Reflections on the Blue Jays so far in 2010

Hi. Long time no talk. My fault, we’ll try to be a bit more regular here.  So what’s happening with the Blue Jays? Well we are 4 games above .500 in August, which, considering all the ‘experts’ had us losing 100+ games isn’t all that bad. You’d think people that are that wrong wouldn’t be called experts anymore. Unfortunately we are in the AL East, where being good just isn’t enough to get you into the playoffs.

Jose Bautista photo by Icon SMI

What are we doing well?  We are hitting home runs. A lot of home runs. Leading the league with 167. The team with the second most are the Red Sox with 142. Leading the way is Jose Bautista. Jose has more homers, this year, than he has had in any two previous years. A little known Jose Bautista fact: Jose Bautista’s bat is considered Canada’s first weapon of mass destruction. For more Jose Bautista facts go here: http://www.bluebirdbanter.com/2010/7/28/1592993/jose-bautista-facts.

Jose isn’t the only Jay hitting the ball out of the park. Players who have hit more than 10 homers for the Jays are John Buck, Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, Alex Gonzalez, Edwin Encarnacion, Vernon Wells and Adam Lind.

We aren’t that great at getting on base. There aren’t many Jays that like to take a walk. It really isn’t  something that the Jays try to do. They like to be aggressive at the plate. Manager Cito Gaston has never been one that liked his batters to take a lot of pitches. Go up, look for your pitch and swing hard. With this group of players, that might be the best plan.

Our young starting staff is doing quite well too. With Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and Jesse Litsch we have a rotation whose average age isn’t even 25. And yet they have been pretty consistently good. With prospects like Kyle Drabek, Zach Stewart, Chad Jenkins, Henderson Alvarez and Marc Rzepczynski ready to come up in the next few years, the future of the rotation looks good.

With a number of veteran players having surprisingly good seasons in Jay uniforms, one would have expected the Jays to have been big time sellers at the trade deadline. Well we weren’t. GM Alex Anthopoulos held out for big returns on his players. When he wasn’t offered what he was looking for he decided to hang on to guys that could be A or B type free agents, figuring the draft picks we could pick up would be better than what he was offered.

Yunel Escobar photo by Icon SMI

He did make a couple of trades. He traded veteran SS Alex Gonzalez, who had a wonderful first half of the season, and a couple of minor leaguers for Yunel Escobar. Escobar, apparently, had worn out his welcome in Atlanta because he wasn’t hitting like he had the previous two seasons and the team had decided he was ‘lazy’. I’m not sure they were watching the same player we are. He’s been just great with us. Smiling and laughing with his teammates and making unbelievable plays in the field. He has very quickly become a favorite of mine.

The other deadline trade Alex Anthopoulos made was a shocker to us fans. The player we all thought was our future stud first baseman (starting next season in most of our minds) Brett Wallace for 19 year old, A-ball, CFer Anthony Gose. This is a tough sudden change for us fans to take. Wallace was at or near the top of everyone’s Jay prospect lists. He was number 27 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list for all of baseball. Gose isn’t on that list. His numbers in the Florida State League, at least at first glance, don’t look great: .263/.325/.385 with 36 steals in 63 attempts. But then he is a 19 year old, playing against guys that are, for the most part, older than him. He has great ‘tools’. Fast, good glove, great arm (he was a pitcher that could hit 93 on the radar gun). The Jays expect power to come as he comes into his 20’s.

Most of us think that the Jays could have gotten more for Wallace, if they really felt it necessary to trade for him, but maybe they know something about Gose that we don’t. CFers are harder to come by than first basemen and Wallace might not become the player we hoped he would. But it is an interesting move and since Gose is just 19, it will be a long time before we know if it paid off or not.

Those were the only moves that Alex made even though he had many valuable trading chips. Many teams would have liked to have Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, John Buck, Jose Bautista, Kevin Gregg and Lyle Overbay but we entered August with them still on our roster. Alex, to his credit, didn’t want to make trades for the sake of making trades. He knows that to win in the AL East he needs to find special players. Sometimes that means taking chances on players like Anthony Gose. Trading for players you don’t think can become special would be just spinning your wheels.

The Jays might be over .500 at the moment, but the month of August looks to be our toughest test yet. This month we have series with the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Angels, A’s, and Red Sox again, Yankees again, Tigers and Rays again. Finishing the month above .500 won’t be easy, but we are playing good ball at the moment and just took 2 of 3 from the Yankees in New York.

So the immediate future looks tough but the longer range future looks bright. Alex Anthopoulos is proving to be a very intelligent GM. We have a number of good prospects in the minor league system, one that we are going to get to see for the next two weeks. All-Star catcher John Buck took a pitch off his throwing hand, he ended up with a cut that needed stitches so J.P. Arencibia is getting a call up. He is hitting .303/.360/.639 with 31 home runs in Las Vegas, so we fans are anxious to get a look at him; he’s likely our catcher starting next season. Buck will be back after the 15 days so this is just a short look, but it will be nice to get a look at our future.

That’s all the news from Toronto; we’ll not take so long before checking in next time.

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