Thursday, August 4, 2011

Heartbreaker Doesn't Have to be The End

Next 20 games will define this Blue Jays season

What was hopefully the final episode of "The Maybe Jon Rauch Can Close for Us Show" doesn't have to be the climax of Toronto's season.

There is no doubting Thursday afternoon's loss to Tampa was deflating for both players and fans. Coughing up two separate extra-inning leads is a tough way to lose a series, and when you factor in the momentum they had going and that a Jays win would've moved them into a virtual tie in the standings with Tampa, it hurts even more.

Toronto lost an opportunity to announce, "Hey, for the next few years, it's gonna be us scaring the Red Sox and Yankees, not you". Instead, John Farrell inexcusably sat nailed to the bench while Rauch threw the Rays batting practice. (Note: Anthopoulos has done just about everything right, but putting four guys who think they could or should be closing in the same bullpen was a disaster.)

The Jays (particularly Farrell and especially Rauch) may have come up short in the Tampa series, but there is still reason to believe this team can bounce back, continue to position itself as a real threat beginning next year, and perhaps even put a tiny bit of heat on the Yankees for this year's Wild Card.

With a suddenly very appealing everyday core of Bautista, Lind, Escobar, Rasmus, Arencibia, and Lawrie, an elite top of the rotation duo (Romero + Morrow), and a collection of adequate 4/5 starters, the Blue Jays immediate future is as bright as its been since 1994.

With that group of players and a revamped bullpen, another quality starter, and a live body replacing Aaron Hill's corpse at second base, the Jays will open the 2012 season as a legitimate, albeit underdog, playoff contender.

But let's not forget about this year.

Beginning on Friday, the next 19 games stack up like this for Toronto: in BAL (3); vs OAK (3); vs LAA (3); in SEA (3); in OAK (4); vs KC (3).

I'm not saying they're going to feast on that schedule...but if they ever had it in them to really go streaking, well, this seems like a pretty likely stretch of games to do it, right?