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Here are some random thoughts about the 2007 season from a Blue Jays fan's perspective.

Warning: as is usual with anything I write, this article is remarkably analysis-free, owing to extreme laziness.

The 2007 season was strange. In the spring, everybody thought that the Jays would score a lot of runs, have trouble finding good non-Doc starting pitching, and be able to rely on Ryan and League to shut down close games. Instead, the offense bombed, the starting pitching was great, and Ryan and League went AWOL but the bullpen was awesome anyway. Clearly, we are now in UpsideDownLand.

And, back in March, everyone was worrying about the Jays having signed two 39-year-old guys to bolster their offense. This is usually risky, because old guys are more likely to get hurt. Instead, the old guys stayed healthy all year, and everybody else got hurt. Like I said, UpsideDownLand.

Here's a few random comments and/or opinions:
  • Job One for the Jays' brand-new hitting coach is to determine whether Adam Lind can actually hit. (Job Two is to determine whether anybody else can hit.) If not, the Jays need a new left fielder. I love watching Reed Johnson play, but his 2006 was almost certainly a fluke. And he'll be 31 in the offseason, so he's well past his peak.

  • Actually, many of the Jays are now either at their peak or past it. The time to win is right now, if not sooner; of the Jays' starting nine, only Hill and Rios are younger than the traditional prime age of 27. Soon, the hitters will grow old, and we'll all have to sit around for a couple of years and endure a lot of 3-1 games until Travis Snider grows up.
  • The Jays' pitching hasn't improved as much as some people think. What's happened: the infield defense has become wonderful. Replace McDonald and Hill with non-superhuman defenders, and the pitching will quickly revert to average at best.
  • Related to this: the Jays have to do whatever it takes to keep Brian Butterfield. You can tell that Butters is good: the Jays' second basemen keep turning into awesome Gold Glove monsters. Neither Hudson nor Hill were that good defensively coming up; in fact, neither was a full-time second baseman.

  • I believe that A-Rod will return to the Yankees, after being offered an extra $150-million or a small savings and loan, or maybe Ecuador. This is all an elaborate dance. (I think that Joe Torre will be back, too.)

  • If A-Rod does opt out, and the Yanks decide not to re-sign him, he'll go to one of the teams with a rich owner who sees his team as an expensive plaything. If Mark Cuban buys the Cubs, he'll probably be willing to throw $300-million over 10 years at A-Rod. The Angels are another possibility.

  • Regardless of what happens, A-Rod will never come to Toronto. The Jays would never pay that kind of money: Ted Rogers is a businessman. The Jays are an investment for him, not a way to stave off Rich Man's Ennui; he saw that the franchise was capable of generating more revenue than it had been, and he made his move. The evidence shows that he was right. (I'm not complaining about Rogers, by the way - things are a lot better with him in charge than they were when the team was run by absentee brewmasters from Belgium.)

  • Barry Bonds will not be coming to Toronto. The Jays have Frank Thomas, who (a) is hitting just as well, (b) is younger, (c) isn't causing any problems, and (d) swings a mean pillow. Bonds is the one player I cannot root for; if J.P. signs him, I'm gonna spend my summer at Christie Pits and/or drowning my sorrows in Mill Street Tankhouse Ale. (I might be doing the latter anyway, but that's beyond the scope of this article.)

  • Did you know that John Gibbons now has the third-longest tenure of any Jays manager in history? Only Cito Gaston and Bobby Cox have held the job for longer than Gibbons has had it. If Gibbons can make it to mid-August of next year, he'll pass Cox.

  • Did you know that Vernon Wells actually hit well in April this year? His OBP was .368, and his SLG was .563. Both those numbers are, you know, kinda good and all that. This lends support to the "Vernon's numbers were off because he was nursing a secret injury" theory, as opposed to the "Vernon isn't very good" theory, or even the "Vernon is a lazy slacker" theory.

  • After the All-Star break, Roy Halladay's ERA was 3.02, with 71 strikeouts in 116 innings. He'll be just fine. And A.J. Burnett, who is trying his very best to become Doc II, is just about managing it - though Gibbons will have to resist the temptation to overwork him, even if A.J. is still striking people out after having thrown over 120 pitches. The man is human, and does not deserve to be criticized for going on the DL this summer.

  • Shaun Marcum, on the other hand, had an ERA of 4.68 after the break. I don't know whether he can be relied on any more. Regardless of what happens, he'll always have that wonderful summer when he was throwing four pitches for strikes and batters were consistently guessing wrong. Sometimes, all you get is one moment in the sun.

  • We'll find out by about June whether Dustin McGowan can handle a front-line starter's workload. One of the reasons why so many pitchers get injured is that it takes a few months for an overworked pitcher to break down. Arms, unfortunately, do not come with flashing warning lights; pitching injuries are often subtle and gradual things. For example: B.J. Ryan looked just fine all last year. If McGowan's going to go on the shelf, it'll happen next spring.
And, finally, as I've said before: the only reason the Jays aren't considered a successful franchise is because they share a division with two teams with unlimited budgets. Despite having to play the Yankees and Red Sox more often than most AL teams do, the Jays have managed winning records in six of the last ten seasons. (Plus 80-82, the cruellest record imaginable, in two more.) Compare that with the Orioles and Devil Rays, the other two teams playing under the same handicap: the O's have now endured ten consecutive losing seasons, and the Drays have never won more than 70 games in their ten-year history. When you consider that the Canadian dollar was worth roughly as much as a packet of Kleenex for part of the decade, you have to conclude that the Jays are doing about as well as could be expected.

But that might not be enough. You can only see your team get squashed by huge wallets over and over again for so long before it stops being interesting, and we all become Toronto FC fans or something. If the Yanks or Sox manage to use their cash to stay successful year after year, Jays fans will give up hope and stop caring. I, for one, have just about had enough.

By the way, this article is a goodbye of sorts - I haven't been around much for the past year, as I've been doing other things. I'm not really interested in writing about baseball much any more, so this is my last official post for Batter's Box. I'll still be posting comments in the Jays-related threads, as I'll go to my grave rooting for the Blue Jays (and against the Yankees). You have not seen the last of me. Mwah hah hah hah, and all that.
2007 rambles, and another goodbye | 19 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
ANationalAcrobat - Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 10:05 AM EDT (#175272) #
I haven't been around long enough to really appreciate your work, but I've enjoyed your commentary and I certainly enjoyed that article =) Good luck with future endeavours!

And I'm not sure that Marcum has given us cause to be worried. That 4.68 ERA after the break would not even be so bad projected for the full year for a #4 starter. If you're worried about his fatigue, then consider that he was a bullpen arm for the first month (more?) and may have needed more conditioning to start. I don't think Marcum will get back to constantly throwing 6 shutout innings (how many times did he do this?!) but I do think he'll have more moments in the sun.
Chuck - Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 10:25 AM EDT (#175273) #

Dave, I agreed with most everything you said except for this:

Shaun Marcum, on the other hand, had an ERA of 4.68 after the break. I don't know whether he can be relied on any more.

If Marcum is truly no better than a 4.68 pitcher (and that may well be the case), getting 30 GS/160 IP for a league average SP's ERA for a salary less than $1M is helping the team. A whole lot. A league average performance for much less than league average salary is a lot of bang for your buck. It frees up money to fix other problems.

Unless you meant he couldn't be relied upon to again be Super-Marcum, the mid-summer Wonder Boy, rather than relied upon at all. In which case I agree that you are probably right.

Mylegacy - Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 01:26 PM EDT (#175275) #

Dave, you'll be back more than you think you will. I'll miss you too much if you're not.

But now on to more important things, namely tearing your opinions to shreds! Unfortunately, you've fluked into some opinions I share so I can't be too cruel.

Lind can hit, he's a natural...but he's not very strong. Look at his forearms and wrists, this guy needs more muscle, pure and simple. He'll be fine. Last year Frank Thomas was worried big time about his ankle. This year he has promised to come into camp with the idea of being fully ready to START the season. He will be. Frank will be the comeback player of the year and a cadidate for an MPV on the playoff bound Blue Jays (get your bets in now while the odds will make you a zillionaire). Vernon Wells is just too streaky, even when healthy and apparently they coudn't operate on part of his problem because the "cysts" (or whatever) were too close to some nerves. Having said that he'll be at least some bit better next year. I'm in love with Shaun Marcum. He throws some sort of hellacious curvey, slidery something to lefties that comes in chest high and then dives in on, and straight down past, the hands of startled lefties. Shaun was not "stretched" out to be a starter in 07, he will be in 08. Unless his arm falls off he should be a sub 4.00 ERA kinda guy. Our kinda guy. Dustin McGowan has been through more than Lance Armstrong's testicles. This guy is ready to be a near superstar if healthy. He is focused, prepared and ready to assume the mantle of Ace. We'll have three Aces and at least one'll be interesting to see who is gonna be the Queen.

Dave, don't wander too far, you'll be missed.

Jimbag - Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 01:49 PM EDT (#175276) #
Good article...the only thing I'd add (that the other commenters haven't yet) is that while it's true the infield defense was a big part of keeping the team's ERA so low, you have to give credit to the pitchers for keeping the ball on the ground, as well. The starters and bullpen this year did a hell of a job, and were helped out by the middle infielders (well, Hill had a couple of rough moments towards the end, there) - and that's the type of synergy you need to be a successful ballclub.

The offense will be better next year - with the injuries to Johnson (whom I still think makes a wonderful leadoff hitter and great defensive fielder), Overbay (power numbers were way off this year post surgery), Glaus (same thing), etc. I don't want to sound like a pollyanna, but this team really underproduced at the plate this year...I expect a dropoff of sorts from the pitching staff next season, but not to the point that it will overshadow the (hopefully) healthy and rejuvenated offense.

And again, I'm optimistic for next year. Doc and AJ are going to do what they always do, and behind them you have your choices of Marcum, McGowan, LItsch, Chacin, Janssen, and possibly even Frasor (spot starter?). The bullpen probably won't be as lights-out as they were this season, but if Accardo continues to pitch well, Ryan and League come back and can be effective, and everyone else in the pen pitches anywhere near as effectively as they did this year....well, I can't imagine not being optimistic about this team next year.

I save my pessimism for the Leafs, lol.

Lefty - Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 04:55 PM EDT (#175277) #
it'll be interesting to see who is gonna be the Queen.

My guess would be Lance Armstrong.
trent77 - Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 04:58 PM EDT (#175278) #

I seem to be disagreeing with alot of the articles on here lately.  This one is no exception, although I agree on most of your points.  A couple of exceptions though.... 

1.  Give some credit to the pitching.  Hill is not a 'super-human' defender and, currently, ranks 3rd on my list of all time Blue Jays 2nd basemen in defence by a good margin.  McDonald and Hill were playing the majority of games last year, weren't they? 

2. The time to win is not 'right now'.  The Yankees and the Red Sox are old teams-the Blue Jays are not.  The oldest pitcher on the team is 31 and the majority of the pitching staff (Janssen, Accardo, Marcum, McGowan, Litsch, League, Wolfe) have yet to reach their prime.  As for position players, Wells is 28, Rios 26, Hill 25-two back-ups (Lind and Thigpen) are 24.  Sure, Thomas and McDonald are old...but everyone wants an upgrade at SS anyways and DH isn't the hardest position to fill.  Overbay is 30 but plays the lowest maintenance position.  Glaus is an old 31 and will need to be replaced soon.  Johnson and Zaun need to be replaced anyways, so it's not like you can argue that their declining skills are hurting the Jays because they shouldn't be starters anyways.  The Jays have two position players and no pitchers over the age of 31.  As for the Yankees-Pettite, Clemens, Mussina, Rivera, Posada, Abreu, Jeter, Matsui, Giambi and Damon are all at least 33.  AROD is 32.  The Red Sox average age is 1 year higher than the Yankees. 


ANationalAcrobat - Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 08:11 PM EDT (#175280) #
Age has no meaning to the Yanks or Sox - payroll allows them to overcome these issues.
Lefty - Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 02:12 AM EDT (#175281) #
Wow, roster members dropping like flies.  The well must have gone sour.

Dave Till, another class act and longtime roster member. I can't remember when you came onboard as a contributer, but I think it was before I discovered he site about five years ago.

Like Mike you always provided a very reliable and balanced approach to your discourse here. And I thank you for that.

With the departure of the Lynx I suspect you have noted that time marches on. Like many of us real life has a way of sneaking up on us, thus a time to re-prioritize.

CaramonLS - Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 11:05 AM EDT (#175283) #

Re Bonds:

who (a) is hitting just as well

Errr, not quite Dave.  That is kind of like saying Zaun and Posada hit the same way this year.  Bonds had a 1.045 OPS overall and a 1.073 Mark vs. Right handed pitching, which, I'm not completely sure if you've noticed, but it is a great sore spot on this team.  One of the culprits is Mr. Thomas and the slanting of this lineup.  Thomas on the other hand had an OPS of 857 overall and only batted did 796 against Righties.  Now, in no way am I saying it is realistic that Bonds will end up coming to TO, but seriously Dave, to say their names together and somehow claim that they hit just as well as one another simply isn't true.  The only thing they have in common is that they will be DHs next season.

IMHO Dave, if this team is assembled better and a few pieces are added during the off season - this could be a playoff team - we can cry about the Payroll differences, the point is that we have been given enough to suceed in this division if it is put to good use.  It hasn't been.

greenfrog - Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 11:55 AM EDT (#175285) #
One of the joys of the playoffs is seeing how championship teams are constructed and managed. A few observations:

- A core of excellent hitters really makes a difference in the playoffs. Both the Indians and Red Sox have a middle of the lineup built around patient, disciplined hitters with power. They're also intelligent hitters--did you see Sizemore, Hafner and Martinez go the other way against Schilling in the 1st inning? I hate to say it, but these guys are a cut above the Jays' 1-5 hitters

- Wedge is an impressive manager. You can see the trust and rapport he has with his players

- The Jays really need someone like Ellsbury on our bench. Speed, defense (running and throwing), and can hit. Did you see him blazing down to 2nd last night? In contrast, the Jays (who are slow, and frequently need pinch-runners) were relegated to using guys like McDonald and Thigpen, who aren't really base-stealing threats

- Beckett has turned into a really fine pitcher. He reminds me a bit of Halladay from a few years ago: great command and aggressiveness in the strike zone. I hope McGowan is watching and taking notes
brent - Monday, October 15 2007 @ 08:17 PM EDT (#175311) #
After looking at the pool of available free agents, I understand what JP meant by not being very active in the market. I would possible look at Michael Barrett. The pool this year looks like the re-treads from years ago with Jeff Tam and Doug Creek. Kenny Lofton would fill the left field position and left-handed lead off hitter, but I would prefer to give Reed Johnson another year.
R Billie - Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 12:55 PM EDT (#175323) #
I'd like to see what Shaun can do healthy and rested next year. Fatigue (and once dehyrdation) was clearly a factor this year...maybe with rest and more preparation he can better stand up to the rigors. And there's also the issue of the knee that gave way on him late in the year. Hard to say if that was a sudden injury or it if was coming on slowly. Unfortunately because of the nature of his delivery and his limited experience as a starter it doesn't seem likely that Marcum will develop into a workhorse type but if he can give you average numbers out of the 4th or 5th spot for the minimum salary, he's worth a lot.
Mike D - Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 10:03 PM EDT (#175329) #
Posting this for the umpires and rules experts around here...

Watching the bottom of the fifth in Cleveland right now. Earlier in the inning, Cabrera lofted a foul popup behind first base. Youkilis struggled with the flight of the ball and juggled it -- he must have tapped the ball into the air four times before it finally fell to the ground. Gutierrez, who had tagged on the play, was sent back to third on the foul ball.

But my question is this. After tagging up, Gutierrez broke for the plate as soon as Youkilis's glove first made contact with the ball. Had Youkilis managed to catch the ball after his lengthy juggling routine, would the Red Sox had a case that Gutierrez left the bag early? And if the answer is "yes," can fielders engage in gamesmanship by intentionally juggling a fly ball and, in effect, cause a false start for a tagging baserunner?

Just curious. I honestly don't know the answer.
AWeb - Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 10:45 PM EDT (#175330) #
I actually threw a similar question out in a game chat earlier in the year, and apparently runners tag up on first contact, not when the out is conceded. Which makes sense, because I had a similar thought with the fielders intentionally juggling the ball, which would essentially put an end to all sac fly situations once the players mastered the ball juggling routines.
Frank Markotich - Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 09:41 AM EDT (#175331) #

AWeb is correct. The runner can tag up as soon as the fielder makes contact with the ball. In fact, the TV announcers made this point right after the play.


Rich - Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 12:03 PM EDT (#175334) #
The Jays really need someone like Ellsbury on our bench. Speed, defense (running and throwing), and can hit.

They have him - his name is Reed Johnson.  In truth he's a terrific 4th outfielder / platoon guy.  The Jays won't make the playoffs with Reed getting 400 AB's.  I love the guy, but 2006 was a fluke.

The Jays' problem is that they're stuck - and it's the GM's fault.  His plan for next year is to have the whole team healthy and playing to their potential.  That's just not going to happen - Glaus, Thomas, and Zaun are all decent bets to get hurt again.  Left field is very up in the air too, though I think Lind is capable if they just let him play and ride out the rough periods.  The bench is weak and there isn't a single bat in the minors that looks like it could step in and help in the case of injuries.

The pitching staff looks good again, but even that's not enough.  AJ hasn't pitched a full year yet, the jury is still out on the 5th starter's spot, and almost everyone else pitched about as well as could be expected this year.

I had high hopes when JP was hired that the farm system would by now be brimming with prospects able to either push established players, make solid contributions as injury fill-ins, or be available in trades to acquire missing pieces.  It just hasn't happened.  Romero, Banks, Adams, and Purcey were all high picks who aren't likely to contribute soon (if ever) and the are just no hitters in the upper tiers of the minors.  The big club has enough talent to put a decent product on the field, but basically there is no plan B.  I expect more from a GM than simply hoping and praying that the team has all the breaks go its way for a change.
Chuck - Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 01:15 PM EDT (#175336) #
They have him - his name is Reed Johnson. 

I think the Red Sox see Ellsbury as their potential starting CF in 2008, a whole lot more than a Reed Johnson. With some free agent center fielders doing some off-season shuffling, there could be a market for Crisp.
Rich - Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 01:56 PM EDT (#175337) #
Chuck, you're right in that Ellsbury has a good future as a starter.  My point was in response to a previous post that the Jays could use a sparkplug off the bench who can play good defense, run, and contribute with the bat.  Johnson is exactly that guy.  I wasn't suggesting he has Ellsbury's future.
HollywoodHartman - Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 07:56 PM EDT (#175338) #

LaCava promoted to assistant GM

Maybe this will keep him from leaving to another team.

2007 rambles, and another goodbye | 19 comments | Create New Account
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