By Rob Ficiur
The 2012 Boston Red Sox were last in the American League East, wining only 69 games. The 2013 Boston Red Sox won 97 regular season games and eventually the World Series. Can the Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series (or at least make the playoffs) in 2014? Here are your definite (maybe) answers.
1. Yes – In the three seasons from 2010-2012, the Boston Red Sox won 248 games while the Blue Jays won 239 games during those three years. The Red Sox had not been a dominant team prior to this year. The Jays are in the same winning range as the Red Sox were at the start of the season.
2. Maybe – In 2013 the Boston Red Sox were third in team payroll at just over $169 million. The Blue Jays payroll was seventh overall at just over $129 million. What difference does $40 million make in baseball? It is the price of a couple of top notch free agents (who may or may not have good seasons after signing the big money contracts.) The final four teams in the baseball playoffs were Boston (3rd), Detroit Tigers (5th), Los Angeles Dodgers (2nd) and St. Louis Cardinals (11th).
What happened to the other high spending teams? Three of the six teams who spent more this year than the Blue Jays missed the playoffs: New York Yankees payroll was top spending $110 million more than the Blue Jays. Likewise the Philadelphia Phillies (4th in payroll at $168 million) and San Francisco (sixth in payroll at $144 million) did not make the post season. The Blue Jays salary is in the range of teams that are making and winning in the playoffs (most of the time).
3. What about injuries? In 2012 the Boston Red Sox were devastated by injuries. Teams do not like to use injuries as an excuse for losing. However, a year ago the Red Sox lost key players to long term injuries. Starting pitcher John Lackey missed the entire season after surgery. Designated Hitter (and 2013 World Series MVP) David Ortiz missed half the season with an Achilles injury.
Key injuries devastated the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. All star short stop Jose Reyes missed the first two months. All star outfielder Jose Bautista missed the last month. If the 2014 Blue Jays avoid the injury bug, they have a core that has shown they can play baseball.
4. Pitching – in the 2013 regular season the Red Sox did not have an elite starter. Their starters won the following number of games: Jon Lester (15), Clay Buchholz (12), Felix Doubront (11) and John Lackey (10). These same four Boston pitchers in 2012 struggled with numbers similar to Blue Jays starters in 2013. In Boston a year ago these pitchers won the following number of games: Doubront (11), Buchholz (11), Lester (9) and the injured Lackey (0). These four pitchers inclusive won the 2013 World Series.
The Blue Jays (on paper) could have a pitching staff equal to the Red Sox. In Toronto R.A. Dickey won 13 games, and Mark Buerle won 12. If the Blue Jays get ten wins from any of their 2013 injured pitchers, they would be or could be in a similar spot as the Red Sox a year later. Injured Jays pitchers include Brandon Morrow (10 game winner in 2012), Kyle Drabek (the prospect they traded for Roy Halladay) Dustin McGowan (won 12 games in 2007 before injuries sidelined him for a three years) and Brett Cecil (won 15 games in 2010; was an All Star reliever in 2013). Pitching is unpredictable – but when you get it you win.
5. Get a new Manager – Red Sox players were quick to credit manager John Farrell with changing the direction of the team. Many Blue Jays fans have been hollering for management to fire current manager John Gibbons. Why can’t Toronto have someone like the Red Sox Manager John Farrell? Only problem with this manager revolt is that a year ago Blue Jays fans rejoiced when John Farrell moved on to Boston because we “knew” he was not the type of Manager who could win a World Series. Guess we were wrong there.
Conclusion – Can the Blue Jays go from worst to first in 2014? Yes they can. Will they go from worst to first? This week 29 other Major League Baseball teams are trying to find their own way to duplicate the magic Boston created this year. If the Jays don’t do it in 2014 they could do it in 2015 or 2016 or 2017 ….