Wednesday August 27, 2014

No respect for 2014 Toronto Blue Jays


View from the Cheap Seats is kind of an extension of the newsroom. Whenever our three regular reporters, Calvin Daniels, Thom Barker and Randy Brenzen are in the building together, it is frequently a site of heated debate. This week:

Another rebuild?

It was the summer of our discontent.

That might just sum up what lies ahead for Toronto Blue Jays fans.

Just 12 short months ago the Jays were the Cinderella team of major league baseball. They had pulled off season deals to acquire Cy Young Award-winning pitcher R.A. Dickie, and speedy shortstop Jose Reyes, and expected reclamation project pitcher Josh Johnson, and the baseball world was expecting big things.

Even odds makers in Las Vegas were picking them as World Series bound and I, like all but a few TO haters like the esteemed Jay Boyd, had them at least contending in the tough American League East.

But the Jays dropped the glass slipper early, and were never relevant in the playoff hunt.

Flash forward a year and the team is a mess, with even the most diehard fan having to push the limits of faithfulness to conjure up a belief the Jays can be competitive game-to-game, let alone content for the playoffs.

Dickie, a knuckleballer, is finding a ball doesn’t knuckle in an open TO stadium.

Johnson, who failed in his effort to reclaim a once dominant array of pitchers, winning one game in 2013, is now a San Diego Padre.

Reyes, who has a history of hamstring problems, is finding the TO turf, worst in baseball, is likely not a good fit for him. And he is already on the 15-day disabled list to start the season.

And so it goes.

Jose Bautista, a surprise power hitter when he first arrived in TO, is aging, and is on the downslope of a career.

Canadian Brett Lawrie arrived with dreams of being the next Larry Walker, but has been steady at the plate in spurts only, and still shows an immaturity on the field that is worrisome.

Adam Lind still gets regular at-bats, which tells you a lot about the line-up.

And the starting five pitchers all have clouds of doubt hanging over them.

Dickie is not showing Cy Young efforts in the AL. Mark Buehlre is an inning eater, but at 35, is not a staff leader.

Brandon Morrow is so often injured his medical insurance has to be costing the Jays more than his contract.

Dustin McGowan is more often injured than Morrow, and while he is one guy you would love to see win 15, it would be a huge plus if he is still marching to the mound every fifth start come July.

Drew Hutchinson has an upside, but is coming off Tommy John surgery to repair his arm.

What does it all add up to?

The Jays are destined for last in the AL East, and if not for woeful Minnesota and Houston, they might be the worst in the entire league.

That means a very long summer ahead, with about the only positive to cling to is that come the trade deadline the Jays move Dickie and Bautista, and free agent-bound Colby Rasmus for younger prospects, and then at least we can dream of 2015, based on a rebuild.

— Calvin Daniels

Group of death

As much as it pains me to say it, I doubt the Toronto Blue Jays will do anything but fail in 2014.

They might play .500 baseball. Might being the key word.

Their pitching is sub par although Mark Buerhle is once again phenomenal.

Their offence, while powerful, can seemingly only hit homeruns when no one is on base (much like the last few seasons) and the durability of their players (Jose Reyes, Casey Janssen, etc.) is questionable at best.

But the biggest reason as to why they’ll fail is simply because they are in the American League East.

In soccer terms it’s the Group of Death. You’ve got a Baltimore Orioles team that has been strong as of late. Then you have the Blue Jay killers in the form of the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that Toronto cannot beat in a series.

You add the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees to the mix and what you have is a fifth place finish for Toronto.

For the Blue Jays to have any chance at success they need a return to Cy Young Award form for R.A. Dickey, a break out season by bad attitude third baseman Brett Lawrie, players to get on base in front of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and someone to replace John Gibbons as manager (he should never have been brought back in the first place as he has proven to be terrible at managing a baseball club).

Unfortunately none of that will happen, however. The result?  A fifth place finish and a 76-86 record.

— Randy Brenzen

Dream series

Honestly, trying to predict the end of the Major Baseball League season at the beginning of a 162 game schedule is folly.

Not that long ago, it may not have been so hard. The Yankees against some team from the National League. It appears that New York dynasty is in remission, however.

Last year, on paper it looked like the Blue Jays had a good shot, but all that talent they bought failed to coalesce into a winning combination. And who could have predicted Boston’s resurgence from dead last in 2012 to world champions a year later.

I love baseball, I follow it fairly closely, particularly as the summer wears on, but as I sat down to write this, I was surprised to discover I really had no feel for the subject of what the Jays will do this season whatsoever.

Of course, when that happens, I default to what all good journalists do (or should do), research.

Not surprisingly, most experts have the Rays and Red Sox jockeying for supremacy in the AL East, Detroit dominating the central division and the A’s winning the west.

On the National League side, again not a lot of surprise, at least not in the central and west, with the experts choosing St. Louis and the Dodgers as the favourites in those divisions.

What did kind of surprise me was how many insiders think the Washington Nationals could go all the way. And they make a pretty good case for it.

As soon as I found that out I knew how the season would go 2014 is the year of destiny for the Canadian dream series, Expos versus Blue Jays.

The loss of Canada’s first major league team still stings, but we could still have a surrogate for the all-Canadian series. I realize it’s a long shot. Almost everyone expects Toronto to be dwelling in the cellar this year, but as I mentioned up front, predicting baseball is a crap shoot.

You may think I am not taking this seriously (I’m not), but a boy can dream, can’t he?

— Thom Barker



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