Just some random food for thought on this sunny Monday, with the Blue Jays sitting in first place, enjoying a 3.5 game lead over the New York Yankees. Just let that sink in for a minute. First place on June 2nd. Okay, onto the musings:
- How much fun is it watching the Blue Jays play right now? As I mentioned in my last entry, they’re firing on all cylinders – the line-up top to bottom, no matter who is in the starting line-up, both starting and relief pitching, the defence. Jeez, it even seems like their TWEETS are improving recently. I, for one, can’t really remember a time they’ve played so well. Sure, there was that magical 11-game win streak last year, but that always seemed like a mirage (and the 151 games that book-ended those 11 games prove that it was). John Gibbons mentioned that he was the manager when they went 20-10 in May of 2009 (after which he was fired three weeks later). The 2003 team was pretty solid and stacked with offensive juggernauts (Carlos Delgado in what should have been his MVP season, a still-productive, on-the-rise Vernon Wells, plus Eric Hinske, Shannon Stewart et al and the team ace was, of course, Roy Halladay). There had to have been some solid play during “Vietnam Vet” Tim Johnson’s lone year of 1998, which is still the Blue Jays high-water mark for wins in a season in the past 20 years with 88. I can’t really explain it, but this year’s version of the Blue Jays just seems…different. More real? More dominant? Who knows? I’m open to theories as to why I feel that way; assuming others have the same (warm, fuzzy) feelings as I do. My happy-go-lucky, unicorns and rainbows and fluffy kitten feelings may be a little bit too much sentimentality and grasping for straws because there’s still four months left in the season and it could all go south really quickly, but I’m enjoying the hell out of watching these guys play.
- I didn’t see the whole game so I’m speaking from a place of slight extrapolation (aka LYING), but man oh man was I impressed with Marcus Stroman in his start on Saturday where he beat the Royals and put an end to the Blue Jays mini two-game slump. He seemed to struggle during his initial call-up when he was used exclusively out of the bullpen. Hell, who am I kidding? A 12.79 ERA? “Seemed” to struggle is an understatement; he struggled mightily during his time in the Blue Jays bullpen. But his line on Saturday: 6IP, 5H, 1ER, 0BB, 6Ks, was impressive. That curveball/slider was nasty. Hopefully he can keep it up provide some quality innings that the Blue Jays need.
- Y’know who else has impressed me? Anthony Gose. I was down on him big time given his struggles in AAA Buffalo, and seeming unwillingness to learn at that level and earning a call up to “The Show”. In addition he still, as always, racks up way too many strikeouts. It seems elementary that someone with his speed should just try to put the ball in play by bunting (Mike Wilner says two bunt singles a week will bump his average 100 points over the course of a year) and slapping the ball around (a drum that Richard Griffin keeps beating). But, with all the being said, when Gose does get on base, his speed is truly a game changer. And let’s not forget about his defence, which has been superlative to say the least. Mike Wilner (him again?) even goes so far as to say that Gose is the best centre fielder that the Blue Jays have ever had. Yes, even better than the Silky Gazelle*, Devon White. This is not to say, Colby Rasmus for pitching help, as many have suggested. Rasmus is tried and true, you know what he provides: better than average defence, lots of power and, once again, too many strikeouts. We shouldn’t take Gose’s small sample size and extrapolate that over a full season or a career, that’s just a practice in futility. At this point, Gose is a great bench player, a fourth outfielder to act as a pinch runner, defensive replacement and occasional starter, with the chance to become so much more. *Non-official nickname. I just made it up right now.
- Mea culpa time (and a culpa that should have been mea’d a month or more ago): I was one of the wide-eyed, pie-in-the-sky optimists that thought Ryan Goins could handle the second base duties for the 2014 Blue Jays. I am not very proud to say I was dead wrong in this regard. As we all saw, Goins was exactly as he projected – stellar defence with virtually no offence (despite Blue Jays’ hitting coach Kevin Seitzer’sSteve Tolleson/Brett Lawrie and by extension Juan Francisco seems to be working pretty well. Goins was over-matched, plain and simple. Maybe he’ll put it together and be a serviceable major-leaguer (he is only 25 after all) but at this point, both he and the Blue Jays are better served by him being in the minors.
- Pitch: Talks on Baseball #3 is tonight. I’m spreading the word a little last-minute, but it’s a fun and informative speaker series based around, big surprise, the Blue Jays and baseball in general. Described by the Pitch people as “Ted Talks with grass stains”, I attended the first one, and it was great – entertaining, informative and lots of fun. Tonight’s edition features three Toronto journalists whom I read
- The 2014 First-Year Player Draft is this Thursday, June 5th. Undrafted players are not my forte, but the draft is always interesting to see where the Blue Jays are going. Shi Davidi has a great write-up about it. The nuts and bolts are as such: the Blue Jays pick 9th, 11th and 49th in the first, second and compensatory rounds, which should amount to three solid players. “Should” is the key there – as always, the draft is a complete crapshoot. There are very few sure things when drafting players, in any sport. With their first two picks, the Blue Jays have been linked to North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner, and two right-handed pitchers, Florida high schooler Touki Toussaint and East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman, (who, luck would have it, just underwent Tommy John surgery).
- Apropos of absolutely nothing, and not even Blue Jay-related: I’m always confused when I see Travis Wood pitching for the Chicago Cubs. In my simple mind Cubs + Wood = Kerry Wood. That’s simply part of my psyche now. Sorry Travis Wood, you will henceforth simply be known as “Not Kerry Wood”.
That’s it! Just seven musings today. Enjoy the coming week, it’ll be a big one with the Blue Jays facing the Detroit Tigers and their Murder’s Row of starting pitchers (they’re scheduled to be face Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Mr. Kate Upton himself, Justin Verlander).