The 2014 season thus far for the Toronto Blue Jays has been a rollercoaster to say the least. At the start of the season, expectations were really low coming off the disastrous 2013 campaign. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos made a few tweaks to the lineup adding a few new names, subtracting a few names (Notable In: C Navarro, Notable Out: P Johnson), but for the most part the same bodies were back for another kick at the can.
Well, proving the true value of health, the Blue Jays have been in contention right from the get go, even leading the division for an extended period earlier in the season. Further proving this point are a couple of the normally division powerhouses – the Red Sox and Yankees who have both been hampered by injuries and have struggled for most of the season.
By the second week of July injuries combined with some slipping performances started to really affect the Blue Jays in the standings and the surging Baltimore Orioles took a hold of the division lead. The Orioles have not let go of that lead since, and are, at the time of writing this (August 11) leading the 2nd place Blue Jays by 5 games.
Considering the performance of the Blue Jays when healthy (the missing Encarnacion, Lind and Lawrie are all scheduled for early August returns) a lot of the talk in mid July was “what will the Blue Jays do at the non-waiver deadline to improve their ball club?”. This was heated debate all over sports talk radio, television and I’m sure many pubs, sports bars and living rooms across Canada as to what the Jays needed most. Some thought starting pitching, some thought bull pen help and many wanted a second or third baseman and a boost to the offense. Personally I thought they need a middle of the rotation type of starting pitcher. They have a great lineup when healthy and the bull pen could be boosted from within the organization with call ups of prospects like Aaron Sanchez and the return of Brandon Morrow.
Well guess what? The Blue Jays did nothing. They did nothing to help push them into the playoffs for the first time in OVER TWO DECADES! I have been on record many times to friends and associates that I thought A.A. needed to make a move for at least no other reason than to let the fellas battling in that clubhouse that he’s got their back and is doing his part. There is NO WAY that the Jays will ever have this kind of clear opportunity to make the playoffs with the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees in down years. Simply no way. And clearly I’m not the only one that felt that way as veterans Jose Bautista and Dustin McGowan have both expressed disappointment in the lack of trades. Another anonymous source was quoted as saying that Bautista was accurate in describing most of the clubhouse.
I equate it to selective aggression in a game of poker. Do they know they can win? Certainly not. But the calculated risk or odds will never be in their favour like this again due to divisional standards. Would they have possibly mortgaged their future for a shot now as my pal @johncolt83 and many others have said? Absolutely. But I think that the risk was worth a shot at the playoffs for a clubhouse and more importantly a fan base that deserves it. Win now!
The reality is, nothing happened and what they have is what they have for the stretch run. Unless Anthopoulos pulls something off before August 31st through the waiver trade process, the only improvements will come through healthy returns of key bats. So no more crying over what could have been – the Blue Jays need to perform to their capabilities on the field to remain in contention and get over the hump into at the very least a one game Wild Card showdown. The debate over whether the Blue Jays want to win the division or the first or second Wild Card spot is stupid because clearly you want to win the division and host games BUT they need to take what they can get because once you’re in, you’ve got a shot. Make no mistake this is a strong club with a nice mix of youth and veteran leadership and they can make a run at this division and have balance to be a threat in the playoffs.
I put off finishing this piece yesterday because I got sucked into watching the record setting 19 inning game against the Detroit Tigers – who by the way – the baseball world has already crowned as the 2014 World Series Champs if you haven’t heard. Hey Toronto baseball fans – guess what? You just beat the ‘Champs’ in back to back walk off efforts! Six plus hours of baseball clichés yesterday from Pat Tabler and Buck Martinez about this being a character effort and digging deep and finding out what this team is made of were ALL TRUE! Blue Jays you just proved this past weekend to your fans, and hopefully yourselves, that you have what it takes in that clubhouse to beat the best in the American League. You’re within striking distance and what happens now is entirely up to you.
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