After falling victim to the dog days of August, the Blue Jays (77-75) seem to have snapped out of their funk with a renewed focus on players trying to nail down spots on the 2012 roster. The club has now won eight of their past 12, with nine of those games coming against the Red Sox and Yankees. Most recently, Toronto took two of three from the AL East-leading Yanks thanks to a great weekend from Adam Lind and strong pitching performances from starters Dustin McGowan, Henderson Alvarez and Brandon Morrow, as well as Casey Janssen.
A Closer Look
Three Strong Outings – And What They Mean: McGowan, Alvarez and Morrow all had different things to gain from looking strong against the Yankees’ offence. McGowan, who allowed three runs over five innings on Friday night against C.C. Sabathia, is gradually building up arm strength and re-establishing his pitching repertoire while also looking more relaxed with each outing. Still, the numbers (10 earned runs over 12.0 innings for a 7.50 ERA) don’t lie and it’s difficult to see exactly where he fits in over the long haul. Alvarez, meanwhile, held NYY bats to just one run and five hits through five innings on Saturday before breaking down and allowing four sixth inning runs. The pitches he has are major league ready and he continues to close in on being a rotation fixture, but he does have minor league options for next season, still needs to work on his developing slider and the struggles against hitters who have seen his stuff (it’s telling that his opponent’s batting average jumps from .246 to .303 during his second time through a line-up) are troublesome. He’ll play a significant role on the 2012 Blue Jays, but it may not be an immediate one. As for Morrow, it was Good Brandon that emerged against New York with what he identified as a “more intense” approach in shutting them down over eight innings in Sunday’s 3-0 win. He’ll likely have two more starts to really signal that he has changed his approach for the better and that results will follow, but for now I’ll still chalk this up to another glimpse at his maddeningly inconsistent talent.
My MVP Weigh-In: All the ink and pixels that have been dedicated to the AL MVP race over the last few weeks doesn’t bother me. Fact is, there are several viable candidates who all have a reasonable argument that could be made for them. What perplexes me, however, is that the discussion seems to have as much to do with ‘what constitutes an MVP?’ as it does with who merits consideration. Come on people, the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) has been voting on this thing since 1931! It’s the “valuable” part that always seems to be the point of contention, but seeing as how it is in the award’s name, we might as well acknowledge it. Therefore, Jose Bautista is not my MVP. Neither is Justin Verlander, who should cruise to the Cy Young, but whose “value” has accounted for less than 1/3rd of the Tigers’ wins this season. I’d be fine with a phenomenal pitching year earning MVP honours in a season without other viable contenders, but the fact remains that there still are several. With Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson splitting the Yankee vote and Bautista and Michael Young coming up short, my race comes down to Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez and Verlander teammate Miguel Cabrera (the Red Sox’ ability to hold off the Rays will factor heavily into the ultimate decision). Boston has enjoyed boffo offensive seasons from a number of guys (Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz, to name three), but Gonzalez has been the foremost offensive force on a club that, despite recent struggles, is still playing .572 ball. Cabrera, meanwhile, doesn’t get the credit that Verlander does, but is among the league leaders in batting average, OBP, OPS and slugging percentage.
Down on the Farm: The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are Eastern League champions. The Jays’ AA affiliate shook off a Game 1 loss to the Richmond Flying Squirrels and promptly won the next four games to clinch their first title in franchise history. The clinching Game 5 was a back-and-forth affair which was deadlocked at 3-3 into the ninth inning. In the top of the ninth, Anthony Gose led off with a single and then showed off his blazing speed by going to third on a Moises Sierra single and then heading home after a bobble by Richmond RF Francisco Peguero. Journeyman infielder Kevin Howard claimed MVP honours after a Game 4 homer helped him to five RBI in the series. Closer Bobby Korecky wrapped things up with a perfect ninth inning for his fifth save of the postseason
The Other Guys: How many best anything’s of all-time are currently active in professional sports? An argument could be made for guys like Tom Brady (QB), Martin Brodeur (goaltender), Nicklas Lidstrom (defenceman), Roger Federer (tennis player), Lionel Messi (soccer player) or Tim Duncan (power forward), but there simply isn’t a more cut-and-dried argument to be made than for who is the best closer of all-time. If Mariano Rivera hadn’t already secured the distinction, there’s no disputing it now that he has tied (and will surely surpass) Trevor Hoffman’s all-time saves mark of 601. Those fortunate enough to witness history on Saturday (although most probably wouldn’t have minded a Jays win) saw a living legend to his thing.
Spoiler alert! The Jays will be trying to deny Vernon Wells a shot at his first postseason foray this week in what is the final home series of the season for Toronto. Ricky Romero goes tonight for the Jays against Jerome Williams of the Angels to kick off the four-gamer.
About the Author
Written by Ben Fisher