*Note: My apologies for not posting more frequently, but I’ve had my hands full in the midst of moving. I’ll return to my usual series recaps following the Jays’ two-game series in Seattle.
Through the quarter pole of the season, the Blue Jays find themselves in their familiar No. 3 spot in the AL East, a far cry from the last place position widely predicted of them (including by yours truly). How have they managed to rise above expectations thus far? Here’s how:
The Jays aren’t simply leading the league in most offensive statistical categories, they’re dominating. No team is within 11 home runs, 14 doubles or 28 total bases of their league-high numbers. It’s hard to fathom such offensive dominance lasting, considering Jose Bautista (11 home runs), Alex Gonzalez (10) and John Buck (eight) have not been previously known for their long ball prowess and Vernon Wells (11) can’t be expected to stay hot through the season. But rather than anxiously waiting for the other shoe to drop, why not enjoy the power surge for now? After all, chicks dig the long ball.
With a major off-season loss (Roy Halladay) and no marquee acquisition to show for it, this season looked like it would bring plenty of growing pains for first-year GM Alex Anthopoulos. But a funny thing happened while Anthopoulos pursued low cost veterans to fill out the roster: he found a few keepers along the way.
Gonzalez, who came over from Boston as a cheaper substitute for the outgoing Marco Scutaro, already finds himself eight homers and 22 RBI up on his Red Sox counterpart. Buck has shown some pop while handling a rotation that faced plenty of off-season scrutiny. Brandon Morrow and Dana Eveland have provided a boost as solid, mid-rotation starters with a few wins and quality starts under their belt. Freddie Lewis is collecting big hits and has worked his way into the lead-off spot in the line-up. Heck, even Kevin Gregg, who may shorten a Jays’ fans life with his ninth inning adventures, has 11 saves in 12 chances, good for third in the league.
Note that in the case of each of these players, Toronto is benefitting from low-cost assets who don’t carry long-term contracts and none of whom cost the team much in return. I don’t think there are many Jays fans currently missing Brandon League, who went to Seattle for Morrow, too much.
It will still be years until Anthopoulos can be graded on the Halladay swap, but he’s making a favourable first impression with this group of (mostly) inexpensive veterans making strong contributions.
The new ace
It will be a long time before anyone in the Blue Jays’ organization replaces the consistent dominance, innings consumption and quiet professionalism that Doc offered during his time here. But that in no way diminishes the role that Ricky Romero has served this year and how crucial he is in the team’s plans moving forward.
For one thing, he has made the hunt for a new staff ace a rather easy one. Romero turned heads last season during his rookie campaign, but hardly left critics certain that he could anchor an iffy rotation. While it would be an overstatement to say he has put all concerns to rest (after all, it’s still just May), he has used consistency and pitch command to emerge as the definitive No. 1 on a staff that has been better than expected.
Through six starts this year, the left-hander has a 4-1 record and a 2.78 ERA. He has also managed six quality starts thus far, including a complete game five-hitter in which he baffled Texas batters to the tune of 12 strikeouts. He and fellow frontline starter Shaun Marcum haven’t made fans forget about Halladay, they’ve just made the break-up a little easier to swallow.
About the Author
Written by Ben Fisher