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We've all agreed in this space that the Blue Jays have not been built with a goal of competing for the 2003 world championship; rather, we've enjoyed watching a new organizational philosophy transform the Jays from a middle-market club saddled with costly, mediocre veterans to a young and promising club that should consistently contend, perhaps by 2005.

But hope springs eternal, and just five days hence your Toronto Blue Jays will wake up on game day, tied with the mighty Yankees and powerful Red Sox for first place in the A.L. East -- and, in all likelihood, a half-game ahead of the Texas Rangers in the wild card chase. So, as we adjust our rose-coloured glasses, how might the 2003 Jays compete for a postseason birth? An assessment of the schedule, series by series, is instructive. The Jays' opportunity lies in Catch(Up)-22.

Much has been made of the "Terrible Twenty" games to start the season for the Jays -- series against the Yankees, Twins, Red Sox, Twins, Yankees and Red Sox -- and how it could have the potential to demoralize the potentially fragile confidence of the young Toronto club. But just as Joseph Heller's Yossarian character demonstrated that only the crazy are truly sane in times of war, the Jays may show that the legitimately irrational franchises in the American League can give a young club postseason hope if they can achieve the (admittedly unlikely) goal of keeping their heads above water through Labour Day.

Catch(Up)-22 refers to the final twenty-two games on the Jays' schedule, and its potential for the Jays to catch up in the wild card race if they are in any way, shape or form within striking distance: Tigers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Orioles, Rays, Tribe. With lesser starting pitching and an inferior bullpen, the '02 Jays tore through the Tribe, Rays, Orioles, Rays, Orioles and Tigers at a 15-4 clip to close out the season. Problem was, the Jays were 63-80 after their victory at Fenway on September 8 before they headed out to the Jake.

So for the coming season, let's assume that 90 wins will be the bare minimum to compete for a playoff berth of some sort in the American League. (90 won't be good enough, but work with me.) The Jays really have no excuse for going anything less than 15-7 during Catch(Up)-22, and could do even better. So if the Jays can somehow finagle their way to 75-65, ten games above .500, after the Labour Day series with the Yanks concludes on September 4, they should control their own ability to make the wild card race interesting in the GTA. Getting there, of course, is the problem.

So this is admittedly done with the most starry-eyed of optimistic outlooks. Nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, here is the 2003 schedule with an eye on being ten games above .500 before Catch(Up)-22:

The Terrible Twenty (Mar. 31 - Apr. 21): Yankees, at Minnesota, Red Sox, Twins, at New York, at Boston

The Simple Six (Apr. 22 - 27): at Tampa Bay, Royals

The Duck 'n' Cover Dozen (Apr. 29 - May 11): against some heavy lumber...Rangers, Angels, at Texas, at Anaheim

The Soothing Six (May 13 - 18): D-Rays, at Kansas City

Another Tough Twenty (May 18 - June 8): at Chicago WS, at New York, White Sox, Red Sox, at St. Louis, at Cincinnati

A Quarter-Century Celebration (June 10 - July 6): Pirates, Cubs, at Baltimore, at Montreal, Orioles, Expos, at Detroit, at Baltimore

The Fearsome Fourteen (July 8 - 24): Red Sox, Yankees, at Boston, at New York, at Chicago WS

The Hapless Half-Dozen (July 25 - 31): Orioles, D-Rays

Disneyland With Your Folks (Aug. 1 - 3): at Anaheim

Busch Gardens With Your Buddies (Aug. 4-6): at Tampa Bay

The NASTY Nineteen (Aug. 8 - 27): Rangers, at Seattle, at Oakland, Mariners, Athletics, at Boston

Measure-Up Weekend (Aug. 29-31): to see how the Jays stand against another rebuilding Cleveland

Tonawanda and Lackawanna Invade! (Sep. 1 - 4): Yankees

Catch(Up)-22 (Sep. 5 - 28): Tigers, at Tampa Bay, Orioles, at Detroit, at Baltimore, D-Rays, Tribe
Catch(Up)-22: Breaking Down The Schedule | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Coach - Thursday, March 27 2003 @ 08:43 AM EST (#92232) #
Please note that Mike's optimism about the Jays' WC chances doesn't extend to the BB predictions contest. Nor does mine. If the Jays were in the Central, I'd revise my 88-win guess up to about 92, and the possibility of making the postseason from about 1-2% to maybe 15%.

When you look at any team's schedule, the inequity of random interleague games is obvious. Red Sox fans know what I mean; even a .500 record against the NL would have put them in the AL playoffs last year. It's a shame that a playoff race can be decided by your results in a short series in June, with strange rules, against an unfamiliar opponent.

Under Tosca, this club has been several games over .500 so far, and I see no reason that should change. 10-10 through the Terrible Twenty will excite the players as much as it will knowledgeable fans (a.k.a. BB readers) and the Jays might start beating up on the bottom dwellers a lot sooner this year. Youneverknow.
Craig B - Thursday, March 27 2003 @ 09:51 AM EST (#92233) #
The Jays can do better than 10-10.

Early in the season, before the veterans feel the need to kick it into high gear, is the perfect time to get the tough teams. With the pitching staff in far better shape than it was last year at this time, with the home dates versus the Yanks and Sox coming first, I think it's a perfect time to jump out to a lead. If the team is going to harbour any ambitions to making the playoffs, something that shouldn't be dismissed completely out of hand, they need to jump out to an early lead (or else hope for another patented Red Sox collapse).

Your analysis of the schedule makes for some nice quarter-posts, Kent. If the team can be in first place on April 21, that's a significant success. Likewise, the team's position at May 11, June 8, July 24, and August 27 will determine at each point how the rest of the season goes.

If the Jays are still in contention on July 24, unlikely but far from impossible, the management has some serious thinking to do. At that point, there will be only one series left against each odf Boston and New York, so there will be no illusions if the Jays are ten games out. But if they are three games out, the easy schedule coming home presents a tremendous opportunity, not only to push for the pennant (or wild card), but also to force New York and Boston into panic mistakes. In order to set the team up for real contention in 2004, the best thing the Jays can do is have the Yankees panic again and make some ridiculous move like the Mondesi trade.
Dave Till - Thursday, March 27 2003 @ 10:01 AM EST (#92234) #
Who the heck made up the Jays' August schedule? United Airlines?

The Jays fly out to Anaheim on August 1 (without a day off beforehand), play three games in Disneyland, and then fly straight back to Tampa Bay for three games there. *Then* they get a day off, play three at home to Texas, and fly straight back out to the coast, again without a day off. Yow!

The only good thing about this year's schedule is that the Jays at least get to face Baltimore before July this year. Last year, the first Jays-Orioles matchup was on July 17; this year, they play seven

The good news about the Jays' April schedule is that they will only have to send their fifth starter out against a good team twice. Here's my guess as to the Jays' rotation for April:

Halladay: Mar 31, Apr 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30
Lidle: Apr 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26
Big Mark: Apr 2, 8, 13, 18, 23, 29
Tanyon "Bombs Away!" Sturtze: Apr 4, 9, 14, 19, 24
Fifth starter: Apr 12, 17, 22, 27

On the 22nd and 27th, the Jays' #5 starter faces Tampa Bay and KC. The 12th is Minnesota at home, which isn't great, but is doable. The only game that will likely be painful to watch is the 17th (Yankees away).

Fully ten of the Jays' first Terrible Twenty games will be started by the two pitchers that are any good (Halladay and Lidle). If they perform as advertised, the Jays stand a good chance of getting out of April in one piece.
Dave Till - Thursday, March 27 2003 @ 10:02 AM EST (#92235) #
Oops - rats ate some of my post. The Jays play seven games against Baltimore in June this year.
Catch(Up)-22: Breaking Down The Schedule | 4 comments | Create New Account
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