Toronto Blue Jays: Why the AL East Is Ripe for the Picking in 2012
Much like their roster, the Blue Jays season is young. But after the great spring training and a few early wins there is a buzz going about the city of Toronto. Some say it’s premature, and I tend to agree. But this is a city that is starving for a winner.
I believe the excitement for the Blue Jays goes back to the end of last season when Brett Lawrie was called up to the big leagues. The fans took it as a sign that the Blue Jays were entering a new phase. A phase that would see the Blue Jays eventually reach the post-season. Many fans believe that this goal is even closer to being a reality than earlier thought.
One thing fueling that fire is the fact that the rest of the American League East has not yet been its normally dominant self. Again, I understand that it’s early, but that extra wild-card berth that’s been put in place this year is going to be huge. The Blue Jays realize they don’t have to win the AL East–being third best could get them into the post-season. The following slides show look at the reasons why the Blue Jays may be able to claim one of those playoff spots this year.
The Yankees Are Getting Old
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At 28 years-old, Brett Gardner is the youngest everyday position player on the roster. Eduardo Nunez is next at 24, but he is the backup to 37 year-old shortstop Derek Jeter, 36 year-old third basemen Alex Rodriguez or 29 year-old Robinson Cano. When 32 year-old first baseman Mark Teixeira needs a day off, they turn to either 31 year-old Nick Swisher or 34 year-old Eric Chavez. I’m not saying the Yankees are fragile and need their walkers, but there comes a point when your body starts to slow down and your reactions just aren’t as quick.
The average age for position players for the Yankees is around 30. While it’s great to have all that experience there also has to be some on-field production. There’s no doubt that at their best a lineup featuring Curtis Granderson, Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira and company was fearsome. But until they all show that they are still the same players they were when they signed those multi-million dollar contracts, there should be no reason to treat the Yankees of 2012 as the same Yankees of 2009.
The Red Sox Are Being Managed by Bobby Valentine
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Before this season, the Boston Red Sox had Terry Francona as their manager. Francona was able to take the Boston Red Sox to the post-season four times in eight seasons. Bobby Valentine has managed two Major League Baseball teams for 15 seasons before this one. He has been to the playoffs twice.
Many reports say Francona lost control of the club house, and yet they think Bobby Valentine is the right guy to get this clubhouse on track? The Red Sox lost their manager and their General Manager Theo Epstein in the same off-season. It is a club that may have be looking to change direction but don’t know where to start. Bobby Valentine isn’t the answer. While he boasts a decent .510 winning percentage over his now 16-year managerial career, it isn’t enough to turn this Red Sox team around.
The Red Sox Injury Woes
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To start the season, closer Andrew Bailey, relief pitchers Bobby Jenks and Andrew Miller, and starters Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey will serve time on the disabled list. Last year the Sox got off to a slow start but rebounded to have a great couple of months. They eventually collapsed but did show that they were still one of the better teams at full strength.
The Red Sox are not at full strength to begin the season. Aside from the pitching staff, Carl Crawford has also started the year on the DL. This is a lot of talent to not have on your roster. Even though they still have Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett, the Red Sox are missing key guys that could be helping them stockpile the W’s. While those players are expected to return eventually, the Red Sox may have too much of a hill to climb to get back into the race when they do.
The Rays Don’t Produce the Same Success Against Jays
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For the past couple of years the Rays have had the Blue Jays' number. Wade Davis, David Price and James Shields all have great numbers against the Jays. But this year’s Jays team is different, and they are going to be more competitive. The offense should be tired of being beaten by this team.
After a couple of years of seeing the same guys the Jays should be more aware of what they are throwing and their tendencies. Of course some pitchers are just that good against certain teams over their whole careers, but if the Blue Jays are to hunt down a post-season spot, they will have to overcome the lack of success against the Rays.
This will be the toughest task for the Jays this year and should they fail against the Rays, they can take some knowledge in the fact that the Rays are going to be going through changes this upcoming off-season. Changes that may not be for the better.
The Orioles Don’t Have a Clue
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The Orioles have some good, talented players on their roster. Players such as Matt Wieters, Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones would all be welcome additions to any roster. However, the drop-off in talent after that is tremendous. There are not too many other players on this roster that can be relied upon to carry a team.
It is a team that is filled with more spare parts than stable roster spots. They don’t impose a serious threat to the division crown and the Blue Jays will have to be dominant against them throughout the year.
If the Blue Jays can repeat this success against the Orioles that will only be half the battle. They will need to play better against the Rays. Stay healthier than the Red Sox. And if their youth can out-shine the stars in New York, then maybe they can find a way to slip through the normally steady cracks in the AL East and find themselves playing baseball in October.