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What can we tell you about the 2005 Blue Jays squad that you, loyal Box reader, don't already know?

Well, you've already read what we thought of Jays pitchers, hitters, and management in 2004. We discussed all the offseason transactions at length, from SkyDome to Schoeneweis, from Koskie to Hillenbrand, and yes, the departure of Delgado. Never mind the big moves - Cash for Gaudin, Mastny for McDonald, even Godwin for Wideman were worthy of discussion here at the Box. You heard from the man himself, J.P. Ricciardi, from minor league gurus John Sickels and Jim Callis, and from the new TV play-by-play man, Jamie Campbell. The Roster got together to give thoughts on how to disperse the new & improved 3-year payroll. Dave Till put on his Guy Smiley and Gary Gloomy masks to present detailed 2005 projections for the team from each perspective.

So, rather than serve up a whole lotta re-hash, we decided to focus this preview on 1) Storylines for 2005 that we'll be interested in watching unfold and 2) Predictions of the Jays' final record.

Here's what will keep us interested:

Magpie: Dave Bush. I know, I know. Everybody looks at his stuff and says he's a 3-4 starter. But all that means is that there's a lot of guys out there who can throw more impressively than Dave Bush. That doesn't make them great pitchers. Every time I saw this young man work, I thought I was looking at someone who was born knowing how to pitch. The last Toronto pitcher who impressed me in a similar way was Jimmy Key. I think Bush has a chance to be... oh, I don't know? Bret Saberhagen?

Jonny German: Hitting coach Mike Barnett was lauded in 2003 as the Jays bashed their way to the second-best offensive output in the American League. Vernon Wells broke out, Greg Myers had a career year at age 37, and Carlos Delgado turned in the second best campaign of his excellent career. 2004 was quite the opposite; only two clubs scored fewer runs than the floundering Jays, and some wondered why Barney was not dismissed at the end of the season. Eric Hinske went from bad to awful, the wheels fell right off of Josh Phelps, and Alex Rios hit an empty .286. There were a few bright spots: Orlando Hudson turned in his best campaign as he made huge strides batting right-handed, and bargin bin finds Gregg Zaun and Frank Menechino put up great numbers.

So, is Barnett a good hitting coach or no? In 2005 weíll look to see if Eric Hinske can re-gain his stroke; if Shea Hillenbrand can be convinced that itís OK to take a walk; if Rios, Russ Adams, and the other young players who figure to get substantial playing time blossom or bomb.

Iím optimistic. I think Barnett is the man for the job, and I think the Jays offense will be better than generally expected.

Dave Till: First, the gloomy bits:

  • Like almost everybody else on the planet, I disagree with the idea of moving Batista to the closer's spot. I think he'll be lucky to hold the job through the end of April, to be honest. But you have to give J.P. credit: he is not afraid to make the unobvious choice. He sees something in Batista that the rest of us do not see; if it works out, more power to him.
  • I don't think that Towers and Chacin are going to work out in the rotation. I assume that J.P. moved Batista because he has a lot of other options - Miller, Walker, Glynn and Gaudin are possible choices, and that's before even getting to the wave of young pitchers coming up. But the Jays could very well have two holes in their starting rotation.
  • The team lacks home run power from the traditional power slots; there's no big banger at 1B, LF or DH. They'll have trouble scoring enough runs.

Because of all of this, I am feeling a bit pessimistic about the Jays' chances.

But enough doom and gloom. Here's the good stuff:

  • Everybody who is trying to measure defense puts Orlando Hudson way above everybody else in the league. And he's still rounding into his prime. I predict that he'll put on a clinic at second this year.
  • I agree that Dave Bush is going to be successful because he is so poised. I agree that he resembles Key out there.
  • The Jays' crop of young pitchers gives them trade bait to work with, if they want to trade arms for bats. If Adam Peterson - not a top-ranked prospect, in my opinion - can fetch Shea Hillenbrand, what could a bundle of promising arms fetch? Perhaps getting that big bat might not be as hard as first thought.
  • Related to this: because pitchers are so unpredictable, the best thing to do is to try to develop a whole bunch of them. Then, even if only a few survive, that's still enough to develop a strong staff. That is exactly what the Jays are doing.
  • If your team has to have holes in the lineup, it's better to have holes at 1B and DH than anywhere else. It's harder to find good shortstops, and the Jays have two legitimate shortstop prospects (and maybe more, if Tablado is for real).
  • I'm not worried about Gabe Gross. If he starts the year in Syracuse, so what? If he continues to hit up a storm, the Jays will call him back up. They're not stupid. Because the Jays have very little offensive help available in the high minors, they should go slow with Gross.
  • Call me crazy, but I think that the Yanks and Sox could both decline this year. The Yankees are old and creaky, and are trying to fill their rotation with Pavano and Jaret Wright. Ugh. And the Sox have lost Pedro, start the season without Schilling, and are depending on Boomer to be able to survive Fenway in his middle aged years. Yikes.
  • Despite all the trials and tribulations, I'd still rather be a Jays fan than an Orioles fan or a Rays fan. The Jays have enough young players who could improve, which means that there is hope. The Orioles, on the other hand, can't get anyone to play there, except for the fading ghost of Sammy Sosa, and don't have pitching. And the Rays are populating their roster with Jays castoffs. So cheer up, everybody!

Jordan: Optimistic: John Gibbons will win, place or show in the Manager of the Year race. He's a smart baseball man with an even temper and a confidence born of self-knowledge. He'll get the attention of the young guys and earn the respect of the veterans. He'll be a tough disciplinarian as required, but normally will be a facilitator, teacher and mentor. He has a chance to end up one of the better managers in franchise history.

Concerned: The offence just won't be there. Wells will rebound, but he can't do it alone and he's not disciplined enough to be patient when they pitch around him. Hinske and Hillenbrand could be sinkholes at 1B and DH, two of the most important offensive positions. A punchless offence would put pressure on the young pitchers to do too much and force the bullpen to try to be perfect while protecting 2-1 leads. A contagious hitting slump would be disastrous for this team's confidence.

Optimistic: The Jays will acquire a big DH bat at the trading deadline, someone with a lot of money and a year or two left on his contract. The deal would cost the team one of its promising young pitchers, but would also allow the Jays to dump a superfluous multi-year contract like Catalanotto or Hinske. The Jays would sign the hitter to an intelligent extension at season's end, based on the team's strong finish.

Mike Green: I'm really looking forward to the bullpen in the 2nd half of the year, with League and Vermilyea and hopefully Marcum in September. The kids are better than alright. I truly believe that the bullpen will be great in 06.

Rob: Like Mike, I'm going to be interested in following the bullpen. For all my complaining over the Batista move, if he works out, there's one hell of a good staff out there. Naturally, I like Brandon League, so I can't wait to see him pitch a full season. Justin Speier is probably the best reliever on the team, and Jason Frasor deserves mention. As for Scott Schoeneweis, it's a good sign that I now know exactly how to spell his name. Kerry Ligtenberg, Vinny Chulk, even Pete Walker can make the back of the 'pen good if not great. Not to mention Jamie Vermilyea, who loves being a relief pitcher, waiting in the wings in the 'Cuse. So there -- I will pay a lot of attention to the games once the starter is done.

Gerry: I also am excited about the bullpen in 2005. With Batista, Frasor and League the Jays have some strong arms that can bring it in the mid-nineties. Speier, Ligtenberg and Schoeneweis are the more experienced pitchers with more crafty stuff. It is an interesting balance.

I am concerned about the offense, will it score enough? I am not so worried abaout Rios, more about Hinske, Hillenbrand and Koskie. Will they be more than average hitters?

Pistol: How the Jays leverage their money and their prospects to improve the major league club will be interesting to watch.

A lot of the success of the Cardinals recently has been because they've had the money to trade for top players - McGwire, Renteria, Edmonds, Rolen. Will this be something the Jays can copy? We shall see.

On the field I'm most interested in seeing what Rios is able to do. Of all the Jays he probably is the most unpredictable. He could hit .250/.300/.350 or he could turn into Vernon Wells. But even if he doesn't hit it'll be fun to watch him run down balls in the outfield and throw runners out on the bases.

Leigh: It is important, every Spring, to be able to convince one's self that it is possible for the Jays to be playing meaningful games in September. It need not be probable or likely, but merely possible, and I think that it is this year. C'mon, stop looking at me like that - it is possible; a few career years and a surprise or two from Syracuse would get it done.

What excites me the most about the upcoming season is the opportunity to watch a healthy and productive Roy Halladay. The events of last season have made it easy to forget that Halladay is one of the best three pitchers in the American League, but he should return to form this season and we should, in turn, appreciate the opportunity to watch him pitch.

Joe: Whether 2005 will be a good season lies in the hands of two men: Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells. While Leigh takes the optimistic view, "bird droppings," the Cheer Club drummer, put the fear of God into me when he said that he thought Halladay's era of dominance is done. He thinks Halladay will, going forward, be a good pitcher, but not a great one, and I fear - maybe even think - that he's right.

If Halladay isn't dominant and/or Wells doesn't return to 2003 form, we're in for some pretty sad days at the Rogers Centre.

Named For Hank: I went into last season on a real high -- the team looked better than in '03 without Jeff Tam and Scott Service and John Wasdin, so they'd improve on their '03 winning record, right?

Things didn't go the way I hoped or expected. This off-season I watched the additions and subtractions and didn't see the same kind of big improvement that I thought I saw in '04, and going into Spring Training I was dreading the kind of implosion that greeted us at the start of last year.

Then something funny happened: the Blue Jays won a whole bunch of ballgames. Yeah, it was "just Spring Training", but the Jays had a terrible Spring Training last year and had a terrible regular season, too.

Against my better judgment, I am fired up about the team's chances. Maybe I'll end up like Charlie Brown, flat on my back while Lucy clutches the football and spouts some tired retread of the same joke. Or maybe I'll have a great time this season while the Jays kick some American League ass.

That's my pick for the most compelling storyline this year: the Jays continue to win baseball games while smart people explain to them that they shouldn't be.

Final record predictions:

Magpie: 79-83. Sorry, they just won't score quite enough runs. At least not in their current configuration.

Jonny German: The Jays break .500 by a rainout, finishing up at 81-80.

Dave Till: I predict a 75-87 season (disclaimer: I am a lousy predictor; a swing of 10 or more wins either way wouldn't surprise me).

Jordan: 80-82. The second half will be better than the first.

Mike Green: With my head 76 wins, with my heart 82 wins. We'll split the difference and say 79.

Rob: Well, I'll go for it. 86-76, exactly the same as 2003.

Gerry: My prediction....78-84

Pistol: The Jays will end 2005 at the same place they start it: .500

Leigh: 2005 Jays' Record: 88-74.

Named For Hank: 90-72, in a fight for the Wild Card.

Well Bauxites, it looks like we're a lot more optimistic than most of the sources Pepper Moffatt has been surveying. What do you think? Can the Jays pull off the big bounce back season many of us are calling for? Regardless of where they wind up in the standings, what makes this team worth following?

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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
kpataky - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 08:38 AM EST (#108503) #
kpataky - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 08:39 AM EST (#108504) #
kpataky - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 08:42 AM EST (#108505) #
kpataky - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 08:43 AM EST (#108506) #
Mike Green - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 08:44 AM EST (#108508) #
Kevin, ironically at precisely 8:39, I amended my Game Report for today to include the second Matt Michael article that you linked to. It is April 1.:)

The Game Report will run in 1/2 an hour, and that is good place for additional links.
Jdog - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 01:07 PM EST (#108562) #
Trivia Question...

Which bluejay still with the big club is leading in batting average?
Thaskins - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 01:08 PM EST (#108563) #
Why is everyone so down on Shea Hillenbrand? Listen, I donít think heís going to go all Delgado on us or anything but he isnít that bad. Heís got a career line of .288/.322/.448 and is on board for a decent $3.87 million this year. Itís a little pricey but it isnít that bad. We shouldnít fool ourselves into thinking heís a long term solution or anything either. Chances are heíll be flipped at the trading deadline for something more valuable. Knowing JPís ability to swindle talent I bet we end up with someone better than Adam Peterson. In the mean time, he should hit for a pretty good average (something we were sorely missing last year) and moderate pop. I know he doesnít walk very much but he also doesnít strike out very much. If he was the answer at 3B, 1B or DH than Iíd agree, weíre in trouble. But, heís only a temporary solution for a team not quite ready to compete for the playoffs and that doesnít have a better option internally.
best400 - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 01:30 PM EST (#108574) #
Guys lets remember that in 2003 we overachieved substantially, we had a near MVP, a CY Young winner, and a near gold glover in Wells.
I remember this stretch in last year when Sparky was hitting 3rd and Hinske cleanup. Hudson was injured, we had a DH in Phelps that couldnt hit for average or power(hillenbrand will at least hit for power).
Lilly started the year on the DL and Halladay missed time with a tired shoulder. The Bullpen just sucked, sucked, sucked. We blew way too many games.
Batista was I thought except for a few starts towards the end solid, he had an ERA of just about 4 until September while being one of the league leaders in IP.
Even with a slight improvement in the bullpen and about half the injuries the team could be 81-81
Mike Green - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 01:31 PM EST (#108575) #
A .322 OBP from your DH is a disaster. I think Hillenbrand will beat his career mark, but that is what the concern is.
Skills - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 03:40 PM EST (#108598) #
I'm lovin the optimism of Rob and Hank. Yes, the team has its weakness, but...if everything goes right, it can work.
Jdog - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 05:00 PM EST (#108614) #
Just wanted to mention the poll on ESPN....who will win the AL EAST ...the only options are Boston and New York. Yeah I understand thats most likely , but you cant say their is no chance for Baltimore or the Jays. Just like My beloved Calgary Flames
BCMike - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 05:07 PM EST (#108617) #

Just like My beloved Calgary Flames

Yes but there is no baseball equivalent of continually icing the puck at the slightest hint of trouble ;)

Ducey - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 05:11 PM EST (#108618) #
I am not too worried about the final win loss tally this year. I think the year will be exciting because:
1. They Jays have a chance to be set by the end of the year with 3 or 4 good relievers, 2 or 3 good starters, 2B,SS,3B, an outfield of Gross, Rios, Wells, and maybe even a catcher - all of which will be young and around for awhile
2. We can expect some fun at the trade deadline
3. The Jays pick 6th in the draft
4. The farm system is starting to produce some major league level guys
Jdog - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 05:24 PM EST (#108620) # that a canucks fan i hear

annyways your right there is no baseball equivalent to Kiprusoff, well the starting rotation is the equivalent. If we could start Doc everyday we would be in good shape
VBF - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 05:38 PM EST (#108622) #
you cant say their is no chance for Baltimore or the Jays

...or the DevilRays

Ryan B. - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 06:08 PM EST (#108629) #
This season isn't about contending, its about seeing what they have with some young guys so they know what holes to fill in the off-season with the expanded budget.

Next year will be about one of two things. Either contending or the year J.P is fired.
Jdog - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 06:21 PM EST (#108632) #
Every Year Is about contending. thats why they play the games.
Lefty - Friday, April 01 2005 @ 09:02 PM EST (#108668) #
If having to choose between the statement above or the one immediately below .... I'll be agreeing with Ryan B here. I do not disagree with the statement that every year a team has to enter the season with the intent to contend, but this team is not equiped with the tools necessary so one has to be realistic.

I said about six months ago, I will try to bite my tongue until after the July trading deadline and then we'll see.

But I don't want anyone coming back if I voice minor criticisisms from now till then. I just promise not to reach any conclusion. ;-)
Ron - Saturday, April 02 2005 @ 01:58 AM EST (#108687) #
I'm worried about Adams heading into the season. He has 7 errors in 21 games so far in ST.

At least if he doesn't show improvement during the season, he might be replaced by Hill.
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