By Rob Ficiur
On Thursday July 30 my post office box had the latest copy of Sportsnet magazine. The title page had an article “Bombs Away!” The magazine described, analyzed and predicted how strong the 2015 Blue Jays might be in the coming months. The piece of paper in my hand was as out of date as weather predictions are a day later. In the three days previous to my mail run, the Blue Jays had strengthened their team in so many ways they were a different team.
As Toronto began the 2015 season Blue Jays loyalists were hopeful their newly acquired all stars would take the team to a new level. Jays fans were thrilled to have the best third basemen and the best catcher in baseball join their team. Both Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin were all stars again in 2015. In spite of the new stars the Jays still hover around .500, why would this year be different?
A year ago at the trading deadline (with the Jays record of 59-50) the team made no acquisitions to bolster the roster. Fans and even two Blue Jays players were critical that help was not given to a team that was then in the second wild card playoff position. Those who complained that management was too conservative a year ago are likely still gawking at the changes the team made this week.
Monday night, (11:00 pm) just as I was heading for slip my “one last check” of the sports stunned me. The Blue Jays had acquired All Star short stop Ty Tulowitzki from Colorado. What? The Jays have scored more runs than any team in baseball and it is not even close. Their 538 runs, which is 59 more runs than the second place. Why go out and acquire the best hitting shortstop in the league? He just happens to be one of the best defensive short stops as well. Better defense will improve pitching results. Thrown in to the Colorado deal is 42 year old LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins has come in and pitching scoreless relief innings in two of the three games since trade. Maybe this was a good idea.
Thursday the Jays acquired 2012 Cy Young award winning pitcher David Price from Detroit. Since the end of last season the Jays have been looking for a starting pitcher – now they have an elite one. His 9-4 record so far this year ties him for second on the Jays’ staff. His 2.53 Earned Run average is best on the Blue Jays team by almost a run per game.
In the span of three days the team , which had the best catcher, third basemen and outfielder in baseball added the best shortstop and an elite pitcher. Will this be enough to bring the Blue Jays to the 2015 playoffs and beyond?
Yes – The players believe. Jose Bautista texted GM Alex Anthopolous and asked if the David Price rumors were true. When informed that it was, Jose replied “Yessssssss!” A year ago they knew they were missing pieces. This year the mindset can and should be different.
However – the Blue Jays traded away five pitching prospects in the last week. That is a problem they can deal with next year. The window of opportunity for the Bautista, Encarnacion, Dickey group is closing and the team has deciding to go for it!
Yes – A year ago the Kansas City Royals were 54-52; they came within one game of winning the World Series. The 2015 Blue Jays are 52-51after the trade deadline. The team is better now than it was the first 103 games.
However – The Jays starting pitching has struggled all year. RA Dickey has the worst record of any Jays starter with 5 wins and 10 losses. That number is misleading. In his last seven starts, (about 6 weeks) he has a 2-4 record (not great) but his earned run average is an excellent 3.00. In his last two games he has pitched 16.1 innings while allowing 2 earned runs. He won’t be able to keep that 1.11 earned run average forever, but his play is closer to the Cy Young form he had in 2012.
Yes – In the day since the David Price trade the Jays have sold over 21,000 game tickets. Fans now believe. To be sure there was no huge sale of game tickets a year ago when the team made no deals. Fans not only can sense the excitement, they can partially create some of the momentum.
Yes – Tim and Sid are sportscasters on Sportsnet. While Sid wanted to question and delve deeper into what these trades might mean to the Blue Jays, Tim cut him off, by putting on blinders and saying what every Blue Jays fan has been wanting to say for years “Anyone who does not believe the Toronto Blue Jays are a playoff team and will win the World Series is a Dumb Head.”
Blue Jays fans want to believe in that logic.