The Blue Jays New Reality: Building Towers on Shaky Ground

Saturday, November 23rd, 2012

The Blue Jays have made a lot of moves in a short period of time and added a jolt to a fan base which had become numb of 19 years of not competing. People are saying they will win, including Las Vegas odds makers. They certainly look way better on paper than they did two weeks ago and people have a reason to be excited with the direction the franchise is going. They have taken 2 quick steps forward, but what happens when Murphy’s Law strikes and they take 1, or 2 steps back? How good are they then?

Alex Mednick (Baseball Writer and Analyst):

There has been a lot of talk thus far about how the Blue Jays are slotted to be ultra-competitive.  And I don’t want to be a “negative-Nancy”, because this hype comes with good reason.  I, as a Blue Jays fan, am beyond thrilled with the organization allowing Alex Anthopoulos to pull the trigger and make this kind of off-season happen…there is no doubt that this is what Blue Jays fans have been waiting for over the last 18 years.  The Rogers family has shown that they aren’t simply using the Rogers Centre as the world’s largest billboard.  They demonstrated that they are committed to take the financial risks necessary to make this team competitive.  They said they would spend big $$$ when the “time came”, and they kept their word.  The time has definitely come when you have two guys hitting 40 home runs a season in the middle of your lineup.  I applaud the Rogers’ and the front office for saying something and sticking to it.

That being said, when I hear things like “we’re not done yet”, and, “the Blue Jays would like to add another front-line starter”, it soothes me and calms my nerves.  The truth is, and I don’t want to seem greedy, but I am not content with where the team is now.  If the past three seasons have shown us anything it is that over the course of 162-game season, injuries happen.  Bottom-line: the roster you start with on opening day, will not be your roster throughout the season.  Nobody has a rubber arm and muscles made of Teflon.  Murphy’s law is constantly looming over any clubhouse and just waiting to strike.  Look at 2012, we lost our 2, 3, and 4 slotted pitchers in 3 consecutive days!

So, I am absolutely thrilled to have the talents of guys like Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow as our 1-2 punch.  These guys are lights out when they are on their game…and healthy.  I mean, literally, we can have the two best pitchers in baseball when they are going on full octane, followed by the workhorse and time-proven winner in Mark Buehrle, and a Ricky Romero who only needs to rediscover his winning ways back in the 4-slot.

I mean, Johnson/Morrow could be like Verlander/Price.  They both have that kind of “stuff”.  Electric arms with 2/3 ++ pitches for their battery mate to work with.  The problem is, while they could look like Verlander or Price…I see another similarity:  A.J. Burnett.  We cannot deny that A.J. Burnett had electric stuff…Remember the 1-2 combo of Roy Halladay and Burnett?  Absolutely vicious…when A.J. could take the mound.

Both Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson have the same kind of swing and miss stuff that Burnett has.  They both also have similar health records.  Heck, last time we had John Gibbons managing our team we had Halladay, Burnett, Lilly. That is a pretty formidable rotation, when it’s firing on all cylinders.  In fact, it is comparable to Johnson, Morrow, Buehrle.  They are both extremely talented rotation, but actually we can look at the fact that the first rotation has Halladay at his prime as the man who we could expect to throw 30+ games with his eyes closed.  In the current rotation, we have an equal amount of talent, but our workhorse that we can rely on to not get hurt is our #3 guy, and exiting his prime (still a brilliant pitcher, but not his former perfect game throwing-self).

If Morrow and Johnson both stay healthy for the whole season and pitcher at least 25+ games a piece, we are golden.  You can expect  13+ wins from each of them at the least.  But if one, or the other, or both go down for any significant period of time, we are left with a rotation not all that different from last season.

Morrow, Buehrle, Romero, etc.
Johnson, Buehrle, Romero, etc.
 Buehrle, Romero, etc………………

The scariest thing is that this isn’t just a cautiously optimistic Blue Jays fans concerns being inflated.  A scenario where one, or both of these guys miss a large portion of the 2013 season is a very plausible one.  Look at their histories of injuries, surgeries and how many they have endured over such relatively short careers (they are both young players)!

There i  a reason that Alex Anthopoulos is looking to add another front line starter.  We know that you can never have too much pitching, and if everything works out ideally, having 5 #1’s/#2’s in a rotation is a beautiful blessing.  We have lots of organizational depth to fill out the 5th slot if our 1-4 stay healthy (Happ, Drabek, Hutchinson, McGowan, Jenkins, Cecil, etc.)  Those guys look okay as our #5 guy or making a spot start here and there when one of our Big 4 need a little rest.  But we saw last year what happens when catastrophe strikes and all of a sudden they make of the meat of our rotation.  We literally had the worst rotation in baseball!

Anthopoulos is about as prudent a man as you will find. He is all smiles in this press conference, but he knows what is at stake. He has deemed that the “time is now” for the Blue Jays to go for it all, and convinced his bosses to risk hundreds of millions of dollars. If the team he has assembled does not compete, for any reason, he may be out of a job. He is not the kind of guy who puts his feet up and becomes content. His focus right now is on eliminating any causes for concern from the 2013 Blue Jays as possible, because they do still exist, despite the recent mania.

Having 2 guys go down at once out of the rotation is a very real possibility and Alex Anthopoulos knows it.  He also knows that not only is now the time for the Blue Jays to strike and go for the gold, but now is also the time that he either makes it as a GM or fails.  I know one thing and that is bosses do not like to see employees blow their money.  Alex Anthopoulos bosses just trusted him with a lot of money.  Hundreds of millions of dollars, in fact.

Alex knows what the rotation will look like if one or both of Johnson/Morrow go down and does not want to have to explain to an unsympathetic fan base at the end of the season about the injuries being a “perfect storm”.  Adding another viable front-end start like Brandon McCarthy or Edwin Jackson really changes the look of the Blue Jays rotation more than just by the talent that either player individually brings to the table.  It changes the entire landscape of the team’s rotation and creates a truly deep and durable rotation.  Instead of moving from an elite rotation to a lame rotation when one pitcher goes down, you remain a top rotation.

Even if both Morrow and Johnson went down you still have a solid 1-2-3 in:
Buehrle, Jackson/McCarthy, and Romero.

If only one of Johnson/Morrow goes down you have:

Johnson/Morrow, Buehrle, Jackson, Romero, etc.

A pitcher with Edwin Jackson’s type of stuff would add a lot of value to the Blue Jays rotation. In fact, the value added by one pitcher like this would seemingly be greater than value typically resulting from the addition of a single player. It would add a great deal of insurance to the teams rotation and completely solidify it’s core.

Somehow, adding one proven pitcher into the rotation seems to add more value than actually adding just one pitcher.  Team leader Jose Bautista was talking about how much more confident he feels as an athlete (even coming off a serious injury that ended his season) knowing that he has a revamped, new-look rotation and a line-up that added Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera batting in front of him.  Adding a guy like Edwin Jackson or Brandon McCarthy ensure that the Blue Jays have at least 3 top starters in their rotation at any given time (and hopefully all remain healthy and they actually have all 5 going).  This creates a different atmosphere in the clubhouse amongst the players.  We have seen teams like the Yankees who simply “know” that they are good and “expect” to win.

As a position player who goes out there 162 times a year, you feel really confident when you have a Johnson, a Morrow, a Buehrle, a Jackson/McCarthy, or a Romero on the mound.  Your bullpen really appreciates it too!  It’s a lot different from going to unproven guys and AAA/AAAA guys and hoping that they can carry the team for a little while by pitching over their heads or having the big break out they’ve been waiting for while being thrown into a high pressure situation.  Teams that rely on surprise performances carrying them throughout a season tend to not play in October.

Team leader Jose Bautista has explained how his confidence levels have surged going into the 2013 season with the changes that have been made. There are certain teams, like the mid-late-90s Yankees that go out on any given night and expect to win. That’s what happens when you have front-line starters taking the mound every night. Right now the Blue Jays have 3 or 4 front line starters. They are, however, just one injury away from being back to being just good.

I don’t want to be the greedy fan who just can’t be happy with good being enough.  I am absolutely ecstatic with the franchises’ recent transactions and the direction they are going.  It all happened so fast, however, that we are all in fantasyland.  We literally made two moves in three days that completely changed our depth chart.  We are on top of the world, with adrenaline pumping through our veins “knowing” that we are the best and cannot be touched.  After 18 years of being somewhere in between mediocre and “almost” competitive, all of our wishes came true in about 72 hours.  It’s like Alex Anthopoulos read Pat Gillick’s biography over the weekend or something.

Las Vegas has us tied with the New York Yankees as the top team most likely to win the 2013 World Series (we have 11-1 odds).  There is a reason for this: we look great on paper.  But the names you see on the roster never remain the same over the course of a year, and we have two top arms who have long track records of going down.

The Crowd will be singing, LETS GO, BLUE JAYS, LETS PLAY BALL, will they do this in the 2013 Playoffs too?

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ***

Alex Mednick is a Baseball Writer and Analyst with MLB Reports.  He has both played and followed the game extensively his entire life.  Alex grew up in New Haven, Connecticut—right in the crossroads of Red Sox Nation and The Yankee Empire.  Somehow, he dodged the bullet of joining the war between these two teams, and a love affair between the Toronto Blue Jays and Alex formed.  Growing up in Connecticut, Alex Mednick idolized Joe Carter and Roberto AlomarWhen he was 19 he moved to Saint Petersburg, Florida.  Here he attended Eckerd College and continued fulfilling his love for baseball.  Tropicana Field was 5 minutes from his apartment, and there were 5 spring training camps within an hour drive.  Alex graduated from Eckerd in 2010 with a B.S. in International Business and dual minors in Spanish and Management.  Most importantly, he met his amazing wife in college, and the two now reside in Stuart, Florida.

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Posted on November 24, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Drabek and Hutchison have a next to zero chance of taking the mound for Toronto in 2013.

    • Pantheon, thank you for you response. I think you are correct, and hope you are if they continue to perform like they did in 2012. That being said, I hope we can tap into their potential. Either obe of those guys coming back that quickly from TJ surgery is unlikely…but not an impossibility. My point is that of we have pitchers down come August and are in contention, having one of these guys on the front line would be less than ideal. Looking back at the Halladay deal…if Drabek doesn’t work out…we still got D’Arnaud and (effectively) Anthony Gose.

  2. Every team has questions and “what if” scenarios. The Blue Jays have Johnson/Morrow. Will Bautista/Encarnacion continue to produce? Will Lawrie/Rasmus take their game to the next level? How will the Bullpen perform? Frankly, I would rather have these questions than the ones a lot of other teams have. At the very least we have gone from, “if all these things happen we might contend” to, “if all these things happen we might not contend”. Big improvement if I might say! But we still aren’t golden despite all the excitement.

    Sent from iPhone

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