Well, and then there were two…days left in the season that is. For the Blue Jays, unlike 8 teams. All Toronto has to play for tonight and tomorrow is a .500 finish, and a few individual numbers perhaps, which isn’t really all that thrilling for the fans. It’s certainly discouraging to note that teams like Houston and the Mets have made the playoffs more recently than our Jays have.
However, there are at least glimmers of hope that the futility streak might be drawing near a close. Maybe none more than the icon widely seen last week on Yahoo sports and in several newspapers which purports to be a new Blue Jays logo for next year. The team hasn’t confirmed that it will indeed be that, but one has to think it was deliberately leaked to gauge reaction to it before running off thousands of hats and jerseys. And reaction has been favourable: one Toronto paper’s poll found 71% of respondants “love” it and Yahoo’s baseball gurus deem it acceptable (whereas they refer to a proposed new logo for the Marlins as an “art deco monstrosity!”). The new logo, for those who haven’t seen it, looks a lot like the old logo. The original logo. A whole lot. In fact, essentially it seems like the same, well-loved jay’s head, but missing the baseball behind it and with the maple leaf slightly larger than it used to be. As well, the background blue seems to be just a slightly different shade than used before, darker than the “powder blues” but not nearly as dark as the blue on the old caps.
I find the idea very encouraging. Because not only does it perhaps mean the era of real frustration brought in by JP Ricciardi (who presided over the change to black caps and the windblown bird-head in a “J” logo) is finally coming to an end. And that the team is listening to the public, who have clearly expressed a desire to see the team return to something like the look it had in its glory days. AND to return to the competitiveness the team had back then too.
Maybe if Rogers can be persuaded to listen to the fans and bring back the “old” look, they can also be persuaded to listen to us and bring in the two or three players needed to take the team up the next step from being a perpetual win one, lose one staff to a team that will be playing meaningful games right there with Boston , New york and Tampa next year at this time.
Next blog I’ll look towards the playoffs and make my predictions once we figure out if Tampa or Boston are in, Atlanta or St. Louis. And give a final evaluation of the Jays forgettable season. In the meantime, a short look at the guys on the team who seem to have exceeded my expectations in 2011:
JP Arencibia. Still a work in progress when it comes to catching, but has answered my doubts as to whether he could handle job, and hit with the power expected of him when he was a young phenom coming up through ranks.
Adam Lind. Made the transition to a first baseman well, and improved his hitting a little although not as much as hoped. Fears of a dude with a lead glove and .162 average turned out to be ones the White Sox needed to have, not the Jays!
Brett Lawrie. Badly over-hyped, but unlike so many that have come before him (Russ Adams, John Ford Griffin, Guillermo Quiroz to name just three of a busload), he actually seems to be a star-in-the-making, and is much better defensively than we had been led to believe from minor league reports.
Jose Bautista. Sure, he didn’t match his home run total of last year, but then again, how could he? He missed ten games with various minor injuries and a visit home to be with his lady when she had their first baby, and wasn’t given anything worth hitting in many a game. Yet he still managed to grow as a hitter, raise his average by 40-ish points, set a club record for walks and catch the attention of the American public like no other Toronto player has before. And when all is said and done, he’s still hit 18 more homers since the beginning of 2010 than Albert Pujols or anyone else.
Mike mcCoy. Sure, a .203 average and 9 RBI is nothing to write home about, but his maturity in handling seemingly weekly demotions to the minors and recalls to the bigs, and his defense in the last month when called in to replace an injured Yunel Escobar exceeds anyone’s expectations.
Eric Thames. As bautista said, he came in with less “advertisement than Brett Lawrie, JP Arencibia or even Travis Snider” but he sure made an impact through most of the season and got better with glove as the months moved by.
Ricky Romero. Certainly proves he can be a staff ace, after only 3 years in the majors no less. His 15 wins is good, but deceptive. This year in the AL, there’s been Verlander , then Weaver. After that there’s a little of cluster of starters with names like Sabathia, Beckett and Haren. High-profile stars all of them. Romero deserves to be mentioned in the same breath given his durability, 225 innings pitched and 2.92 ERA… best for any Jays starter not named Roy Halladay since 1998, when some dude, long forgotten, named Roger Clemens posted a 2.65.
Casey Janssen . 6-0, 2.33 ERA, barely a bad outing out of beleagured bullpen after All Star break.
Henderson Alvarez, Luis Perez. Two youngsters not even on the radar at start of season who pitched some decent games. May not be ready to be part of a playoff team next year, but show great promise.
And, last but not least, Dustin McGowan. Merely for having tenacity to stick with the game and work his way back to majors after 3 years and who knows how many surgeries and treatments.