BLUE JAYS NEST
Frequent and occasional musings about the Toronto Blue Jays from an avid fan
October 1, 2017
A requiem the Blue Jays' 2017 season
This season is mercifully over for the Toronto Blue Jays. Even their most rabid supporters have to admit that 2017 was one of the least memorable seasons in franchise history. The Jays finished on a winning note, however, with a 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium today. It was only their 77th victory this year, but a win is a win, especially against the Bronx Bombers.
It is difficult to put a positive spin on the 2017 campaign All I can say is that Justin Smoak emerged as a very capable hitter and first baseman, and Ryan Goins hit the second grand slam of his career and this season in an 8-1 rout of the New York Yankees on September 22nd. He also managed to pull off the rare hidden-ball trick in that same game. In 2017, Goins proved himself to be one of the Jays' few situational hitters with runners in scoring position.
There is no question that Blue Jay fans deserve to have a contender next season. The dome was packed with over 40,000 people for the final home game, despite the the fact that the Jays finished well below .500 in the American League East. Still, Rogers Communications, the team's owner, has announced an increase in ticket prices for next year. Is that how fan loyalty is rewarded. It's one thing to pay lip service to the fans by saying how good they are by a having a fan appreciation day. However, if they really wanted to show their appreciation, they would not increase the price of tickets. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen
Still, I think that Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro and General Manager Ross Atkins realize that it would be unwise for the team to undergo a massive rebuilding program. In an interview with Sportsnet's Shi Davidi, Sharpiro underlined the benefits of re-signing third baseman Josh Donaldson. "Fans recognize winning and not much else," he told Davidi. "Show me a case study that shows that fans will pay to come out to see individual players when in a losing environment."
|Estrada: He'll be back|
The signing of Marco Estrada, followed by the pitcher's own words, sent a message to the Blue Jay faithful that team intends to contend next season. As for Josh Donaldson, I would keep him for one more year, until he'a a free agent and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is ready to play third base. I wouldn't re-sign him for more than two years.
BUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* There is lots of bay news on the Blue Jays front. Closer Roberto Osuna, who is only 22, went to Mexico for the birth of his daughter and outfielder Michael Saunders headed to Colorado for the birth of his child. Meanwhile, outfield Kevin Pillar and his wife Amanda are expecting their first child, a daughter, at any time. Will she be "Supergirl?"
* The Toronto Blue Jays will open their 2018 season on March 29th at home in the dome. It will be be part of a seven-game homestand to begin the new season.
* The Jays will play five National League East teams in 2018 interleague play, starting with the a two-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field. The Jays will also play the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins. They will have road games with all those NL, except Washington.
The Blue Jays are scheduled to play a 3-game series against Miami at Marlins Park on Labour Day weekend.
Toronto will finish out their home schedule on September 27 against the Houston Astros. They will close out the regular season on September 30th against the pesky Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Park (also known as the House of Horrors for the Jays.)
Roberto Osuna throwing fast balls again
* In the final game of the 2017 season, Jays' closer, Roberto Osuna, looked like himself again. He threw fast balls as he saved a 2-1 victory for his team. I don't understand why he stopped throwing them in the first place.
Time to start thinking about next season
The Toronto Blue Jays have had a pretty good September and Marco Estrada pitched very effectively in last night's win against the Minnesota Twins. Today, however, they were pounded 13-7 by the Twins. Let's face it, though, the Blue Jays are merely playing out the season. Unlike 2015 and 2016, there will be no playoffs this year. It's disappointing, especially after having tasted post-season play two seasons in a row.
For the most part, 2017 has been an injury-laden, forgettable year for our beloved Bluebirds. The team's weaknesses have been underlined and underscored. The starting rotation could not withstand all of the injuries. It didn't have enough depth. The Jays continue to leave batters stranded and they strike out too often in clutch situations. The brightest spot has been the improved hitting of first baseman Justin Smoak
I can't see Jose Bautista returning next season. especially with the lacklustre year he's had. Jose is probably going to have to accept a smaller salary elsewhere and he may have to become a DH. Bautista has been a great player over the years, but he simply did not earn his lucrative paycheque this season. He's in the twilight of his career, but perhaps a change of scenery will be good for him and he will become revitalized. The money saved on Bautista's salary should be used to acquire a free agent starting pitcher.
Josh Donaldson did not have one his best seasons. However, he was plagued with injuries and distracted by his helmet flap. He seems healthy now and he's playing like his old self again. I would definitely keep him for one more season, until he becomes a free agent.
With the departure of Bautista, there will be an opportunity for a new-look outfield, one that is younger and faster. It could include Teoscar Hernandez, a 24-year-old Domican or the hard luck Dalton Pompey. It's been a lost season for the 24-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario. Pompey sustained a concussion while playing well for Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He then injured his leg during a rehab assignment with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. A healthy Pompey would be just what the Jays need in the outfield, but will they give him a real chance? The Jays will soon have to decide whether Pompey has a place in their organization. Will they play him or trade him?
Other potential young Blue Jay outfielders include Anthony Alford, 23, Dwight Smith Jr., 24 and Darrell Ceciliani 27. One them could be traded for some pitching. I would also consider trading centrefielder Kevin Pillar for a decent starting pitcher (maybe a fourth of fifth starter). Pillar makes some amazing catches in the field but he swings at too many bad pitches and he doesn't hit well in key situations. Pillar certainly has value but you have to give up something in order to get something in return. The Jays are in dire need of starting pitchers and they have an excess of outfielders. It makes sense that they trade an outfielder for some pitching.
The Blue Jays really need to sign Marco Estrada, who becomes a free agent at the end of this season. Estrada has stated that he wants to remain in Toronto and the Jays can't afford not to sign him for at least another year.
The health of oft-injured second baseman Devon Travis is a big question mark for the Jays. Travis is very talented a much better option at second base than the current mixing and matching of Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney and Rob Refsnyder. They have missed Travis terribly in 2017 and their record is always better when he is always better when he is in the lineup. However, if Travis can't shake the injury bug, the Jay had better have an alternative at second base if they hope to contend next season.
Barney, 31, becomes a free agent in 2018 and the Jays may not stay in Toronto. However, Richard Ureña provides the Jays with some depth in the middle infield. Ureña, a 21-year-old Dominican, could find a place in the Jays' 2018 roster.
The health of starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez is another big question mark for the Blue Jays. Sanchez has a nagging blister on his finger and was forced to sit out most of the 2017 season. In fact, there are many question marks as this disappointing season approaches its merciful end. It will be fascinating to see what moves the Jays make in the off season.
July 28, 2017
Jays complete a 4-game sweep of Oakland A's: Is there still hope for this season?
The reality is that the Jays are still in last place in the American League East with a record of 48 wins and 54 losses. Their winning percentage is .471 and they are 7.5 games behind the division-leading
Boston Red Sox and seven games behind the second place New York Yankees. The reality is that the Jays' starting pitching is woefully thin and Aaron Sanchez has a nagging blister problem. Marco Estrada only lasted until the fifth on Wednesday night. That is just not good enough. It puts too much pressure on the bullpen.
All of this does not mean that the Blue Jays can't win 10 or 15 games straight and go on to contend for a wild card spot. It's not impossible, but highly unlikely. First, however, they have to reach the elusive .500 mark, a feat they can't seem to accomplish. They have already tried nine times without success., but perhaps the tenth time will be the charm. Reaching the .500 mark is a benchmark accomplishment. It feels good but it is only one hurdle in the quest for a wild card spot. There is still a tiny glimmer of hope for post-season play, but everything would have to go exactly right. Let's just say, I'm not counting on it happening this year. There are just too many injuries and too many holes in the lineup.
This does not mean that the Bluebirds need to tear the team apart and start from scratch. Nor does it mean that they can't contend next year. It's not an either/or situation. The Jays have a solid core upon which to build. They have an excellent young closer in Roberto Osuna (He is one player the Jays should absolutely not trade) and Ryan Tepera has established himself as Osuna's set-up man. They have a fine first baseman in Justin Smoaks (provided hr can replicate this season's hitting success and prove that it's not just an anomaly). The team also has some really good starting pitchers in Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Strroman. The return of a healthy Devon Travis at second base would help immensely. It's no accident that the team always plays better when he's in the lineup.
The bottom line, however, is that the Jays are going to have to get younger and faster.and they still nee to bolster the starting rotations. Both Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano have not pitched well in 2017.. They have been inconsistent, to say the least. The Blue Jays should try to pick up a decent free agent starting pitcher - two if possible. They will have to convince free agents that the Jays are a contending team. They will have to sell this city to lure free agents here. Rogers will have the money, especially if Jose Bautista goes elsewhere. Bautista is a great player, but his time in Toronto is coming to an end. The savings on his salary alone would be enormous.
The first task for 2018 is to bolster the pitching rotation. The starting pitchers have to go much deep into the games. They can't continue to last just four or five innings. It's far too taxing on the bull pen. As I've said before, they can't rely on the long ball so much. Of course, home runs are great and entertaining for the fans. However, sometimes they don't happen and a team has to scratch out runs to win. The Jays have won very few games this year without hitting a homer. That has hurt them a great deal. I'd like to see them get more base hits, steal more bases and bunt a bit more. I know I've been harping on the the number of players the Jays strand on the bases, but it's a big problem for this team. It's very frustrating.
I'd also like to see a new look in the outfield. The Blue Jays have three young outfielders in Dwight Smith Jr., Dalton Pompey and Anthony Alford. I hope that at least one of those three makes the team. It should happen because someone will have to replace Bautista if he leaves. The team will also have get off to a better start and be fortunate enough to have fewer injuries.
The Toronto Blue Jays must signal to their fans that they will compete next season. They are still drawing large crowds and they they can't afford to let all that goodwill slip away. If the Jays defy the odds and secure a wildcard playoff berth, I will be thrilled. I will cheer them on. However, at this juncture, I can't see that happening. I will certainly enjoy the remaining games of the season, but my focus will be on the future. Unless the Jays mount one of the greatest comebacks in major league baseball history, it's wait until next year.
July 11, 2012
The Blue Jays at the All-Star Break: Some changes are needed
We have reached the All-Star break of the 2017 season and the Toronto Blue Jays are not in a good place. They left for the break on a sour note after losing to the Houston Astros in a horrific 19-1 blowout, the fourth-largest margin of defeat in frachise history. With a mediocre record of 41 wins and 49 losses (six games below .500), they remain dead last in the American League East.
So far, for the Blue Jays and their fans, this has been a season to forget. The team has been consistent in its inconsistency and plagued with numerous injuries to key players. A measure of the Jays' frustration is their the inability to reach the .500 mark. They have made 9 attempts to reach that modest goal and they have failed each time. After a nightmarish April, they managed to turn things around in May, only to fall back again in June and July.
Amid all the struggles of this 2017 season, the brightest spot has been the play of first baseman Justin Smoak. Smoak's hitting has improved so much that he was chosen to represent the Jays at the All-Star Game. He is to be commended. Another bright spot has been the play of closer Roberto Osuna. Kevin Pillar, unfortunately, was hitting like a house on fire until his infamous homophobic slur incident. After that, his batting declined significantly.
2017 has been a crazy, injury-laden season for the Jays. After a disastrous April, it appeared that they had righted the ship. They always play better when Devon Travis is patrolling second base. However, when he suffered an injury, they began losing again. They sorely miss him. Third baseman Josh Donaldson and shortstop Troy Tulositzki have struggled at the plate this season and they have both had to deal with injuries.
This could have been a breakout season for Dalton Pompey. The door was wide open for him to play in the outfield and to show what he could do at the plate. Unfortunately, he has spent most of the season recovering from a concussion he incurred at the World Baseball Classic, representing Canada. Then he suffered a leg injury while playing for the Buffalo Bisons, the Jays' Triple-A affiliate.
The Blue Jays' weaknesses are obvious and must be addressed. If this team is to compete in the AL East, it has to get younger and faster. It has to rely less on home runs to win games. The long ball is fine and dandy, but it's not enough. The players need to have higher batting averages, strike out less, steal more bases and leave fewer runners stranded. The Jays are a frustrating team to watch because they can't hit well in the clutch.. They often hit a one-run homer in the 9th inning when it's far too late to matter. If they don't hit home runs, they don't usually win.
This should be Jose Bautista's last season as a Blue Jay. He's been a great player, but his time in Toronto is drawing to a close. The money saved on this salary should be used to bolster the team's starting pitching, which lacks depth. The Jays do not lack potential outfielders to replace Bautista in right field. They have Dwight Smith, Jr., Dalton Pompey and Anthony Alford.
It will be interesting to see what moves the Jays make before the July 31st trade deadline.
May 23, 2017
Where do the Blue Jays go from here?
The Toronto Blue Jays have been playing much better since their disastrous April. Unfortunately, however, they remain in last place in the American League East. As of this writing, they are 8.5 games behind the division leading New York Yankees. They have a record of 19 wins and 26 losses in 45 games, with a win percentage of .422.
This just doesn't seem to be the Jays' year. After a nightmare start, the team has been plagued by injuries to many key players. It has been heartening, though, to see position players such as Ryan Goins and Justin Smoak take up the slack. The Jays don't have enough pitching depth, however, to compensate for injuries to three members of their starting rotation - Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano.
I'd like to see the Blue Jays make a good run for the rest of the season, but they have dug themselves into quite a hole. Unless they put together an incredible win streak, they will not make the playoffs this year. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of baseball to be played with 117 games remaining and there are still many questions to be answered. Why, for instance, did so many veteran players, such as Jose Bautista and Russell Martin, have such slow starts? The World Baseball Classic also seems
to have had a negative impact on the Jays. Dalton Pompey suffered a concussion in the tournament and has been denied an opportunity to prove himself. He was playing really well for Team Canada when he incurred the injury and is on the 60-day disabled list. He is expected to be available to play sometime in June.
The Jays don't seem ready to make any big decisions about the future right now. They will probably wait until all their wounded players have returned before making any assessments. I doubt they will make any major moves such as trading Josh Donaldson anytime soon. I think they will just sit back, at least until the trade deadline, and see how the season unfolds. There will obviously be some changes, but I don't think the power that be will blow everything up and start fresh.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
Former Blue Jay Anthony Gose is now a pitcher
On July 9, 2016, Gose was involved in a dugout incident with Triple-A manger Lloyd McClendon and was sent home. On July 10, he refused to show up for the game and subsequently cleaned out his locker. Following a three-day suspension, the Tigers demoted him to their Double-A affiliate in Erie, Pennsylvania.. On January 18, 2017, the Tigers designated Gose for assignment to make room for another player on the roster. Gose, however, cleared waivers and was outrighted to the Triple-A Mud Hens. In March of 2017, the Tigers stated their intention to convert him into a full-time pitcher.
Anthony Gose apparently presented the idea of becoming a pitcher to the Detroit brass. The 26-year-Gose old was a pitcher in high school and according to a Mark Colley article for Bluebird Banter http://www.bluebirdbanter.com. He was able to reach 97 MPH on his fastball before becoming an outfielder.
At the end of March, Gose threw a bullpen session for Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. Yesterday, he made his professional pitching debut with Detroit's Single-A affiliate, the Lakeland Flying Tigers of Lakeland, Florida. He appeared as a relief pitcher and hit 99 MPH with his first pitch of the evening. He surrendered a run in the top of the ninth inning and a walk and a double. He struck out one batter. Lakeland lost the game to the Palm Beach Cardinals by a score of 6-1.
Navarro still a free agent
* Former Blue Jay catcher Dioner Navarro remains a free agent. The Venezuelan has been tending to his wife, Sherley, who is recovering from a severe stroke. Navarro is 33 years old and he did not hit as well last season. However, the Jays have gotten little run production this season from back-up catchers Jared Saltalamacchia and Luke Maile. Saltalamacchia has been sent down to the minors and Maile is only batting .065 to date, although he''s said to have a good rapport with the pitchers. However, Blue Jay fans had hoped to get better hitting from the team's back--up catcher. It's a good thing that Russell Martin has returned from his stint on the disabled list (DL).
April 15, 2017
Disaster! Is it time to push the panic button?
The Toronto Blue Jays have stumbled out of the starting gate. They lost to the Baltimore Orioles last night by a score of 6-4, their sixth straight loss in row. They begin the 2017 season with a record of 1-9, the worst start in franchise history and the major league worst record. To make matters worse, their star third baseman, Josh Donaldson, has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a nagging calf injury. Chris Coghlan has been called up from Triple-A Buffalo with hopes of spurring the team's sputtering offence.
Can we start the season over again? Is it time to push the panic button? Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez thinks so. Pedro tweeted the following on April 13th. "The Jays should panic a bit. I am not seeing the same atmosphere in the team that I saw two years ago. Not sure what is going on."
So, is it time to push the panic bottom yet? I don't think "panic" is the right word. Acting out of desperation does not serve any purpose. However, there is reason for very grave concern. The American League East is a very tough division. Baltimore, New York, Boston and Tampa Bay all have good teams. You can't afford to fall very far behind that group. Yes, it's early in the season, but the Jays have dug themselves into a whole. I fear that they may not be able to climb out.
Changes and adjustments will obviously have to be made soon. The Jays lack speed. They don't hit in the clutch very well and they haven't been stealing bases. Too many players have been swinging for a home run every time, not content with just getting on base. I try to be optimistic. After all, there is nowhere for the Jays to go but up. However, the situation doesn't look good. In fact.it's quite dire. Still, there are 152 games to be played. I can't bring myself to given up on the season just yet.
As I have written before, I would really like to see Dalton Pompey get a chance to prove himself. He's young and speedy, just what the Jays need. His hitting couldn't be worse than some of the Jays' hitting right now. Unfortunately, Dalton's s injured right now with a concussion. He probably won't be available for a few weeks. Even then, the Jays will most likely send him to Buffalo. They don't have confidence in him. I would also like to see Rowdy Tellez on first base instead of Justin Smoak. However, I think Rowdy will have to wait a bit. The Jays shouldn't rush him the way the way they rushed Dalton Pompey.
BLUE JAY BITS AND BITES
* Chris Coghlan is 31 years old. He was the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year. He earned a World Series ring with the Chicago Cubs last year.
* As of this writing, Jose Bautista has a paltry 1.35 batting average.
March 7, 2017
The 2017 Blue Jays: How good are they?
Spring training is well under way and opening day is on the horizon. So, how will the Toronto Blue Jay fare this year in the very competitive American League East? Here is my assessment:
CATCHING: There should be improvement in this department. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia backing him up, Russell should be healthier and more rested. Saltalamacchia is definitely an upgrade from Josh Thole.
FIRST BAST: This could be a problem area. The Jays will obviously miss Edwin Encarnacion at this position. Justin Smoak's hitting will have to improve from last season. He'll likely be platooned with Steve Pearce. This will still a steep decline from Edwin at first. Thank goodness 21-year-old prospect Rowdy Tellez is waiting in the wings. Tellez has been making a good impression at spring training and appears to be the team's first baseman of the future. I wish he were ready right now. He's playing well, but I fear rushing him as the Jays did with Dalton Pompey.
SECOND BASE: The health of Devon Travis is a concern here. He has a bruised right knee in Game 1 of last October's American League Division series. He is still recovering from the injury and might not be ready for Opening Day. In fact, manger John Gibbons has admitted that "I don't know when he's going to be back and ready to go." Steve Pearce or Ryan Goins will probably play second if Travis is not ready to return.
THIRD BASE: The Jays have 2015 American League MVP Josh Donaldson at this positon. As long as Donaldson remains healthy, third base will be well covered, offensively and defensively. Darwin Barney will back him up.
SHORT STOP: 32-year-old veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is steady as they come. He has quietly emerged as a team leader and is willing to share his baseball knowledge with his teammates. Infielder Ryan Goins can back him up when necessary.
DESIGNATED HITTER: In 2016, Kendrys Morales posted a .263 average last season. along with 30 home runs and 93 RBI. Those are very good numbers. However Morales has big shoes to fill. He's taking over Edwin Encarcion's role at DH. In 2016, Edwin also posted a .263 batting average, but he recorded 42 home runs, and 127 RBI.
OUTFIELD: Outfield is another cause for concern. They Jays are set with Kevin Pillar in centrefield. He's good defensively, although not the greatest slugger on the planet. Jose Bautista has returned to play right field. He is a great slugger, but his defensive skills declined last season. However, he has great incentive to play well. If his injuries have healed satisfactorily and he remains healthy, Bautista's defense may improve over last year. It also bodes well that Jose has expressed a willingness to play first base. Unless Smoak improves, Joey Bats may very well spend some time at first. The biggest problem in the outfield is the left field spot. Michael Saunders has gone to the Philadelphia Phillies, leaving left field to Melvin Upton, Jr. and Ezequiel Carrera. I don't think that this is a platoon for a team that hops to contend. The two do not bat well enough against right-handed pitchers and Carrera hits too many ground balls. He and Upton strike out too often. As I've written before, I would like to see Dalton Pompey get his chance. I expect him to start the season in Buffalo. though. Ryan Goins is out of options and Goins will be needed to play second base until Dalton Travis is ready to return.
I will be pleasantly surprised if Pompey earns a spot in the outfield. He may get his opportunity if Upton and and Carrera don't produce or if their is an injury. It's too bad that the Jays rushed him in 2014 and have not shown very little confidence in him since. They have given him few at-bats, even as a September call-up. It's a shame because at 24 years of age, he has youth and great speed. If the Jays don't give him a chance, I hope he does well for another team.
STARTING ROTATION: The five starters looks really good with Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano. Unfortunately, the starting rotation is also a source of valid concern. There is a glaring lack of depth. If one or more of those pitchers suffers an injury, the Jays will really have to scramble to find replacement. They may have to take Joe Biagini out of the bullpen or make a quick trade for a starter. They could be in serious trouble. Last season, the rotation remained quite healthy, but it's doubtful the Jays will be as lucky again.
BULLPEN: The bullpen looks much better since the Jays obtained lefty J.P. Howell and righty Joe Smith. With the departure of Brett Cecil, the pen didn't look too solid, especially with a lack of dependable left-handers. The team has one of the American League's best closers in 22-year-old Mexican, Roberto Osuna. Veteran set-up man Jason Grilli provides experience and knowledge. Then there's Joe Biagini to round out the top five. Relievers Gavin Floyd, Danny Barnes, Schultz, Ryan Tepera, Matt Dermody and others will compete for the remaining bullpen spots.
So, do the Blue Jays have what it takes to be competitive in the AL East this season? There are a lot of question marks and variables. If they stay relatively healthy, there is no reason why they want be in the race.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
Two Canadians players, both natives of British Columbia, are on the market: Former Jay infielder Brett Laurie and Justin Morneau. Morneau is currently on Team Canada's roster in the World Baseball Classic. There were reports that the Jays were interested in Laurie, but it seems very unlikely he will be back in a Blue Jays uniform any time soon. Laurie, a native of Langley, B.C., was recently released by the Chicago White Sox. Morneau, a native of Westminster, B.C., is a free agent.
January 25, 2017
Joey Bats is back! That's much better, but it's still not enough
The Toronto Blue Jays were quickly running out of options. Their outfield looked particularly weak and their offence lacked pop, especially after having lost the very potent bat of Edwin Encarnacion. They tried to secure outfielder Dexter Fowler, but he chose to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Bautista is highly motivated. He's a proud man and would love to prove how good a player he still is, at the age of 36. He wants to demonstrate that last season was an anomaly, that he can still make a significant contribution to the Blue Jays. I hope he will play some first base this season.
Justin Smoak is far from an ideal first baseman. He hit 14 home runs last season, but his batting average was a paltry .217. That means he strikes out a lot and his numbers are not good enough to be an everyday first baseman. That's why I'd like to see Jose spend some time at first.
Fans know that the Blue Jays have been searching for a decent backup catcher to lighten Russell Martin's load. They also know that the bull pen requires a solid left-handed reliever. Lefty Brett Cecil has gone to St. Louis and Aaron Loup has not proven himself. Loup can't seem to fill the void left by Cecil's departure.
The Blue Jays have made some recent moves in their attempt to find the right backup catcher. On Monday, the Jays claimed veteran minor league catcher Juan Graterol from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Graterol, a native of Venezuela, is 27 years old. He signed with the Angels prior to the 2016 season and was promoted to the majors for the first time He was with the Angels for five days but never appeared in a game. After being optioned to the minor leagues, he was called up again in September.
Graterol made his major league debut on September 2, 2016, but was designated by assignment on November 22. The Cincinnati Reds claimed him off waivers on November 28. The Reds designated him for assignment in December and was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs designated him for assignment on January 13, 2017 and the Jays claimed him off waivers on January 23rd. In nine games with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2016, Graterol had 14 at bats, 4 hits, 2 Runs, 0 Home Runs, 3 RBI and a batting average of .286. His OPS was .714.
Yesterday, it was reported that 31-year-old journeyman catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed a minor league deal with the Bluebirds. Saltalamacchia will receive $1.25 million in the majors. Yet, Saltamacchia has not posted good offensive numbers and he tends to strike out a lot. Then there's Buffalo Bison's catcher, 26 year-old A.J. Jiminez. Jiminez does not have great offensive numbers, but he has shown defensive promise.
Another player added into the mix is catching prospect Reese McGuire. The 21-year-old played Double-A last season and doesn't seem ready for the Big Show yet. However, he too has displayed defensive promise.
The Jays will eventually settle on both a backup catcher and a southpaw for the bullpen. However, filling those two positions will not make them a contender. Their lineup needs more youth and speed if they expect to compete in the American League East. So, who provides that youth and speed? Look no further than 24-year-old Dalton Pompey. Unfortunately, the Jays haven't expressed a great deal of confidence in the Mississauga native's hitting ability. They rushed his development and for the past two years he has languished in the minors. He has gotten very little batting experience in the major leagues.
If the Jays are ever going to use Dalton Pompey, now is the time. Give him his chance. If he rises to the challenge, how sweet it will be. Don't keep him in limbo, though.. If he doesn't fit into the Jays' plans, then trade him.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* On Monday, January 23, the Blue Jays signed infielder Gregorio Petit, 32, to a minor-league contract. Petit, also a Venezuelan, appeared in 89 games with the Los Angeles Angels in 2016, batting .245 with a .646 OPS. He recorded 50 hits, 2 home runs and 17 RBI in 204 at bats.
December 30, 2016
Edwin's gone, so don't let Jose slip away
As I write this, Jose Bautista is in "active contract discussions" with the Toronto Blue Jays. Bautista and the Jays need each other. It would be to their mutual benefit if they were to agree to a one year contract. Jose is a proud man and he needs to save face. The Jays will have to concede little, but it will be worth it in the long run. They'll have to give him more than their qualifying offer of $17.2 million for the season. However, if his return helps the Jays return to the playoffs, it will be money well spent. I hope that Mark Shapiro will not be penny wise and pound foolish.
If the Blue Jays sign Jose, they will be adding some much-needed power to the roster. Bautista can still slug that ball and the Jays lost a lot of offence when they lost Edwin Encarnacion. Edwin hit 42 home runs and recorded 127 RBI in 2016. Losing him was so unnecessary, too. If they had played their cards right, he'd be back in a Jays uniform. He's gone to Cleveland and nothing can be done about it (At least he didn't go to Boston). Fans are discouraged because the team does not look so imposing right now. There's so much uncertainty and so many questions. Bringing back Bautista will go a long way in restoring the good will of the fans and filling seats at the dome. It will bring some much-needed stability to the Blue Jays.
Jose will be highly-motivated in 2017. He would like to make up for a subpar season and show the baseball world how well he can still play. He could also play more first base this season. Justin Smoak has not been impressive. Smoak does't hit well enough and does not get on base enough. It's really unfortunate that Edwin won't be the first baseman this season, but it's too late now.
Hurry up and make a deal, Blue Jays! Don't let Bautista slip away. You've already lost Edwin. Don't lose Jose too. Surely you can make this happen!
December 13, 2016
What about Dalton Pompey?
Dalton Pompey turned 24 years old on December 11th and his future with the Toronto Blue Jays remains uncertain. The Mississauga native is in limbo right now, as the Jays have not made up their mind what to do with him. He's an outfielder and he has lots of speed, both of which the team needs, With free agents Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders unlikely to return, the only certainty is Kevn Pillar in centre field. So, where does that leave Pompey? He definitely does not want to languish in Buffalo for another season.
Pompey spent most of the 2016 season with the Triple-A Bisons. He was a September call-up, but had very little big league action. Although dealing with injuries, the young Canadian recorded a batting average of .270 in Buffalo, with a .349 on-base percentage (.702 OPS) and 18 bases stolen in 25 attempts.
The major criticism of Dalton Pompey is that he doesn't hit well. However, it's a Catch-22 situation. How is his hitting going to improve in the big leagues if he isn't given the opportunity to face major league pitchers? It seems to me, that Pompey has not been managed well by the Blue Jays. Expectations were too high for him too soon. Unfortunately, he wasn't given enough time to develop. Now the Jays appear to have lost confidence in him. They should make up their minds. Where does he fit in? Is he going to be a part of the team's future? If so, express confidence in him. Give him an opportunity to play. If not, trade him. It's not fair to leave him hanging He should be playing in the big leagues. If he doesn't fit in with the Jays' plans, then give him an opportunity to flourish elsewhere.
BLUE JAY BITS AND BITES
The MLB Winter Meetings are over and the Blue Jays still have a lot of work to do. The team, as it stands right now, is significantly worse than last year's edition. After enjoying two Blue Jay post-season appearances in a row, the fair-weather fans may not show up if the BJs are not competitive in 2017. Some significant moves are needed to show the fans that the Jays mean business and that they are gong for the big prize this season. Steve Pearce and Kendrys Morales are not enough because the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees are going to be much tougher this season. Howver, there's still time for Shapiro and Company to make major improvements.
October 20, 2016
It's all over!
That's all she wrote. The 2016 Toronto Blue Jays are history. They made it to post-season play. They were good enough to advance to the American League Championship Series. (ALCS), but they just weren't good enough to advance to the World Series. They staved off elimination with 5-1 victory over Cleveland, only to fall to their opponents by a score of 3-0 yesterday. In game Game 5 of the series, their bats were once again silent. They didn't score a single run and 50,000 disappointed fans exited Roger's Centre.
Now that it's all over, the Jays will get out their golf clubs and head for Florida. They can only dream of what might have been - the glory of playing in the World Series. However, a lot of questions remain, so let's conduct a post mortem. Here are some answers as to why Toronto failed to defeat Cleveland:
* They failed to adjust to Cleveland's pitching. They couldn't hit breaking balls well. They struck out too often because they were too intent on hitting the long ball.
* Reliever Andrew Miller pitched superbly, but the Jays failed to adjust to his style. They had plenty of opportunity to get used to him and to find a way to deal with him.
* They missed Devon Travis. His knee injury was a severe blow to their chances. That's not an excuse, though. Every team has injuries. They have to adapt.
* Terry Francona is a better manager than John Gibbons. Francona managed his bullpen masterfully. He used his relievers as if he were conducting an orchestra.
For the Blue Jays and their followers, it's "wait until next year" time again. Speaking of next season, what should the Jays do to get over the hurdles and advance to the World Series?
* They need hitters with better batting averages. They rely on players who either hit home runs or strike out. During the regular season, Devon Travis had the highest batting average on the team. Travis hit .300. In fact, he was the only member of the team to record a .300 average this season. Last year's American League MVP, Josh Donaldson had a .286 batting average in regular season play. Jose Bautista hit an anemic 234, although he had 22 home runs and 69 RBI in 116 games. Edwin Encarnacion recorded a very impressive 129 RBI and 42 home runs this season. His batting average was .263. Outfielder Michael Saunders, who turns 30 on November 19th, posted a .253 average with 27 home runs and 57 RBI. However, the statistic that really stands out where Saunders is concerned is his 157 strikeouts in 140 games. Saunders will test the free agent market this winter. By the way, Saunders isn't the only one who struck out a lot. Edwin Encarcion is a great slugger, but he struck out 138 times in 160 games.
The Jays should not offer Jose Bautista more than a one-year contract for next season. Furthermore, if Bautista returns, he should cut down on the bravado. He never should have said that Game 5 Cleveland starter Ryan Merritt would be shaking in his boots. He provided Cleveland with a great deal of fodder. The must have tacked Baustista's words on their bulletin board. The quote certainly came back to haunt the right fielder. It turned out that Merritt, who had only one major league game under his belt, had the Jays shaking in their boots. They couldn't handle him because he didn't throw fast balls.
Don't get me wrong, Jose Bautista is a great slugger and he has had a great career with the Blue Jays. However, if the Jays had to chose between keeping him or Encarnacion, they should choose Encarnacion. Blue Jays fans do not want to see EE in a Boston uniform.
The Jays bounce back, but they still have a long way to go
That's more like it! The Toronto Blue Jays defeated Cleveland by a score of 5-1 at Rogers Centre. They live to play another day. Cleveland, however, still leads the American League Championship Series (ALCS) three games to one. Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez went six strong innings, allowing just two hits and two walks. One of the walks came around to score Cleveland's only run. The Jays' bullpen was solid too, Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Robert Osuna combined for three perfect innings.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona sent his ace, Corey Kluber, to the mound on three days'
rest. Kluber went five innings. He threw 89 pitches and was tagged for two runs. He will have to sit out today as 24-year-old left-hander Ryan Merritt starts Game 5 of the series for Cleveland. Merritt, it should be noted, has only played in one major league game. The Jays will send out Marcus Estrada to face Merritt.
The good news is that the Jays' sluggers finally made some noise yesterday. The offence produced five runs, including a home run from third baseman Josh Donaldson and a two-run single from Edwin Encarnacion, The Jays have a high mountain to climb, though. They'll have to win today's game in Toronto and two more games in Cleveland in order to play in the World Series.
October 16, 2016
Blue Jays behind the eight ball as series heads to Toronto
There is no joy in Mudville! The Toronto Blue Jays find themselves behind 2 games to 0 as the American League Championship Series (ALCS) moves to Toronto. The Jays will be in a much friendlier atmosphere at the Rogers Centre. However, as much as fan support helps, the Jays will still have to play better. The fans can't hit the ball for them. Cleveland's pitching has been stellar and the Jays have not been able to score runs. It's the same old story. They depend on the long ball too much and they've been striking out too often. They have got to find a way to scratch out some runs. Yes, they had to face Corey Kruber, but they've only been able to manufacture one run in two games. Kruber skunked them in Game 1 and Josh Tomlin only allowed one run in Game 2. After Tomlin, relievers Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen shut the Jays down.
Cleveland is on a hot streak and they have one of the best managers in MLB in Terry Francona. Still, the Jays are not hitting well. One run in two games doesn't cut the mustard. It's too bad because Marco Estrada pitched well in Game 1, as did J.A. Happ in Game 2. Their team was unable to give them run support.
As they head home to the dome, the Jays have to hope the change in scenery will ignite their offence. It won't help, though, that second baseman Devon Travis, has aggravated his right knee injury. Travis has been replaced on the roster by Justin Smoak while he awaits the results of tests on his bruised knee. That means Travis is ineligible for the World Series, should the Blue Jays advance that far.
Unfortunately for the Jays, Justin Smoak hasn't been hitting well and he certainly can't bat as well as Devon Travis. So, to be truthful, I don't feel particularly optimistic about the Jays' chances right now. Who knows, though. Anything can happen. At least they'll have a fired-up crowd on their side - but they had better find their hitting shoes soon.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* Trevor Bauer is slated to start Game 3 for Cleveland. Bauer apparently sliced open his right pinkie finger while repairing a drone (talk about weird accidents!). He required 11 stitches to close the wound. He had been originally scheduled to pitch Game 2. We will see if the injury affects his performance.
* It's a cliche, but the Blue Jays really have their backs against the wall. This is obviously a game that they can't afford to lose. Otherwise, they'll be down 3 games to 0. They've been flat in Cleveland so far. Here's hoping the Jays find their mojo.
October 14, 2016
It's the Blue Jays against Cleveland! Let the American League Championship Series Begin!
Here we go, fans. The excitement begins tonight at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The Toronto Blue Jays face Cleveland in the best-of-seven American League Chamionship Series (ALCS). Marco Estrada will be taking the mound for the Jays in Game 1. Estrada will face Cleveland ace Corey Kluber.
Devon Travis is expected to be back in the lineup and Francisco Liriano will return for Game 2. That's good news.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* Baseball writer Jon Heyman, an insider for the MLB Network, has written that the Jays plan to make a long-term offer to Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion may not accept the offer, of course, but the Jays really have to try and sign the slugging first baseman/DH. Otherwise. the Boston Red Sox will get their hands on him. As a free agent, Encarnacion may choose to go to Beantown anyway. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are just salivating at the opportunity of having Edwin as their DH now that Big Papi has retired. They'll certainly offer him a fortune to play at Fenway.
* The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Washington Nationals last night to advance to the National League Championship Series. The will play the Chicago Cubs and the winner will go tho the World Series. That means that if the Jays get by Cleveland, they will play the Cubs or the Dodgers in the October Classic. If it's the Cubblies, they'll be the sentimental favourites in the U.S. because they haven't won the World Series since 1908 - that's 108 years ago. If the Jays play L.A. in the World Series, they'll play Alex Anthopoulous' team.
October 8, 2016
Injuries are a concern as Jays head home after two victories in Texas
The Blue Jays head home to Toronto with a 2-0 lead over the Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series (ALDS). They won yesterday's game in Arlington by a score of 5-3. I should be ecstatic. Don't get me wrong. I am very happy that they won both games deep in the heart of Texas. I'm just concerned about their injured players, especially left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano and second baseman Devon Travis.
Liriano was removed from yesterday's game after he took a Carlos Gomez line drive off the back of his head in the eighth inning. Unbelievably, although it was a 102 m.p.h. line drive, Liriano didn't fall. He wondered around the mound until head train George Poulis appeared and whisked him away. Obviously, head injuries are always worrisome and no chances can be taken with a player's health. I hope the lefty is all right.
Francisco Liriano was released from the hospital and has returned to Toronto. Meanwhile, Travis has a mysterious knee injury. He does not know when and how it occurred. "I The really know exactly when or how it happened," he stated. I felt it (Thursday); I was hopping it wasn't going to be that big a deal today." The knee is causing him discomfort, though, and he is going to undergo an MRI. As of this writing, it is doubtful that Travis will play in Game 3 of the series tomorrow.
The loss of Liriano for the playoffs would be devastating to the Blue Jays. The bullpen is probably the Jays' weakest link. It's already suffering from the loss of Joaquin Benoit to an unnecessary and unavoidable injury during a bench-clearing brawl with the New York Yankee. The Jays are paying the price for their good ol' boy mentality. Benoit would look awfully good in the bullpen right now. At least Roberto Osuna, who had a shoulder issue, pitched well when he took over from Liriano.
The Jays also cannot afford to lose Devon Travis, the team's lead-off hitter. They don't have another player who can match him as a slugging second baseman. His knee problem came out of the blue. As the Jays prepare for Game 3, the health of both he and Liriano is of paramount concern.
October 7, 2016
How sweet it is!
Okay, Blue Jays fans, let's enjoy the moment. On Tuesday, our team won the wild-card game against Baltimore.in extra innings. It's unfortunate that some yahoo fan threw a beer can at Baltimore outfielder Hyun Soo Kim. I'm glad the culprit was caught on camera and turned himself in to police. What a disgrace in what a poor reflection on our city! I hope viewers in other cities won't judge Toronto by the boorish behaviour of one wayward fan. Nevertheless, the incident didn't do much for Toronto's image.
Tuesday, the Jays came up with an impressive 10-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in the first fame of the American League Division Series (ALDS). It was quite a thrashing. The road to the World Series is a long one, though. There is still a lot of baseball to be played, but the Blue Birds are off to a fantastic start. It's wonderful to see Josh Donaldson back to MVP form after a hip injury and a slump. He and Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are really slugging the ball. The Jays' starting pitching has been outstanding so far. Marco Estrada pitched brilliantly yesterday, as did Marcus Stroman against Baltimore on Tuesday.
As you can tell, I am thrilled about how things have gone so far for my team. At the risk of being called a nitpicker, however, I feel obliged to draw your attention to a couple of flies in the ointment. Roberto Osuna, the Jays' closer, injured himself in the 10th inning of Tuesday's game against the Orioles. The 21-year-old Mexican was removed from the game due to a shoulder issue. It doesn't appear to be serious and Osuna is expected to play in the ALDS. The Jays are taking no chances with their young closer. He was removed from the game immediately.
Yet it seems that the Jays are not entirely confident that Osuna will be able to pitch as effectively. That's why they chose to go with eight relievers in their ALDS roster. It also appears that they don't have much confidence in some of their relief pitchers either. They really miss Joaquin Benoit. It's a shame that a bench-clearing brawl with the New York Yankees resulted in an unnecessary calf injury for Benoit. Baseball's good ol' boy mentality could cost the Jays dearly, especially if Osuna's injury proves to be more serious.
I am disappointed that the Jays have chosen to leave outfielder Dalton Pompey and infielder out of their ALDS roster. The team has sacrificed bench strength (and Pompey's base running speed) for the sake of the bullpen. Having said all that, however, I am hopeful that the Jays will overcome these obstacles. Osuna may be fine. Pompey and Goins may even play in the American League Championship Series (ALCS). Bring on those Texas Rangers for Game 2! No matter what happens today, the scene shifts to Toronto for Game 3. If the Jays should sweep the best-of-three series, they'll be no need for a second game at the Rogers Centre. They'll go on to play Cleveland or Boston in the ALCS.
October 4, 2016
What a roller coaster ride!
PHEW! The Blue Jays have really taken us on an exhilarating roller coaster ride. They are set to play host to the Baltimore Orioles at the former SkyDome tonight in the American League wild-card game. The place should be rocking with about 47,000 fans cheering on the home team. At times, I didn't think they would make it - but they did! They are in the post-season for the second year in a row. As usual, the victories did not come easily. They made us bite our nails.
The three-game series at a cool, rainy Fenway Park was terrific. All of them were close. All of them were full of excitement and drama. Who can forget Roberto Osuna's ill-timed balk on Saturday? It allowed Boston to tie the game. Fortunately, the Jays went on to win or Roberto would have been a real goat.
The tribute to David "Big Papi" Ortiz was heartfelt. The fans at Fenway sent him off in style. Several Red Sox stars walked on to the field, as well as President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic, Papi's home country. Papi even took a selfie of himself with Medina. Fortunately for the Blue Jays, though, Ortiz didn't get his Hollywood ending. He didn't hit a home run in his last at-bat in a regular season game.
The Blue Jays have loaded up with pitchers for the big game. Marcus Stroman will take the mound as the starter for the Jays. If needed, Marco Estrada and Franciso Liriano will be available to pitch some innings of relief. R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez will not be on the roster for tonight's game, though. I Keep in mind, however, that the lineup will be altered if the Jays advance to the American League Division Series (ALDS). Let's check out their roster for the wild-card game.
THE BLUE JAYS' ROSTER FOR THE WILD-CARD GAME:
|Marcus Stroman: He's on the mound tonighy|
It all comes down to one game, folks. If the Blue Jays lose, it's curtains. They are done. Finito. Wait until next year. If they win, they go on to meet the Texas Rangers. I hope the mix in a little small ball when necessary. It was great to watch Ezequiel Carrera bring home the speedy Dalton Pompey at Fenway. It's annoying to see Pompey's running and base-stealing skills wasted when he's left stranded.
BLUES JAYS BITS AND BITES
* Right-handed pitcher Aaron Sanchez pitched a tremendous game on Sunday against Boston. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He also finished his season wit a 15-2 record and a 3.00 ERA, the best ERA in the American League. I have nothing but praise for the performance of this young man.
As we head toward the finish line, the Jays seemed poised to win a wild card spot, but anything could still happen!
September 16,, 2016
Well, Blue Jays fans, we're headed toward the finish line. As of this writing, there are just five games left in the 2016 season. It doesn't seem likely, barring a perfect storm of good fortune for the Jays, that the Red Sox juggernaut can be stopped. Boston has already secured a playoff spot. As of this writing they are five games ahead of the Jays in the American League East. The Blue Jays have two more games against the Baltimore Orioles at home and a three-game finale with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The Jays seem to have come out of their September slumber. They are playing much better baseball and they are actually playing some "small ball." They are bunting and stealing bases. This adjustment has helped them shake out of their horrible September swoon. I wish they had made the adjustment earlier, but at least they did it before the whole season was lost.
BENOIT INJURY UNFORTUNATE AND UNNECESSARY
(Joaquin) Benoit complains there are “too many rules. Too many new rules. The game was fine the old way. The old way was fine.” The “old way” he talks about includes pitching inside without the overreaction of clearing the benches he was part of on Monday night — and the overreaction he thinks envelopes the game. “This is the game of baseball,” he said. “It’s men playing a kid’s game.”
Unfortunately, the Jays have lost the services of pitcher Joaquin Benoit for the remainder of the season. The 39-year-old veteran reliever is out indefinitely with a torn left calf muscle. He is certainly paying the price for participating in that ugly bench-clearing brawl between the Blue Jays and the Yankees on Monday, September 26. He is wearing a boot and walking with crutches. The Jays are paying the price too, and it's a steep price. Their bullpen needs Benoit. They need his experience as a relief specialist.
The Jays were the big losers in that Monday night game. Not only did they lose the game 7-5 to the Yankees, but they lost two important players to injury. Joaquin Benoit was not the only injured player. Second baseman and leadoff hitter, Devon Travis was also hurt as a result of the brawl. He is day to day with left shoulder soreness. It's not certain when he will return. He missed yesterday's game and will not be in the lineup against Baltimore tonight.
That bench-clearing ruckus happened because of the so-called "code," promoted baseball's good ol' boy network," It cost the Jays dearly. Here are some questions I would like to ask: Is selfish, macho pride worth losing an important player. Is it worth more than having Benoit in the bullpen for the playoffs?
You look around baseball, really any sport, and guys are animated. Guys are more emotional than they’ve ever been. TV promotes it. Everybody loves it. They love to focus on that.
- Toronto Blue Jays Manager John Gibbon
Unfortunately, John Gibbons, the Blue Jays' good ol' boy manager, has no problem with players clearing the benches, even if it ends up costing his team two key players. "We have some emotional guys," stated Gibbons. "Teams pitch us inside. No doubt about that."
WHAT ABOUT POMPEY?
Yes, Dalton Pompey is part of the expanded September roster. However, his role has been mostly limited to pinch-running. In 2016, the 23-year-old Canadian has played in six games and has only had two at bats for the Jays. We all know that Pompey is fast and that he excels at stealing bases. It seems that every time he is used as a pinch runner, he steals bases but no one can bring him home.
Does Pompey have a future with the Blue Jays? Outfielders Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders are both free agents. They may both be gone next season. Where does that leave the outfield? Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel and Melvin Upton, Jr. remain, but where does Pompey fit in? The Jays don't appear to have much confidence in his ability to swing the bat well. However, they can't keep him in Buffalo for much longer. If he's not going to play a role in 2017 and beyond, will the Jays trade him? How is he going to get big league batting experience if he continues to get few at bats?
September 9, 2016
Big series with Boston begins tonight. Can the Jays pull out of their slump?
The Toronto Blue Jays are in some kind of a funk. Their official website says that they are down but far from out. However, the team is in dire need of some wins after being swept by the New Yankees at the Bronx Zoo over the weekend. Don't look now, but the Pinstripes are back in the race, aided and abetted by the Blue Jays lacklustre play at Yankee Stadium. New York is only four.games back of Boston.
By the way, the Jays should have won that second game at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. Gibby kept Jason Grilli on the mound one pitch too long. It was obvious that Grilli didn't have it. The Yanks were hitting everything off him. If he had been removed from the game earlier, the Jays would have emerged victorious. As it turned out, they managed a comeback in the ninth inning, but it fell short. They lost 7-6 to New York.
After a much-needed day off yesterday, the Jays begin a crucial series against the Boston Red Sox tonight. How they do in this series could, to a large extent, determine their fate. We will soon see if they are up to the challenge. They certainly must be glad to be home at the dome where they will have great fan support against the Red Sox.
After their three-game series with the Red Sox, the Jays are scheduled to play the Tampa Bay Rays at home on September 12th, 13th and 14th. The Rays have only won 59 games so far this season and they are in last place in the American League East - 19 games behind the division leading Red Sox. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Tampa Bay has the Jays' number.and Tropican Field has been a house of horrors for them. Their record against Tampa Bay at home isn't so great either. They don't do well against the Rays period.
So, what is wrong with the Jays right now? I wish I had the answer. I'll I can say is that something is not clicking. The pennant race is heading into the final stretch and this is the worst possible time for the Blue Jays to be in a slump. There is no need to press the panic button, though. After all, they are only one game behind the Red Sox. There is, however, serious cause for concern. They can't afford to fall further behind.
The Jays have two major problems that have yet to be addressed. The first problem is that they depend too much on the long ball. The second problem is that their left-handed relief pitching is weak. If they don't improve in those two areas, their goose may be cooked. So much depends on how well Brett Cecil plays and how well they hit in the clutch. They'll have to bring base runners home. They just have to make contact sometimes. It doesn't have to be a choice between a home run and a strike out.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* The Jays will end their 2016 regular season with a 3-game series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. If those two teams are still battling it out, that could be quite a finish, full of drama and excitement for the Jays and their fans.
* Catcher Russell Martin is day-to-day with a knee injury.
The Blue Jays are in first place in the AL East as we head down the stretch
How sweet it right now! It's the morning of August 29th and the Toronto Blue Jays sit atop the American League East standings. They have 74 wins and 56 losses with a .569 win percentage. The Boston Red Sox are two games behind the Jays and the Baltimore Orioles are three games back. The Jays have just swept a weekend series against the hapless Minnesota Twins and Josh Donaldson hit three home runs yesterday's game. Fans celebrated Donaldson's "hat trick" by throwing caps onto the field. However, the race is far from over and there is still a lot of baseball to be played. Boston and Baltimore are lurking right behind. Don't count those New York Yankees out either. although it's highly unlikely they'll make the playoffs. The Yanks are 6.5 games out and they are a longshots. I really think the battle will be between the Jays and the Boston Red Sox. September and October should be a heck of a lot of fun.
NAVARRO IS BACK WITH THE BLUE JAYS
Reunited and it feels so good. . .Switching-hitting catcher Dioner Navarro has returned to the Jays. The team re-acquired the 32-year-old Venezuelan from the Chicago White Sox for minor league pitcher Colton Turner. The move makes a great deal of sense on many levels. First and and foremost, it will lighten Russell Martin's workload during the final stretch of the season. It may also help pitcher Marco Estrada, who has been struggling lately. Estrada works well with Navarro, although so does Martin. In addition, Navarro will provide some bench strength for the Jays. He will also provide them with some catching depth and some other options. They can be creative as to how and when to use him, although don't expect him to be a pinch runner (Ha! Ha!). Navarro is a good man to have around the clubhouse and will boost team morale.
|Navarro is back|
In order to make room for Navarro on the 25-man roster, Josh Thole has been placed on irrevocable waivers. That means he will be the property of any that claims him within the e 48-hour waiver period. If no team claims him, it is expected that the Jays will re-sign him in time to add him to the lineup when rosters expand on September 1st. Then he will be able to catch R.A. Dickey's knuckle ball for the remainder of the season.
Now that the Jays have addressed their catching problem, they have two problems that must be dealt with if they are to reach the post-season and compete successfully in the playoffs. They desperately need another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. On Saturday, lefty reliever Aaron Loup was designated for assignment and right-hander Bo Schultz wall called up to replace him. Manager John Gibbons, however, stated that Loup's demotion was just a technicality and that the Blue Jays intend to keep him. With their lack of left-handed relievers, I guess the team doesn't have much choice right now. Yet Loup has not performed well this season and his statistics bear this out. In 9.2 innings with the Jays, he has a whopping 7.5 ERA. He gave up three runs in Friday's 15-8 victory over the Minnesota Twins and Gibby has not used him in crucial situations recently, displaying little confidence in his ability to shut another team down. On Friday, it appeared as if Loup was allowed to finish the game so that other relievers could rest up for the next game.
If the Blue Jays are going to do well in the playoffs, they will need better left-handed relief pitching. It will be interesting to see if the team is able to broker a deal for another southpaw reliever before the playoffs. A lack of good left-handed relief pitching really hurt the Jays in the post season last year, especially after Brett Cecil was injured.
The Jays also need to play better small ball. They still leave too many players stranded on the bases. That really hurt them when they played Kansas City for the American League championship last year.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* The Jays begin a new series with the Baltimore Orioles tonight. Marco Estrada will be on the mound and will try to get back on track after two disappointing outings. This will be an important showdown in the race for the American League East pennant. The Jays will be the visiting team at Camden Yards in Baltimore. There won't be more than 46,000 friendly fans cheering them on, although I'm sure a hefty contingent of Jays fans will make the trek to Baltimore to lend them support. There will certainly be waves of blue in the crowd.
* Dioner Navarro will be with the team tonight for the first since the Jays re-acquired him.
August 8, 2016
The Blue Jays in August
This is certainly an exciting time for the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans. It's early August and the Trade Deadline has come and gone. The dog days of summer are upon us and the American League East pennant race is starting to heat up. It will soon be sizzling and I can hardly wait. It looks as if there's going to be a three-way battle between Toronto, Baltimore and Boston. At the moment, Baltimore is playing really well and appears to be the team to beat in this hotly contested division.
The Orioles currently sit atop the AL East with a record of 63 wins and 47 losses. They have a winning percentage of .573. The Blue Jays are one game back of Baltimore with a record of 63-49 and a winning percentage of .562. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox follow close behind.with a record of 60-50 and a winning percentage of .545. They are 3 games behind Baltimore.
The Baltimore Orioles definitely have a good team and a wonderful ballpark. What puzzles me is why attendance at Camden Yards has been so low this year. At the moment, the Orioles rank 10th out of the 15 American Leagues teams in attendance. They have been averaging only 26,826 per game so far this season. I wonder why isn't there more fan support for a team that has been playing so well at a magnificent ballpark.
THE SANCHEZ CONTROVERSY
One of the biggest controversies surrounding our home Blue Jays has been the Aaron Sanchez situation. All season long, the Jays insisted that Sanchez was eventually going to the bullpen, despite his fine record as a starter. I am pleased that the Jays finally decided to keep him in the starting rotation - at least for now. Russell Martin was quite vocal about his opposition to putting the young right-hander going to the pen. Martin's opinion must have carried some weight with Blue Jays brass. After all, a veteran catcher like Russell should know his pitchers.
WHY THE JAYS CAN BE FRUSTRATING
Although I am an ardent Blue Jays fan, the team really frustrates me at times. What bothers is the inability of the Toronto players to drive in runs.. August 1st's game against the Houston Astros was a perfect example. Marcus Stroman, who started the game for the Jays, pitched a gem. Unfortunately, he received very little run support and the Jays wasted his career-best 13-strkeout performance. The 25-year-old right hander's only blemish came in the sixth inning when he allowed a left-field home run to Jose Altruve of the Astros. Russell Martin tied the game with a home, but the Jays lost in extra innings.
The Blue Jays have a lot of power hitters. I think that's great. The problem is that they rely too much on the long ball. Too often it's feast or famine. They either hit it out of the park or they strike out. team leaves far too many runners stranded on the bases, especially when the bases are loaded. That weakness proved very costly for them in the playoffs last year.
The Jays's strike out far too often. Outfielder Michael Saunders, for example, is good hitter who strikes our too frequently. As of this writing, Saunders has a 272 batting average with 19 home runs and 47 RBI. However, he has struck out 118 times in the 100 games he has played this season. The newly-acquired Melvin Upton is another example of a Blue Jays who strikes out too much.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* Toronto Star baseball columnist Richard Griffin doesn't think the Jays will have enough room in their payroll to sign both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion next season. Neither do I. If they have to choose one, I think they should keep Edwin. Bautista is still a great power hitter but I think his defensive skills have declined. He's also asking for more money than the Jays are willing to part with. I certainly wouldn't want to see Edwin in a Red Sox uniform. We all know that Boston is just salivating at thought of having E.E. replace the retiring David "Big Papi" Ortiz.
* The Jays have a poor record in extra inning games so far this season - only four wins and eight losses. They have to do better in that department down the stretch in order to win the AL East.
July 11. 2016
The Blue Jays at the All-Star Break
Major League Baseball is gearing up for its annual All-Star Game between the American League and the National League. The game will be held in San Diego on Tuesday, July 12, 2016. As the regular season shuts down for the All-Star break, let's take stock of where the Toronto Blue Jays find themselves at this juncture.
The Jays defeated the Detroit Tigers yesterday by a score of 6-1, so they head to the break on a winning note. They have completed more than half the number of games in the 162-game season and have a record of 51 wins and 40 losses in the 91 games they have played. Their win percentage is .560. As I write this, they are two games back of the first place Baltimore Orioles. The Boston Red Sox are also two games behind the Orioles, but have played fewer games than the Jays. Hence, the Red Sox have a slightly higher win percentage (.563) than Toronto.
The Blue Jays are in a favourable position to contend, but they will have to ramp it up in their remaining 71 games. They will need to play extremely well in order to surpass Baltimore and Boston in the standings. Getting into the playoffs via an Wild Card spot would be good, but winning the Al East again would be preferable. That's obvious.
This season, the Jays do not have the luxury of trading for a David Price or a Troy Tulowitzki. They depleted their contingent of young pitching prospects in order to make their amazing post-season run last year. Fans can't expect anything similar to happen after the All-Star break or before the July 31st trade deadline. That does not mean that the team will not or should not make any improvements. The Jays are in a position to make a run for it, so they should not sit idly by and they should spend the money on sensible moves that would bolster their chances. For example, the bullpen has improved considerably since the addition of veteran Jason Grilli and the return of lefthander Brett Cecil. It could be further improved. Another lefty would help, just in case Cecil has another injury. When Cecil got hurt during the playoffs last fall, the lack of a reliable lefty really hurt the Jays.
After the All-Star Game, the AL East race should really heat up. Will the Orioles continue to stay on top. If they don't, there could be quite a race down the stretch between the Jays and the dastardly Boston Red Sox. We Jays' fans would really enjoy that, wouldn't we. It would be a chance to come out on top of David Price, John Farrell and company.
According the the injury report on the official website of the Toronto Blue Jays, right fielder Jose Bautista is expected to return sometime in late July. He was placed on the DL after suffering an injuring to the big toe on his left foot. As of July 9th, he was no longer wearing a walking boot and was taking swings off a tee. Thankfully, during Bautista's absence, the outfield has been well-served with Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Junior Lake.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* I attended that 19-inning marathon between the Blue Jays and Cleveland on Canada Day. It was a game I'll never forget. It began at 1 p.m. and by the time I left Rogers Centre, it was almost 7:30. Yes, I stayed right till the bitter end. I just had to see how it would turn out. Alas, the Jays lost 2-1 with a little assistance from the umpire. Their inability to to ring runners home, however really cooked their goose.
I sat there in astonishment as the Jays kept leaving runners stranded. I watched infielders Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney take the mound. Goins gave a good account of himself and didn't allow any runs to score. Unfortunately, he injured his arm and was placed on the 15-day DL. Too bad Edwin Encarnacion was tossed out in the first inning for arguing home-plate umpire. His absence from the rotation may have cost the Jays the game. Without Encarnacion for protection, Cleveland probably wouldn't have intentionally walked Josh Donaldson at one point when the Jays were threatening.
Manager John Gibbons and catcher Russell Martin were also ejected from that emotional game. The Jays had issues with umpire Carapazza's strike zone, as did the fans. The crowd of over 45,000 booed Carpezza throughout the game.
* Five Blue Jays have been named all-stars: 2015 American League MVP Josh Donaldson, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, outfielder Michael Saunders and pitchers Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez.
Marco Estrada's selection to the All-Star roster was bittersweet. He won't be able to play because he is on the 15-day disabled list with a bad back. The good news is that the All-Star break will provide Estrada with some time to rest his back. He won't have to miss as many starts due to the break.
Another piece of good news is that Marco's teammate and fellow pitcher, Aaron Sanchez, is a first-time all-star. Sanchez was chosen to replace Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel injured his left knee on Friday and underwent surgery to repair a torn cartilage today. He will require three to six weeks to recover, according to a statement released by the Red Sox. However, ESPN reporter Scott Lauber thinks that "after a rehabilitation and a minor league assignment, it's possible he won't resume pitching in big leagues games until September."
* Aaron Sanchez is worthy of all-star status. In 18 starts, he has a record of nine wins and one loss. His earned-run average is .297.
* Josh Donaldson is definitely on course win a second consecutive American League MVP title. Barring serious injury, if Donaldson continues to play the way he's been playing up to this point in the season, it's hard to imagine that he won't repeat. In yesterday's 6-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers, Josh slammed his 23rd home run of 2016 and became just the sixth player in American League history to hit 20 home runs and score 80 runs before the All-Star break. With that accomplishment, he joins such stellar company as Lou Gehrig (1936), Ted Williams (1946), Reggie Jackson (1969), Frank Thomas (1994) and Alex Rodriguez (2000). Not to shabby, eh?
June 20, 2016
Blue Jays cool down
After looking red hot, the Toronto Blue Jays have cooled down a bit. On Thursday, June 16th, they crushed the Philadelphia Phillies by a score of !3-2. On Friday, June 17th, they trounced the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 13-3. In those two games, the Jays scored a whopping 26 runs. On Saturday, June 18th, however, they came crashing down to earth, Their four game winning streak cane to an end and they were beaten two games in a row by the Orioles. The Jays lost yesterday's game by a score of 11-6 despite a pair of two-run homers, one by Devon Travis and the other by Troy Tulowitzki.
Marcus Stroman's performance in yesterday's game was worrisome. He only lasted 3 2/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs. His ERA has ballooned to 5.23, obviously not what you want from Stroman at all. That kind of an outing puts a lot of pressure on the bullpen too. At the moment, Marco Estrada is the Jays' best starting pitcher. Estrada has allowed five hits or fewer in 10 consecutive starts. That's a franchise record, folks.
Toronto is still in a three-team race in the American League East with Baltimore and the Boston Red Sox. However, the two losses against the O's at Camden Yards were costly. They lost some ground to the Orioles and the Red Sox. Baltimore remains in sole possession of first place in the AL East with a 40-28 record (5.88). Boston is one game back at 38-29 (5.74). The Jays have fallen to three games back at 33-29 (5.42).
The Baltimore Orioles look really good this season. They are a balanced team and they currently lead Major League Baseball with 26 wins at home.
On Saturday, I attended the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in St. Mary's, Ontario, between London and Stratford. Beautiful St. Mary's is a must for Canadian fans. If you can make the drive out there, I strongly recommend it.
Five new members were inducted: Canadians William Shuttlesworth and Howard Starkman, Americans Tony Kubek and Pat Hentgen, and Dennis Martinez, the first major leaguer from Nicaragua. Shuttlesworth, born in Brantford, Ontario in 1834. He has been called the "Father of Canadian baseball for his contributions to the sport in this country as an organizer and player. Toronto-born Howard Starkman has been a Toronto Blue Jays executive since the formation of the team, He was originally hired as director of public relations in July of 1976. Milwaukee-born Tony Kubek spent nine years as a player with the New York Yankees before turning to broadcasting. He played in six World Series during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He broadcast Blue Jays games from 1977 until 1989. Michigan native Pat Hentgen pitched for the Jays from 1991 to 1999 and again in 2004. He won the Cy Young award in 1976. Hentgen is currently a special assistant in the Blue Jays organization. Dennis Martinez, nicked-named "El Presidente," pitched for the Montreal Expos from 1986 to 1993. On July 28, 1991, Martinez pitched a perfect game for the Expos against the Los Angeles Dodgers, becoming the first Latin American-born pitcher to accomplish that feat.
The inductees and family members were in attendance except for the long-deceased Shuttlesworth and Tony Kubek who was ill. Former sports broadcaster Fergie Olver accepted on his behalf and also read a letter of thanks from Tony.
There was a a large contingent of Expos fans at St. Mary's. I really believe there is strong support for a return of a major league baseball team to Montreal and that it is just a matter of time and the money needed to build a new stadium in the city.
I also saw Hall of Fame pitching great Ferguson Jenkins at St. Mary's. He was autographing books and other memorabilia. When I mentioned how well his former team, the Chicago Cubs were doing this year, Fergie seemed skeptical. He pointed out that it was too early to talk about the Cubs in the World Series with only one-third of the season having been played. He's right. It is premature, but the Cubbies sure look good.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
The Jays' one-sided victory over the Orioles last Friday was a memorable game for Canadian left fielder Michale Saunders. Saunders hit three home runs for the Jays, becoming the fourth Canadian to complete the home run hat trick. The others are Larry Walker, Justin Morneau and Joey Votto.
Saunders, however, is the only one to do it for a Canadian team. He also recorded eight RBIs.
Veteran reliever Jason Grilli is a welcome addition to the Jays' bullpen, but the 'pen remains a work in progress. The 39-year-old Grilli was acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Braves and his experience and leadership are definitely needed. Jason's father, Steve Grilli, was also a major league pitcher. The elder Grilli spent much of his career as a member of the Detroit Tigers, but pitched for the Blue Jays in 1979.
* Slugger Jose Bautista is on the 15-day disabled list. In June 16th's pounding of the Philadelpia Fillies, Bautista injured his left big toe while chasing a fly ball at Citizen's Bank Park. He slammed into the right field wall and limped off the field in pain. There is no timetable for his return yet. Jose travelled to Charlotte, North .Carolina today to undergo further tests on his toe. After that, the Blue Jays should have a better idea when he will be ready to return. In the meantime, it's great to have Ezequiel Carrera in the outfield.
* Brett Cecil, is a step closer to returning to the lineup after being placed on the 15-day disabled list last month. The 29-year-old left-handed reliever is in Dunedin, Florida rehabbing from a left triceps strain. On Saturday, he participated in simulated game against a group of players who are in Dunedin working out, including some of the Blue Jays’ 2016 draft picks. The Jays desperately need Cecil to return to form because they are thin in lefty relievers. Southpaws Aaron Loup, Chad Girodo, Ryan Tepera and the ambidextrous Pat Venditte have not inspired a lot of confidence.
* After a much-need day off, the Blue Jays begin a series against the Arizona Diamondbacks at home in the dome tomorrow June 21st.
May 30, 2016
Return of Devon Travis sparks Blue Jay - but bullpen still a problem
It's almost the end of May and the Blue Jays are mired in third place in the American League East. As of this writing (May 30th), they are merely a .500 team. Thy have a 26-26 record and they are five games back of the league leading Boston Red Sox, who have a 30-20 record (.600), The Baltimore Orioles are one game back of the Red Sox with a 28-20 record (.583).
The Jays have played 52 games and there are still 110 games remaining in the 162-game season. It may seem as if there is still plenty of time, but the team is going to have to vastly improve, particularly at home, if it hopes to contend in the competitive AL East. The Blue Jays have a losing record at Rogers Centre, where they have a record of 11 wins and 14 losses. They have performed better on the road (15 wins, 12 losses).
"But the young second baseman (Devon Travis) has been manna from heaven since he returned to the Jays' lineup from a protracted DL stretching way back to last season. How very much the team has missed him."
Toronto Star, May 29, 2016
Ryan Goins has been struggling at the plate, so the return of Devon Travis has helped tremendously. The hitting, however, is still inconsistent and sporadic. It is not nearly as outstanding as it was last season. Of more concern, though, is the state of the bullpen. It seems as if the only reliable relief pitchers are Robert Osuna and Joe Biagini. Biagini has really impressed. Along with the pitching rotation, he has been a bright spot for the Jays this year.
|Joe Biagini has impressed.|
Unfortunately, Drew Storen has been disappointing so far. The right-handed reliever has a whopping 7.02 ERA to date. Meanwhile, Storen's fellow relief pitcher, Gavin Floyd, has played poorly in his last two games. Last night, for example, the Jays had a chance to sweep the first place Red Sox at home, but Floyd struggled with his command in extra innings. As a result, the Jays were defeated by a score of 5-3.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND PIECES
* An MRI revealed that left-handed reliever Brett Cecil has a tear in his lat muscle. Cecil was placed on the 15-day Disabled List on May 15th. According to the injury report on the Toronto Blue Jays' official website, he is due back "possibly mid-June." If Cecil could return to last year's form, that would really help the bullpen, but who knows?
* Speaking of Brett Cecil, he's a new father. On May 9th, he and his wife Jennifer welcomed their third child, a daughter named Braelynn Natalie, to the family. The couple already have two young sons and a dog.
* On May 28, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was also placed on the 15-day DL with a right quad strain. According to the official website, Tulo is also expected to return "possibly mid-June."
* The Toronto Blue Jays begin a 3-game series against the New York Yankees at home tonight at the dome. Marco Estrada is on the mound for the Jays. Let's hope the team gives him some run support.
May 17, 2016
The Blue Jays are a team in trouble
After a lacklustre April, and a mediocre May (so far), the Toronto Blue Jays have yet to live up to their potential in 2016. It's true that their record in April was similar to last season's. They did manage to turned it around last year, but that's going to be much more difficult task this season. There won't be any blockbuster trades this summer. Most of their best prospects were traded away to obtain Troy Tulowitzki and David Price.
One of the few bright spots this season has been the starting rotation. It has been better than expected.. Marcus Stroman, who recently celebrated his 25th birthday, has particularly impressed me. In eight starts, he has a sterling 4-0 record and seems to be settling in as the Jays' number one starter. If he continues in this fashion he will be a bonafide ace. Marcus Estrada must be really frustrated. For some reason, the Jays have given him very little run support. His ERA is 2.89, but he has only managed to win one game in seven starts. He has recorded one loss and five no decisions.
Although R.A. Dickey was slow coming out of the gate, his last outing was much improved. He's a workhorse and he should continue to eat up innings. Obviously, I'd still rather have Noah Syndergaard in the rotation and a better back-up catcher than Josh Thole. It still pains me to think what might have been.
Sundays's donnybrook in Texas, featuring Jose Bautista and Rougned Odor, provided a field day for the media and it was replayed countless times. Unfortunately, the fracas between the Jays and the Rangers detracted from the real issues surrounding this Toronto team. Everyone expressed an opinion about the melee, but no one discussed the Jays' lack of clutch hitting and their bullpen problems. The bullpen, with the exception of Roberto Osuna, has been a huge disappointment so far. I think "disastrous" would be a better word to describe it.
On Sunday, left-handed relief pitcher Brett Cecil was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left triceps strain. Cecil pitched so well for most of last season. After a slow start, he became their most dependable reliever. In the playoff series against the Texas Rangers, he tore his left calf muscle while tagging Rangers' Mike Napoli in a run down. He was severely missed by the Jays for the rest of the playoffs. Their lack of left-handed relief pitching was a major reason why they failed to overcome the Kansas City Royals and go all they way to the World Series.
This season, Brett Cecil has not pitched well at all. He has an 0-5 record so far, with a 5.23 ERA. The Jays have really needed him in the bullpen, but he just hasn't done the job. Perhaps he hasn't made a good recovery from his injury. Adding to the bullpen misery has been the poor performance of Jesse Chavez. The Blue Jays traded right-hander Liam Hendricks, who had a 2.92 ERA last season to the Oakland A's for Chavez. After struggling through 11 games with a 8.27 ERA, Hendricks is currently on the 15-dqy disabled list with a strained right tricep muscle.
Relief pitchers can be unpredictable and injury-prone. That's why the Jays should have more depth in left-handed relievers. Regrettably, during the off-season, they failed to acquire more reliable left-handed relief pitching. Thy could use some speed on the bases too. They lost some of that with the departure of outfielder Ben Revere Dalton Pompey is a very fast runner, but he needs to play every day. He can't do that with the Jays, so he remains in Buffalo.
The Blue Jays are a team in trouble. If they don't improve soon, someone is going to pay the price. Manager John Gibbons is the obvious sacrificial lamb. Although the Jays are bound to get better eventually, I don't anticipate it will happen soon enough to save Gibby - not with the current bullpen.
Once Gibby is out the door, Mark Shapiro and Co. will install their own handpicked successor. The Cleveland takeover of the Toronto Blue Jays will be complete.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
Thank goodness the e return of second baseman Devon Travis is imminent. Travis is on a minor league rehab stint with the Dunedin Blue Jays. His return will be welcome news for the beleaguered Blue Jays. They could really use his bat. Last season, the Jays were a team with no shortage of hitting power. The slugging was expected to continue this year. It hasn't. Aside from a few breakout games, the Jays have seemed like a shadow of themselves at the plate.
April 8, 2016
Bring on the Red Sox! It's the 2016 home opener!
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITS
* On opening day, fans will get their first look at the new dirt infield at the Rogers Centre. That will be an improvement, but real grass is still needed.
* Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez have impressed so far. Stroman will be on the mound for the home opener. This season, he has the opportunity to prove that not only is he the Jays' number one starter but that he's a genuine "ace." His performance could go a long way in helping us forget about the loss of David Price.
March 12, 2016
How will the Jays do in 2016?
How optimistic am I about the Toronto Blue Jays' 2016.season? I won't make any firm predictions because there are too many variables. Based on the pitching the Jays had last spring, I would never have expected them to come so close to a berth in the World Series. Who could have foreseen that Marco Estrada would have such a great season or that Alex Anthopoulos would sign an ace like David Price? Too many things can change. That's why I'm not big on preseason prognostications.
I will say, however, that if the Jays remain reasonably healthy, they should be a solid contender for a playoff spot. They still have a really potent offense with sluggers such as Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista (at least for now) and Edward Encarnacion. Pitching is definitely the big question mark.
The Jays will face some formidable competition in the American League East this year. Both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees have improved, On paper, both teams have better pitching than the Blue Jays. However, we'll have to wait and see what happens on the field. That's what really matters.
The Jays certainly have more depth this year, however I'm concerned about an injury to Russell Martin. If that happens, they had better hope AJ Jimenez or Tony Sanchez can do the job because Dioner Navarro is not around anymore. At least Martin will not have to catch R.A. Dickey's knuckleballs this season, so his health should be better.
I'm also concerned about the Jays' left-handed relief pitching. That is one area where the team still lacks depth. During the playoffs last October, lefty Brett Cecil suffered an injury and lefty Aaron Loup was unavailable due to the premature birth of his child. The lack of lefties in the bullpen really hurt the Jays during the postseason. They really have to address that problem, especially now that Loup has been shut down for at least two weeks with an elbow injury.
Say What, Goose?
|Goose Gossage in his playing days|
In an interview with ESPN, Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage was highly critical of Jose Bautista. He denounced the Jays' right fielder as "disgrace to the game." "He's embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him," Gossage said. "Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto." Okay, now, tell us how you really feel, Goose!
Jose Bautista, for his part, reacted responded graciously to Gossage's profanity-laced tirade, which singled out him and Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes . "I'm disappointed that he made those comments," said Bautista, "but I'm not going to get into it with him." "I would never say anything about him, no matter what he said about me," he added. "I have too much good stuff to worry about his comments."
Amen to that! It's about time baseball lightened up. Is a bat flip so horrible? Let's have a little fun, boys!
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* The Toronto Blue Jays are really doing well on the Grape Fruit League circuit. It probably won't have too much bearing on the regular season, but it's a good sign. It certainly can't hurt. The team had a walk-off win in the 10th inning yesterday (March 11th), defeating their AL East rivals, the Boston Red Sox, by a score of 2-1. Marcus Stroman was impressive, throwing 4.2 shutout innings. The Jays improved their outstanding Grape Fruit record to 9-1-1.
February 27, 2016
Get ready to say goodbye to Joey Bats
For most baseball teams, spring training is generally a time of hope and optimism about the coming season. For the Toronto Blue Jays, it can be a difficult experience. Last year, the team suffered a couple of freak injuries which had a negative impact on the season. Canadian-born outfielder Michael Saunders tore a ligament in his knee when he stepped on a sprinkler head during spring training in 2015, Pitcher Marcus Stroman also tore a knee ligament during a routine bunt fielding drill
This season's spring training has just begun and already the Blue Jays have a serious problem on their hands. The face of the franchise, outfielder Jose Bautista, has stirred up a storm. Tongues are wagging and there is a great deal of speculation in the media. In February of 2011, Bautista signed a five-year/$64 million dollar contract with the team, including a $14 million club option for 2016. He was paid $8 million in 2011 and $14 million from 2012 to 2015. Last November, the Jays exercised their club option on the Dominican, but he will be a free agent in 2017.
Bautista chose this time to publicly declare where he stands with regard to a future contract. He did not mince words. He was unequivocal and adamant that there would be no negotiations. The 35-year-old slugger doesn't believe that negotiations are necessary and he has informed the Jays of his salary expectations. The team knows exactly what it will have to pay its star right fielder if it intends to keep him.
Rick Westhead, senior correspondent for TSN, reported that two sources close to the matter told him that "Jose Bautista is demanding a contract extension for more than $150 million a year for at least five years." Whew! 30 million dollars a year! That's a lot of cabbage, folks, even in the topsy-turvy world of Major League Baseball, where one million dollars is chump change. Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star has speculated that Bautista's demand could be even higher. Although, Bautista won't reveal the exact figure, he will say that Rogers Communications, can afford to accommodate him.
Most media pundits, including Griffin, don't think the Blue Jays will pay Jose Bautista the amount of money he wants. Neither do I. As talented as Jose is, I don't think Rogers is willing to make such a huge investment in a player who will be 40 years old at the end of a five year contract. Remember too that the club also has to pay large salaries to Edwin Encarnacion, Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson.
I fully expect that Bautista will be traded as soon as possible, provided the Jays can swing a deal. Given the circumstances, Rogers probably considers him a disruptive influence in the clubhouse. Even if he remains for one more season (which I doubt), he's not going to end his career in our fair city. In fact, we may never see him in a Blue Jays uniform again. The Blue Jays have already attempted to sign right fielder Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds. They didn't succeed, but it is obvious that the club is preparing for the post-Bautista era.
Baseball fans in Toronto will miss Joey Bats. They'll miss his swagger and his passion for baseball. He is hot-blooded and emotional. That is his nature and that is how he plays the game. However, on the outside chance that he does play one more season in T.O,, wouldn't it be bittersweet if he leads the Jays to the playoffs or even to an appearance in the World Series?
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* It seems much more likely that Edwin Encarnacian will remain in Toronto. He says he wants to be a Blue Jay for the rest of his career and that he is seeking a long-term deal. I certainly hope the Jays can reach an agreement with him. The team would not be the same without him and Bautista.
* The Blue Jays have signed outfielder Domonic Brown to a minor league contract. Brown, 28. was a National League All-Star in 2013, his first full season in the majors. He showed great potential, hitting 27 home runs with an .818 OPS. In 2014, his numbers dropped dramatically. He hit 10 home runs and his OPS dipped to .634.
Last season, Brown was plagued with injuries. He only played 63 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, hitting just .228 with 25 RBI. Instead of accepting a Triple-A assignment, he elected free agency. He has been invited to the Jays' spring training camp and, if he should regain his form, his acquisition should add to the team's depth in the outfield. It won't be easy, though. Brown will have to compete with Michael Saunders, Dalton Pompey, Junior Lake and Ezequiel Carrera for a spot.
* I have to give the new Blue Jays regime credit for trying add depth at all positions. With the likelihood of injury, that is such an important factor in building a team. It is a factor to which the Jays have not paid enough attention in recent years.
February 20, 2016
Have the Blue Jays made a good move in signing catcher Tony Sanchez?
The Toronto Blue Jays announced yesterday that they'd signed catcher Tony Sanchez to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training. The 27-year-old has played 51 games at the major league level, batting .259/.303/.378 with four home runs and 18 RBI. He threw out 30 base stealers.
Born Jorge Anthony Sanchez in Miami, Florida on May 29, 1988, Sanchez attended Miami's Killian High School. He later studied at Boston College where he was a very productive hitter for the Boston College Eagles. In the 2009 MLB draft, he was selected fourth overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Although Sanchez has struggled to make a mark in the majors, he has a good record in 313 games at the Triple-A level hitting .248/.342/.415 with 32 home runs, 160 RBI In addition, he threw out 22 percent of base runners. Tony, who bats right and throws right, spent most of the 2015 season with the Indianapolis Indians, the Pittsburgh Pirate's Triple-A affiliate in the International League.
The Sanchez deal provides the Blue Jays some depth behind the plate. The departure of Dion Navarro left the team very thin with catchers. The back up to first string catcher Russell Martin is light-hitting Josh Thole. Thole is there because he can catch R.A. Dickey's knuckleballs. I have been concerned about what might happen if Martin were to suffer an injury. The team would find itself in serious trouble. There would be a scramble to find a decent catcher in a hurry.
Tony Sanchez may not be the answer, but at least he's a possibility. The team is better equipped than before to handle an injury to Russ Martin.
February 4, 2016
Who should be lead off hitter for the Blue Jays in 2016?
Some fans were dismayed when Ben Revere was traded for relief pitcher Drew Storen, They were upset at the loss of the Jays' lead off batter. They wondered who would replace Revere in that role. Well, I don't think it's going to be a serious problem. The team has plenty of players who can fill that void. Devon Travis or Michael Saunders would be good choices. Travis, however, is recovering from shoulder surgery and will not be ready to start the season in April. Barring a setback, he will likely return sometime in May.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is a possibility for lead off batter, at least until Travis is able to play again. I'd be reluctant to select him, though. I don't think Tulo really wants to hit lead off and did not look comfortable in the role last season. He is more effective batting fifth in the order. Another possibility is that the Jays could start the season with Michael Saunders as lead off hitter. If Saunders does not do well, he can easily be replaced. For example, right fielder Jose Bautista would also have to be given consideration. Another possibility is outfielder Kevin Pillar, who has expressed interest in the job.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* The Toronto Blue Jays have announced that they will have a regulation dirt infield in place at Rogers Centre in time for the 2016 season. That's good news. It's about time, too! It's much safer for a players such as Troy Tulowitzki to run on dirt than on concrete. The change should have been made a long time ago, but better late than never, as the old adage goes.
Although the dirt infield will be a significant improvement, fans and players should not be satisfied until the artificial turf is replaced by a real grass field. The Blue Jays' former president, Paul Beeston, was hopeful to have a grass surface installed before the 2018 season. Unfortunately, Beeston's successor, Mark Sharpiro, stated that the grass surface is not a high priority right now. I beg to differ, Mr. Shapiro. I think the health and safety of the players should be a high priority.
* On February 2, the Jays acquired outfielder Darrell Ceciliani, 25, from the New York Mets for a player to be named later. Ceciliani hit .206 with one home run and five steals in 68 at-bats during his rookie year in 2015. He had a batting average of .345 with 19 doubles, four triples, nine home runs and 16 steals in 70 games with the Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific League, the Mets' Triple-A affiliate. He was selected by the Mets in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. The speedy Ceciliani adds some always-needed depth to the Jays' outfield. He's expected to spend most of the season with the Buffalo Bisons, although he may turn out to be very useful in the event of an injury to one of the Jays' regular outfielders.
January 29, 2016
Thumbs Down on Blue Jays' New Spring Training Cap
|Left: 2013 - 2015. Right: 2016|
The Toronto Blue Jays have introduced their new spring training cap. It's the cap on the right and I have to give it a big THUMBS DOWN. I think that the majority of fans will too. The royal blue cap on the left was first worn by the Jays in 2013 and there is nothing wrong with it. Unfortunately, it has been replaced by a dark navy blue cap. Although the maple leaf emblem remains on the front of the new cap, it is no longer red. It is dark navy blue with a white trim.
There is no doubt in my mind that old spring training cap is brighter and more attractive. It also better reflects the name of the team. For the record, here are my three objections to the new Jays' new spring training cap:
* First of all, the Jays' traditional colour is royal blue. The dark navy blue is closer to black than blue. It's the same colour as the New York Yankees' cap. When will the Jays learn that a team called the Toronto Blue Jays should be wearing blue. Remember that during the lost years of the J.P. Ricciardi era. the word "blue" was removed from the front of the team's black uniforms. The blue jay in the "Jays" logo was more menacing and there was no maple leaf. That uniform was not popular and it is still a reminder of the failure of those wilderness years.
* My second objection is to the colour of the maple leaf on the new spring training cap. It should be a beautiful bright red, like the one on the Canadian flag. I ask you, whoever heard of a dark, navy blue maple leaf? Okay, okay! The leaf on the logo of the Toronto Maple Leafs' uniform is blue, but at least it's not a really dark, navy blue. It actually looks good.
* My third and final objection is that the colour of the new cap does not go with rest of the uniform. I roll my eyes and scratch my head when I look at it. Yes, fans, the jersey remains royal blue. That means the navy blue cap is matched with a royal blue jersey. It makes me cringe. Whatever happened to basic colour coordination?
The new spring training cap is definitely a flop and I contend that it is poorly designed. I rest my case. The verdict: Guilty. The sentence: Those responsible should be required to complete a course in the fundamentals of design and colour coordination.
January 23, 2016
We Will Miss You, Kawasaki!
Pro athletes usually become fan favourites for their excellence inside the lines of play - but there are exceptions. Case in point, Munenori Kawasaki. On Thursday, Toronto fans learned that their beloved infielder would be heading to Chicago to play for the Cubs after three seasons with the Jays. How did a career .234 hitter with just one home run and 50 RBI wedge his way into the hearts of Blue Jays' fans?
- Josh Hargraves
The Globe and Mail, January 21, 2016
Don't let the stats fool you. "Muni" will be with the Cubs in Spring Training, and if the utility infielder ever does make it to Wrigley Field, fans will go crazy over his unbridled enthusiasm.
- Dan Cahill
Chicago Sun-Times, January 22, 2016
When 34 year-old Munenori Kawasaki, signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, the Blue Jays lost more than a middle-of-the-road utility infielder. The answer to how Kawasaki "wedged his way into the hearts of Blue Jays' fans" lies not in his statistics, but in his personality. It lies in his smile and in his enthusiasm. It lies in the way he enjoys the game of baseball and how he strongly supports his teammates. He may speak halting English, but he sure knows how to communicate.
Fans want to see him play. They want to cheer for him. He brings people to the ballpark because he makes the game more fun. That's why, if he does play at Wrigley Field,, Cubs' fans will "go crazy over his unbridled enthusiasm," as Dan Cahill predicts in the Chicago Sun-Times.
With Kawasaki's departure, Darwin Barney will be the Jays' primary utility infielder this season. Although Barney will produce better statistics than Kawasaki, he will never be as much fun. The man from Japan played a mere 23 games last season, but his presence will be missed. Some commentators dismiss Kawasaki's importance because of his lacklustrre statistics, yet the fans don't.see it that way. They come to the ballpark to have fun.
Munenori Kawasaki spent three seasons in Toronto and he will take a permanent reminder of his time here with him. That's because his first child, a son, named Issho, was born in this city on August 16, 2013. Canadian fans will remember how the proud father smiled and declared, "He's a Canuck, eh?" That's how Kawasaki "wedged his way into the hearts of Blue Jays; fans." Chicago, you are in for a treat.
Sayonara, my friend.
January 20, 2016
Using salary arbitration with a player isn't necessarily the worst thing a major-league team can do, but clubs usually prefer to avoid the process. It is literally contentious and sometimes contemptuous and, often, it gets personal for the players.
- David Brown
CBS Sports, January 16, 2016
The Blue Jays are going to arbitration with their outstanding third baseman, Josh Donaldson. Donaldson is asking for $11.8 million this season, while the Jays are offering him $11,350,000. It's a difference of $450,000. In the real world, $450,000 is an enormous amount of money, but in the world of Major League Baseball, it's a pittance. It's chump change. That's because MLB players live in some kind of alternate universe.
According to Baseball Reference,com, the minimum salary for an MLB player in 2015 was $507,500 per year and the average salary was $4,250,000. In 1970, the minimum salary was $12,000 and the average salary was $29,303. By 1990, the minimum salary had jumped to $100,000 and the average salary to $578,930 (It's interesting to note that the average salary in 1990 was in the range of today's minimum salary). In 1994, the players went on strike and the World Series was cancelled. By 1995, the minimum salary had increased slightly to $109,000, but the average salary had spiked to $1,071,929.
I am not arguing that major league baseball players should't be paid well. In fact, there was certainly a time when they were terribly underpaid. Now, however, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Average salaries are spiraling out of control. Who in the real world gets such increases in pay? These days, if someone has a stable job with a pension and benefits, he or she is considered very fortunate. Not only that, but there are scores of worker who are underpaid and undervalued. Why aren't nurses, for example, paid more?
Baseball used to be an affordable sport. A family could attend a game for a reasonable.price. It's still more affordable than many other sports, but not for much longer. Even the 500-level at the Rogers Centre is becoming expensive. Don't get me going on the outrageously high price of concessions, which I refer to as highway robbery.
Baseball players always play lip service to the fans. They thank the fans for their support. If they really want to express their gratitude, they should demonstrate more concern about the escalation of ticket prices. Since major league baseball players receive such lofty salaries, perhaps they should give more back to the community, rather than continually buying new cars and houses. Many players certainly do make generous contributions of their time and money, but not enough.
As for Josh Donaldson, it will be terribly difficult for him to replicate a season as successful as last year"s. He should be rewarded for his remarkable contribution to the Jays' success. 2015 was a season to remember for Donaldson as he was named the American League MVP and he led the Jays to a post-season play for the first time in 22 years. Many argue that the Jays are being cheap and foolish. They question why the Jays would risk alienating the slugger for the sake of $450,000. In the alternate universe of Major League Baseball, it doesn't make any sense for the Jays to upset Donaldson's applecart for a piddly $450,000. In the real world, it seems more reasonable.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* I dislike corporate names on ballparks. Unfortunately, they are a reality.. As long as companies such as Rogers Communications lay down their the money, they have every right to name a stadium after themselves. Obviously, I prefer "SkyDome," but I don't own the place. Rogers, however, purchased the stadium at a bargain basement price and decided to call it "Rogers Centre." They should have called it "Rogers Stadium" or "Rogers Dome." A ballpark should not be called a "centre." It just doesn't sound right.
While I'm on the subject of the Rogers Centre, why isn't there a sculpture of a great Blue Jay player, such as Roberto Alomar, at the dome? Other ballparks have such statues. The Rogers Centre has a statue of Ted Rogers. Rogers, of course, has a right to erect a statue of their founder. I am not disputing that. I'm merely saying there should be one of a great player too.
This is the first my intermittent reflections on my favourite baseball club.
The 2015 season was a roller coaster season for the Jays. It began with fluke injuries in spring training to pitcher Marcus Stroman and outfielder Michael Saunders. From opening game to the All-Star break, the team hit a ton of home runs, but did not win enough games to seem like a contender. What an explosive offense, though, led by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and the eventual American League MVP, third baseman Josh Donaldson!
Fans feared another lost season, until General Manager Alex Anthopoulos really went to work in July 28, 2015. He acquired shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies. Two days later, the Jays had a bonafide ace starting pitcher. Jays fans rejoiced when they heard the news that lefty David Price was coming to town. From then on, the Jays caught fire. What an exhilarating time as the Jays challenged the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East. In August, I had the good fortune to travel to New York to see the Jays play at Yankee Stadium. I attended the game in which David Price started and Justin Smoak hit a grand slam. When my husband and I cheered and gave each other the high fives, a Yankee fan sitting above us told us good naturedly to "keep it down."
The Jays finished first in the American League East, recording 93 victories. Toronto and the rest of Canada went crazy with excitement when the team made the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. After winning the American League Division Series by defeating the Texas Ranger, they were eventually defeated by the Kansas City Royals in the AL Championship Series. What a ride! Yes, it was disappointing that the Blue Jays did not go to the World Series. I firmly believe they would have beaten the New York Mets if they had. Yes, Anthopoulos gave up a lot of prospects. Still, it was well worth the fun and excitement of participating in post-season play. Unfortunately, however, there were some clouds on the horizon. Blue Jay fans were shocked and disappointed when Alex announced that he would not return as GM. He has subsequently taken a position with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Where Alex's departure is concerned, many (including myself) failed to see the writing on the wall. Rogers Communications mishandled the whole situation and they treated Paul Beeston shabbily. However, like it or not, the Anthopoulos era is over in Toronto. Mark Shariro is in charge now. I'm trying very hard to give him a chance and not to think of him as a carpetbagger who ousted a beloved Canadian. At times, he hasn't made it easy for me. For instance, I don't understand why he is in no hurry to replace the artificial turf at Rogers Centre with natural grass. That should be a priority. Why risk injuries on the artificial turf? Why discourage players from coming to Toronto because of the artificial turf? Weren't the Argos kicked out of Rogers Centre to make way for real grass. Shapiro's stance doesn't make any sense to me.
Although I am disappointed that Alex is no longer with the Blue Jays and I regret that he wasn't able to finish the job he started and take the team to the World Series. To me, it's the same feeling as missing the end of a movie. A.A. was just reaching his stride and had learned from past mistakes. I can't blame him, however, for leaving on a point of principle. In 2015, Anthopoulos concentrated on building a team with players of character and he was successful. I wish him well in his new position with the Dodgers. If baseball ever returns to Montreal (and I think it will someday), Alex would make an excellent general manager of the reborn Montreal Expos. He would certainly have to be a leading candidate for the job. In the meantime, I'm just glad he didn't go to Boston or New York.
BLUE JAYS BITS AND BITES
* The Blue Jays made a good move in acquiring relief pitcher Drew Storen. I like Ben Revere, but the Jays needed pitching and they had an excess of outfielders. Now they must choose their new lead off hitter.
* One of the worst trades Anthopoulos made during his tenure with the Blue Jays was the R.A. Dickey deal. It's nothing personal against R.A. I'm just not big on knuckle ball pitchers. They are too unpredictable. Yes, I know Dickey won the Cy Young Award, but he was never going to have a season like that again.
Only certain catchers can handle a knuckleballer. Although Russell Martin can work with Dickey, it's difficult for him. The Jays have Josh Thole in the lineup for the sole purpose of catching for Dickey. Thole is not a good hitter. That's why the the Jays had better make sure they have a decent backstopper in Buffalo in the event that Martin gets hurt. Otherwise, they'll be up the creek.