Before Toronto Blue Jay baseball fans pencil themselves in for the postseason, somewhere they haven't been since their 1993 World Series run, they must first come to terms with an unwelcome fact:
The Marlins made offseason headlines last year with a new stadium opening, an influx of free agent talent and hiring a mercurial new manager. The Toronto Blue Jays were able to create similar headlines this winter after their deal with the aforementioned Marlins, their acquisition of the reigning NL Cy Young award winner and the addition of the freshly suspended, and under question again, Melky Cabrera.
There is no denying the Blue Jays are in "win-now" mode, but will they be able to win with the ballclub they've assembled?
The easy and obvious answer would be yes, but it is far more complicated than a simple yes or no question.
People believed the Marlins were going to rip through the NL East last year with Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Giancarlo Stanton, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Josh Johnson. They did far from that, as only one player from that list remains in Miami.
Similarly, hopes were high in Los Angeles after pinning Albert Pujols with a rotation that looked just as good, if not better, than the one Toronto will run out there this year. Some thought the Los Angeles Angels were going to dethrone the Texas Rangers, or in worst case scenario at least make the playoffs, with the additions they brought in. They, too, failed to make it to October.
We can even switch sports sports and point to the Los Angeles Lakers' current situation. After bringing in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard they were looking like an All-Star team primed for another championship run. As of yet, they've failed to gel and are looking like they'll be sitting home come playoff time.
All of these are examples of fans and experts being enamored by the shiny objects teams bring in during the offseason, only to have the same mix-matched teams disappointed when the season begins.
After angering every hopeful Blue Jays fan out there to the point where they will surely close this window, I will get back to the Blue Jays-Marlins comparison.
The two teams are very similar, plain and simple. Let's go through the Marlins' opening day lineup (notice how the recap is titled "Kyle Loshe Flirts with No-Hitter..." Marlin fans should have known then what kind of year it was going to be) and the projected 2013 Blue Jays lineup:
2012 Marlins Opening Day Lineup
- Jose Reyes SS
- Emilio Bonifacio CF
- Hanley Ramirez 3B
- Giancarlo Stanton RF
- Logan Morrison LF
- Gaby Sanchez 1B
- Omar Infante 2B
- John Buck C
- Josh Johnson P
Projected 2013 Blue Jays Lineup
- Jose Reyes SS
- Melky Cabrera LF
- Jose Bautista RF
- Edwin Encarnacion DH
- Brett Lawrie 3B
- Colby Rasmus CF
- Adam Lind 1B
- J.P. Arencibia C
- Emilio Bonifacio 2B
Besides the fact that Reyes and Bonifacio are in both, the lineups otherwise seem very similar.
Toronto has a lot more power with DH Edwin Encarnacion, but does anyone really expect him to hit another 42 home runs again after he hit 21 and 17, respectively, in the two seasons before last year? Lawrie should be better after his disappointing 2012, but the Marlins had just as good of an option at third in Hanley Ramirez.
Both lineups have bonefide power hitters in the middle with Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton, who are similar type players. As previously mentioned, Encarnacion provides power, but we don't know to what extent his power is sustainable.
Each lineup has two black holes at catcher and first base. Adam Lind and Gaby Sanchez both spent time in the minors in 2012 and neither John Buck or J.P. Arencibia were able to hit last year (Buck didn't even reach the Mendoza Line finishing the season at .192). At second, Omar Infante is a better option than Bonifacio, and at short it's the same player so it'd be tough to differentiate.
People got excited about Colby Rasmus' resurgence last year but he hit .223 with an .289 OBP. That's nothing to get too excited about. And, finally, no one knows how Melky will play after coming off the juice, or even if he will play now that another suspension is possible.You can't definitively say that both of those guys are head and shoulders better than what the Marlins put on the field in center and left last year, especially given Rasmus and Cabrera's track record.
Overall the Blue Jays lineup is a little better than the Marlins, but it's not THAT much better.
Now here are the rotation of both teams:
Marlins: Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Zambrano
Blue Jays: R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero
Again, the Blue Jays rotation is better, but not by leaps and bounds.
Josh Johnson has spent his career in the National League, the much easier league to pitch in. Now that he will be pitching in the hitter friendly parks of the AL East, I wouldn't expect the same kind of performance he's been accustomed to pitching to.
Dickey too will be switching leagues, but the knuckleball should offset some of the regression. The fact that the knuckleball can be so unpredictable, though, is worrisome. If Dickey will be able to pitch consistently against the much stronger lineups of the American League remains to be seen.
Buehrle will be fine as he's been Mr. Consistent over his entire career and Brandon Morrow should continue to improve. Morrow could be the X-factor that put the Blue Jays over the top, but can he remain healthy? That question will go a long way for the Blue Jays this year.
The Blue Jays fifth starter, Romero, had a dreadful year last year and will look to improve. It wouldn't be hard to imagine him regaining his form as he is only 28, but he looked overwhelmed last year. If he fails to meet expectations and Johnson falters switching leagues, this rotation becomes a lot more shallow.
The Marlins rotation last year was somewhat similar. Four solid starters filled out the front-end with one big question mark as the fifth starter. We saw how quickly things went downhill for Miami when the rotation faltered so Toronto must be weary.
Will the Blue Jays wind up selling off half their team and alienating their fan base after the season like the Marlins did? No, let's hope not, but the two teams are similar. Both play(ed) in a tough division and have as many questions as answers entering the season.
Overall the Blue Jays are a much better team than the Marlins were, but they too lack a defined leader. Can Jose Bautista be that leader? Will John Gibbons, a career .500 manager with no postseason appearances, be able to meld the various personalities Alex Anthopoulus brought in this offseason?
The questions go on but the fact remains, the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays are more similar to the 2012 Miami Marlins than you think.