With each win, the 2015 Blue Jays climb closer to that long-awaited playoff birth.
The Championships of 1992 and 1993 seem SO long ago. They were. I have friends who weren’t even alive for the Jays first World Series title.
But with AA pulling off a sequence of blockbuster trades, and those pieces making an immediate impact, suddenly the connections between the ’92 and ’93 squads and the current team don’t seem so far-fetched. In the off-season, late 1991, the Jays signed free agents Jack Morris and Dave Winfield (on consecutive days). Those who watched the 1992 team will no doubt remember the significance both Morris and Winfield had during the regular season, and during October baseball. In the off-season this past winter, the Jays signed free agent Russell Martin, and 10 days later pulled off a mammoth trade for Josh Donaldson. It’s obvious what an impact those two have made thus far.
It’s the end of August and the Jays are in first place, two games up on the Yankees. Hey, they’ve already started selling post-season tickets!
There are so many moments from both championships that stand out for many fans, but one of the most talked about is the “triple play that wasn’t” during the 1992 World Series.
I reminisced with Kelly Gruber, the Jays third baseman during that memorable play.
Fans may remember that in fact, it was this very day, August 27th, back in 1992, when Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson were traded to the Mets for David Cone. Cone would contribute to the championship with a 1 – 1 record and 3.22 ERA.
David Price has been the masterful pitcher everyone expected he would be, upon his arrival. Toronto has their first true ace since Roy Halladay. It’s exciting to think about what he could accomplish this October.
Over two decades after Carter’s home run disappeared over that left field wall, we find our blue birds that much closer to going back to the playoffs and possibly taking another run at a World Series.
So, is history repeating itself?
Click here to listen to: Brock Picken talk about the race to the final wild card positions for the MLB 2013 season.
Brock does a rundown of the remaining teams fighting for postseason births.
In the winter this off-season, Anthopoulos gave Jays fans something to get excited about. A lot to get excited about. Having made substantial moves that “won the off-season”, the Jays were picked by many to not only make the playoffs, but also win the 2013 World Series. That’s no small feat, considering only three teams in history have won the World Series having not made the playoffs the previous season (’88 Dodgers, ’87 & ’91 Twins, ’02 Angels). (EDIT: a couple fans on Reddit notified me I had forgotten the ’10 & ’12 Giants. My bad!) In fact, such a buzz was created by the media and Jays marketing campaign, that pre-season ticket sales “increased dramatically” according to team president Paul Beeston.
Besides, teams like Boston seemed to be in trouble with their managerial situation a question mark. And when they ended up taking Farrell, the Toronto attitude was “if he doesn’t want to be here then take him, we don’t want him”. The Yankees picked up old Blue Jays castaways Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay to compensate for their injury-ridden line-up (Jays fans quietly chuckled, knowing all to well what a string of injuries can do to a ball club).
Fast forward a few months and a near worst April on team record, and the Jays find themselves in the last place everyone expected – last place.
Boston, New York, and Baltimore all currently have .600 or better records.
Boston and New York.
The Miami Marlins, who gave up most of their veteran talent to the Jays in the most talked about trade this off-season, currently have a 10-25 record (compared to the Jays 13-23). Even the Houston Astros (the joke of the majors this season), have a 10-25 record.
To say Toronto is grossly under-performing is a massive understatement.
Which poses the question, “How the heck did this all happen?”
It’s a complex answer. But to put it simply; a series of injuries and slumps:
- Jose Reyes Ankle Injury – A total spark plug. The energy and life force of the squad was leading the team in avg (.395) and stolen bases (5) early in the season until the severe ankle sprain put him out of commission until the All-star break.
- Quiet Jays Bats – I don’t need to go into great detail here. Simply put, they didn’t produce runs. Period. If you want to depress yourself further, you can check out JaysJournal.com to see how many “league worsts” the Jays set in April.
- Mediocre Pitching – This came as a surprise to many, as the Jays went out and “traded the farm” for some veteran arms. Then the only pitcher who proved to be reliable was the guy who wasn’t even supposed to make the starting rotation in the first place (JA Happ).
- The Inability to Win Consistently – This might seem obvious, but the ability to string together a series of wins, or win a large percentage of games in chunks somewhat consistently will build confidence amongst players and assist the team in building momentum to generate winning streaks. Just recently, the Jays won their third game in a row this season – for the first time.
- More Devastating Injuries – We don’t need to re-hash the horrible onslaught of injuries the Jays had last year. But it would appear as though that nasty injury bug has reared its ugly head again. Suddenly Josh Johnson is out with what was reported as “mild bicep/tricep” tightness. He won’t be back until June. Romero was brought up to take his place (likely too soon) and now his mental toughness is being questioned, having pitched the shortest outing of his career recently (1/3 inning). JA Happ got hit by the most devastating line drive I’ve ever seen: Happ miraculously only suffered a fractured skull (really, it could have been far worse) and twisted knee, and will be out 4-6 weeks. RA Dickey has been battling upper back tightness which has been limiting his outing duration. Morrow’s Friday night start was pushed back due to back spasms. The lack of health in the starting rotation could be the major blow to any playoff hopes that are still alive.
So, is it time to panic if you’re a Jays fan? Or did that already happen a while ago and you’ve already given up?
Some don’t think that it was even fair in the first place that the Jays were put up on such a high pedestal. ESPN’s Dan Shulman was a guest on The Dugout recently, and told me who he thought would be playoff favourites: Dan Shulman on The Dugout
Even though the odds are heavily stacked against them, they might not be counted out entirely. In spring training there were many comparisons made to the 1993 World Champion Jays, but April Whitzman from the MLB Fan Cave made a comparison to the 1989 Blue Jays, who at this point in their season (May 10th) had a nearly identical record (12-21). They went on to win their division that season.
Surely Boston and New York can’t keep up the pace they’re going at. Baltimore may in fact be the team to be reckoned with. At least they seem to be the healthiest.
So what do you think?
Were the Jays over-hyped from the beginning?
Are they going to disappoint the (larger) fan base again?
Or will they manage to get everything functioning together and become THE comeback story of the century?
Click here to listen to: The Dugout Show #7 – Sportsnet Broadcaster Jamie Campbell talks Blue Jays Baseball
Brock Picken talks with Sportsnet Broadcaster Jamie Campbell from Dunedin Florida, where he is covering the Toronto Blue Jays spring training. They discuss R.A. Dickey and who will be catching him, as well as Emilio Bonifacio’s throwing issues, and Jose Bautista‘s early display of home runs and if the wrist is at all a concern. They also discuss the possible return of Dustin McGowan to pitch out of the bullpen, whether or not to expect to see Adam Loewen get any playing time, and what could become of Adam Lind if he doesn’t have as good a season as he is having this spring. Finally, they discuss the manner in which John Farrell left for Boston, and what Farrell should expect upon his return to Toronto for the Blue Jays vs Red Sox series starting April 5, 2013.
Click here to listen to: The Dugout Show #6 – Daryl Andrews – First Canadian in the MLB Fan Cave
Brock Picken talks with Daryl Andrews, the first Canadian to be selected for the MLB Fan Cave in New York City. Daryl is representing Team Canada in the MLB Fan Cave for the World Baseball Classic, and will be watching and tweeting about all the games in the WBC. Brock and Daryl discuss the announcement of Joey Votto playing for Canada, as well as Russell Martin’s decision not to play and Brett Lawrie’s public reaction to the media. They also discuss the excitement surrounding the upcoming Toronto Blue Jays season.
Outside my window, it’s cold and dark. There’s two feet of snow on the ground. It’s the kind of day that makes you want to just stay inside.
It’s this time of year when the lack of sunshine and vitamin D can start to get to you. Our cold, Canadian winters can get you down. But I am not down today…
Because baseball starts tomorrow!
And I for one will be watching the Blue Jays take on the reigning AL Champs, Detroit Tigers.
I can’t remember being this amped up so early in the year. I watched a few spring training games last year, but wasn’t as excited as I am now.
Here are the top 10 reasons why I am so excited, and why I am already in love with this 2013 Toronto Blue Jays team.
- Alex Anthopoulos is putting his (Rogers’s) money where his mouth is. We all had our doubts about A.A. (he was/is the youngest GM in Jays franchise history). And prior to A.A. there was the whole getting promised the moon by Ricciardi, who promptly gave Wells and Rios MASSIVE contracts, then kept using the term “building for next year” to the point where hearing that caused every Jays fan to feel sick to their stomach. But then in one (or three or four) foul swoop, A.A. pulled off what is arguably the biggest (and most talked about) off-season in Blue Jays history. No more building for next year. THIS IS next year. Anthopoulos has made it clear the time is now. And quite possibly for the next few years to come. The man has some serious swagger. He OOZES confidence. And I love him for it. It’s about damn time that Jays fans can have confidence in their GM to build a winning team.
- R.A. Dickey – Toronto has a new Hero. So why is an entire city excited about a 38-yr-old pitcher? It could be that we have the reigning CY Young Award winner, who by the way throws devastating knuckleballs, and who also happens to be an articulate and caring human being (what a refreshing combination!). Dickey shared some of his darkest secrets in his book “Wherever I Wind Up”. It’s a must read. I finished it in a few days. He also spent time this past winter in India with a charity that fights child sex trafficking, which is a true testament to the incredible human being that he is.
- Jose Can You See? We have Jose “Mr. Triples” Reyes, and Jose “Mr. HR” Bautista (neither to be confused with Jose “Mr. Steroids” Canseco). Speed and power. Wow.
- Melky “Mr Controversy” Cabrera. The Jays aren’t completely without controversy. Which I like. Isn’t being Canadian supposed to equate to “being nice”? Yes, but even Brett Lawrie is more bad-ass than good-boy, so what do you expect? Plus controversy can be good. It puts butts in seats. And even if Melky produces 3/4 of what he did last year (which was likely chemically enhanced), at $16M over 2 years he’s still a bargain. And the Jays finally have a regular left fielder. A.A. does it again.
- Two Times Lucky? Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance? A.A. believes Gibby does. And really, what’s not to like about the guy? Sure, he’s a bit rough around the edges (just ask Ted Lilly), but most importantly he commands respect from his players. Respect is HUGE. Without it the machine breaks down. You can be certain there’s no LOLLYGAGGING on Gibby’s watch.
- No Holes in that Rotation. The pitching rotation 1 through 5, is arguably the best in the majors. Romero may still be a question mark (hey, who isn’t at this point?), but I think that with some of the pressure off of him to be an “Ace”, he’ll settle into his spot nicely. When you break it down, the rotation is scary good. They can alternate between lefty – righty. One day you’re going to see speed, the next, junk. And CY Young calibre Knuckleballs. Finally, you have two veterans (Dickey & Buehrle) to lead by example for the younger guys. You also have no-hit/perfect game potential (Morrow – almost & Buehrle). All that mixed together into one well-oiled machine is virtually unstoppable.
- Induction of a Blue Jays Legend. Tom Cheek was recently awarded the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence. He was the voice of Blue Jays baseball for 4,306 regular season games IN A ROW (+ 41 postseason games). Those numbers don’t even include preseason games, which he also broadcast. The man had a set of iron vocal cords. Sadly, Tom passed away in 2005 from cancer. Cheek will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on June 29 at St Marys, and will be honoured at the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 27 in Cooperstown.
- Familiar Faces. With so many familiar faces around, every day will feel like a reunion. Dirk Hayhurst is back as the co-host of baseball central, and will fill in occasionally for newest member of the broadcast team, Jack Morris! Paul Quantrill joined the organization as a consultant, and of course Pat Hentgen is returning as the Jays bullpen coach. What’s with all the former pitchers sticking around?
- Two Dark Horses. It might seem unusual to bring on two older players who don’t have great stats. But what numbers don’t show, are mentorship and leadership. That’s exactly what Blanco & DeRosa will bring to the team (and more specifically, to Arencibia & Thole, and Lawrie respectively).
- This City is Ready for a Championship. Toronto has been dying for a championship team for quite some time now. The Leafs haven’t done it since ’67. The Raptors haven’t done it at all and still have a long way to go. Even though the Argos are the current Grey Cup Champs…the city just doesn’t seem to get behind them. The Jays last won in 1993 as the second half of the championship repeat. The city was electric back then. And now suddenly the Jays are on everyone’s radar. Vegas has them on 8-1 odds as World Series Champs for 2013 (they were 100-1 odds at the end of the 2012 season). Do you feel the electricity in the air? Big things are happening. It’s time. Toronto’s ready. And there’s still two feet of snow on the ground.
Click Here to Listen to: The Dugout Show #1 – R.A. Dickey Toronto Blue Jays
Brock discusses the moves made in the off-season by Alex Anthopoulos to put together a Championship calibre team.
R. A. Dickey was the centre-piece of those deals, and Brock discusses why he thinks Dickey should be a mentor and hero to all young baseball fans.