Takin' a T/O with BT: Deliver Me From the Toronto Blue Jays
It was all supposed to change this year. This was the year that the result would be different.
The bullpen? It was still expected to be the low-cost, high-reward monster it had been for the past few years. The starters? Starting at the top and working your way down, when these guys were at the top of their game, they could go toe-to-toe with any division leader, anywhere, anytime.
The defense supposedly received a tightening at the hot corner, and the late-inning solutions looked to be able to hold onto a lead like no other.
And the offense? This was the year that they were finally supposed to score.
Turns out that what they say is true: To believe in something, you truly have to see it. To be honest, I don't think I can ever get excited about an offseason acquisition again until I see it reap fruitful benefits.
I believed in the Toronto Blue Jays this year. I believed the offense would finally be healthy, that everything would come together, and that we'd compete with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox for supremacy in the AL East. Or at least challenge for a wild-card spot.
Instead, we're watching as the Tampa Bay Rays do what we were promised such a long time ago; they're competing against the best in the business with a low-budget roster that's young and cheap. Meanwhile, we're stuck to battle it out with the Baltimore Orioles for last in the division.
So how bad are we? Well check this out:
Our starters have come as advertised, if not better. A.J. Burnett leads the American League in strikeouts, followed closely by Roy Halladay. In a twist that no one saw coming, A.J. is third in the AL in wins with 14, followed by Halladay, who has 13. Roy is also third in the AL with a 2.72 ERA and second with a 1.05 WHIP.
Side note: Look, I know hindsight is 20/20, but if Alex Rios had have been traded for Tim Lincecum, I thoroughly believe that the Jays would have been much better off. For starters, Lincecum leads the majors with 175 strikeouts, is tied for first in the NL with a 2.68 ERA, and has lost a total of three games while winning 12 games.
If we dump Rios (and his less-than-stimulating campaign), then Reed Johnson and his .300 average, six homers, and 41 RBI (Rios is sitting pretty at .279, 8 homers, and 49 RBI) are still on the team, Adam Lind still gets his shot, and a spot is open for Travis Snyder who (with everything he's been doing in the minors this season—after starting at Single-A he's shot up to Triple-A now) could very well play himself into the picture in 2009 or 2010 at the latest.
At this point, I think I'm delirious—and most likely wrong. Going forward, the Jays are probably going to need Rios, whether he recaptures his power swing or not. This is just one of the "I'm pissed" moments to come from this season.
Continuing with the theme of pitching, the Jays have the second-best team ERA in the majors, just two point higher than the Los Angeles Dodgers. They lead the league in complete games with nine, thanks in most part to Roy Halladay's seven (Quick Stat: That's more than 27 TEAM totals in the league), and they're tied for third in the majors with nine shutouts—two back of the Red Sox. They're 27th in hits allowed, 29th in earned runs allowed, fifth in strikeouts, and 25th in walks allowed.
In other words, if this isn't a championship-calibre pitching staff, I'm damn sure this is a playoff-bound pitching staff. Hell, if it wasn't for a 4.62 ERA, then A.J. Burnett would probably be considered as one of the leading candidates for the AL Cy Young (His 14 wins is a career high by the way).
On defense, the Jays aren't terrible. They feature a seventh-best fielding percentage, while they've caught 30 baserunners stealing this season—it may surprise you to know that that is the fourth best mark in the league.
The team is 25th in errors (despite a pitiful showing this past Saturday in support of Halladay), while the only defensive category the Jays really suffer in is double-plays turned, where they're 26th—then again, the middle-infield has been re-done more than Simon Cowell's hair this season.
So essentially, the Jays aren't terrible—they've actually had a quality season, pitching and defense-wise, and they've come as-advertised this season...aside from the offense.
Here's where we get terrible.
For just a really quick sample of how bad it really is, in Halladay's nine losses this season, the Jays have scored nine runs while he's still been in the game, and they've only registered one multi-run inning. After he's left the game, the Jays have scored one run in the eighth inning, and five in the ninth in total.
The sad thing is that some of us are making out the wrong guys to be the culprits.
The one guy a lot of fans blame is Vernon Wells. Granted, Wells signed that monster $127 million contract in 2006, so he should be producing, but it's hard to do that from the disabled list.
Is it frustrating that he's had health issues the past two years? Sure it is, but although his offensive production suffered last year due to injury, it's almost sad how his totals this season rack up to the rest of his teammates numbers.
To start with, Wells trails only Adam Lind and Joe Inglett in batting average with a .287 mark in 254 at-bats. So despite his inability to stay in the lineup for an extended period of time, he's still consistent when he's in the lineup.
In 64 games, Vernon Wells has hit nine home runs. The team leader, Matt Stairs, has hit 11 home runs in 96 games. RBI-wise, Vernon Wells is third on the team with 42 RBI. In case anyone forgot, it's Aug. 10, and our third-leading RBI guy has played just over half of his teams games.
One of the main culprits for the sagging offense could be Alex Rios. It's long been said that Rios has 30-homer, 30-steal potential—I just wish someone could have told us that he can only hit 30 in one of those categories a season. Given the choice, I'd take a 25 homer, 85 RBI, .300-hitting Rios with 15-17 steals over a .279, 8 homer, 49 RBI guy with 30 steals—especially at what he's getting paid.
Lyle Overbay has fallen a very long way from his 2006 season. For a guy that once hit .300 with 20 homers and 46 doubles, Lyle seems to have fallen under the same spell that Eric Hinske did—not being able to fully recover his performance after suffering a broken hand.
But rest assured, Scott Rolen has produced at the same clip...that he did last year. Rolen, like many of the Jays, has had an off year—a VERY off year. His average is the lowest it's ever been, while the promise of Rolen recapturing his 25-30 homer magic looks to be long gone.
The defensive upgrade over Troy Glaus is still heart-settling, although I'm starting to wish that we didn't run him out of town now that he's found his stroke again in St. Louis.
And don't get me started on David Eckstein.
The Blue Jays' offensive stars this season have been Adam Lind, Joe Inglett, and Rod Barajas—which, given their standing amongst the league's worst offenses, isn't surprising.
As it stands, the Toronto Blue Jays are the only team without a player with 50 RBI. Just this past week, Jesus Flores of the Washington Nationals knocked in his 50th run this season (Go figure, they leave Canada and the Expos still mop the floor with us).
Across the majors, there are only seven teams without a 20-home-run man on their roster. Of those seven, only three have a player with fewer than 15: Washington, San Francisco, and Toronto.
I'm sick and tired of the promises, and I'm sick and tired of the unfulfilled expectations.
The first step towards success has already been taken—that was firing John Gibbons (or as Sean Crowe often mistakes him for: Jimy Williams). Gibbons was told to pack up his Texas drawl and dysfunctional management style and "get the hell out of Dodge."
In came Cito Gaston, who has edged the offense along, introducing a "see ball, hit ball" mentality. Go figure.
What Gaston is doing right now is weeding out the players Toronto won't (or at least shouldn't) be moving forward with. The lack of playing time given to veterans like Gregg Zaun and David Eckstein in favor of Rod Barajas, Marco Scutaro, and Joe Inglett seems as if Cito is preparing for life without the soon-to-be free agents.
The next step? Do what everyone's been begging for since day one of this debauchery of a season began: fire J.P. Ricciardi.
Bring in someone, anyone, with the track record and ability to either reshape this team, or to somehow work with Cito to light a fire underneath the rash of underachievement that's swept this team.
It's been seven years, and I'm sick and tired of the same story after every season.
Injuries happen, that's part of the game, and that's why you're allowed to carry players on the bench. The good teams rise above injuries. J.P. Ricciardi uses them as the Toronto Blue Jays excuse.
Injuries are no excuse. Fielding a hard-luck offense for a few months can be excusable. Fielding one for the past four years? Something is wrong there.
If J.P. remains with this team, I can't be held responsible for my actions...the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking mighty attractive right now.
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report as well as the NHL Community Leader. You can get in contact with him through his profile, and you can also check out more of his work in his archives.
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