox. In the Jays dugout, then catcher John Buck (who, fun fact, was acquired again by the Jays this off-season along with Reyes, Johnson, Buehrle, and Bonifacio, only to be traded less than a month later in the R.A. Dickey deal), opened his big mouth while talking to the pitching coach and said “oh my gosh, they don’t have any hits yet”. The following inning, cue former Blue Jay, Alex Rios, who hits a 2-run HR to break up the no-hit bid and wipe out the shut-out.
– May 29th: Roy Halladay throws a perfect game. He then follows that up by throwing a no-hitter in the post-season on October 6th. He of course completes both of these miraculous feats while wearing a Phillies uniform, having pitched his last game as a Blue Jay the season before.
– August 8th: Brandon Morrow takes a no-hitter against Tampa into the 9th inning with two out, only to have Evan Longoria hit a ball up the middle, just finding enough room to squeak through (after popping out of a diving Aaron Hill’s glove). The game almost cost me my marriage before it even started, as I forced my then fiancé to listen to the end of the game in my vehicle, before heading into a funeral reception (You can hear me tell that full story here).
So what pitching magic can we expect this year?
First, let us look at what past pitching magic/almost-magic our three new starting pitching additions bring to the table:
– Mark Buehrle: threw a no-hitter in 2007 (vs Rangers), and then a perfect game in 2009 (vs Tampa)
– Josh Johnson: in 2011 he took a no-hitter into at least the 5th inning, four out of the first five starts of the season. In one of those starts, against the Braves he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning, until it was broken up by a broken-bat single.
– R.A. Dickey: June 13th, 2012 Dickey allowed just one hit (that could have been ruled an error against 3rd Baseman David Wright) against Tampa.
In this Blue Jays season of high expectations where anything is possible (and always is in the game of baseball), I feel as though we are going to witness something magical. All five of Toronto’s starters have the potential for greatness. All five have all-star caliber stuff. All five have the ability to be unstoppable, and even better than that. Each of them has the ability to be Perfect. I think you will witness one of them be exactly that this season.