Friday, September 26, 2008

Blue Jays Preview Review

This was the Blue Jays preview I wrote back in April, before this blog existed.

It was also before we knew unequivocally that Scott Rolen was done. Most everyone not named J.P. suspected as much, now we know for sure. Thank goodness we only owe him $24M over the next two years.

I clearly dismissed Tampa Bay but I'm not sure how many people correctly picked the baby Rays to contend. And maybe Britney is bouncing back. Who knew?

April 1/08

Every year it feels more and more like I'm cheering against the RedSox and Yanks, and less for the Blue Jays. Maybe I shouldn't say less, it's just that hope no longer springs eternal. At least not in the AL East.

Going into the season most Jays fans realize that we need a perfect storm to make the playoffs. And even when that perfect storm presents itself (2006), most of our guys will probably get injured along the way. Or end up fighting the manager.

The GM is a magician, no question about it. He came here seven years ago when Toronto was firmly entrenched in 3rd in the AL East. As I type this, Toronto has the look of a 3rd place team for the 2008 season. In the time between now and when Mr.Riccardi arrived, the Jays have been almost exclusively in 3rd. Well done JP, you've really raised the bar.

I guess I could pretend to be optimistic, but I fancy myself more of a realist. And this is what I know: a $200 million roster and a $160 million roster, armed with extra wiggle room if needed, are almost always better than a $90 million roster. The notable exception would be if that $90 million roster was young and improving. I'm not sure that Frank Thomas, Matt Stairs and Greg Zaun fit that description.

Bright spots? Sure. The pitching staff figures to be one of the best in baseball. In Halladay, Burnett, McGowan and Marcum, Toronto has one of the deepest starting rotations in the majors, and when BJ Ryan returns the bullpen will feature a number of quality arms. But the line-up is still extremely one-dimensional. While the rest of the league moves forward with youth, defence and speed, the Jays are once again built for the steroid era. This team would look great in 1998. Unfortunately for us (and Britney Spears), it's 2008.

There's been a lot of talk about the overall depth of the roster, about how Toronto is two-deep at many positions and thus insulated against injury better than in the past. To this I respond: if Marco Scutaro, John Macdonald, Shannon Stewart and Rod Barajas are depth and insurance, our farm system is in absolute shambles.

This is the part of the preview where I try to applaud the Glaus for Rolen trade, but it already feels like I'm going thru the motions on it. Swapping two broken-down former all-stars on the downside of their careers? Yawn. When you factor in how much Rolen and his former manager hated each other, you would think Rolen is set up perfectly for a bounceback season. Then you take the goggles off and realize he's already on the DL, and is probably making room for AJ.

What it all boils down to is this: perhaps the best part of the winter for the Jays was when Johan Santana ended up going to the Mets, staying out of the AL East. Small victories.

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