A friend e-mailed me a few days back asking me to evaluate what the Blue Jays have done this off-season. With the last few free agents reluctantly signing their names on dotted lines and gates to spring training camps swinging open in less than two weeks it seems that the book is getting nearer to being closed on the off-season moves of the Blue Jays- as well as on their chances of competing in 2012.
The odd thing perhaps for the casual fan to grasp is that the reason the past 3 months or so have been so disappointing for the team and the fanbase isn’t what they’ve done. Actually most of the free agent signings they’ve inked and minor trades accomplished have been good. Very little reason to complain about them.
Rather though, the problem has been what the Blue Jays haven’t done. Namely improve the starting rotation or add to the still spotty offense.
Alex Anthopolous had mentioned at the end of last season that adding some front line starting pitching and perhaps a big bat , as well as improving the bullpen and adding a backup catcher (apparently resigned to the idea of very acceptable backup Jose Molina walking away from the team). Team President Paul Beeston had mentioned the sky was the limit when it came to adding payroll if it would help the team compete and as Yahoo blogger Tim Brown noted (http://sports.yahoo.com ) somehow they had come to be seen as the “ ‘It’ team of the 2011-2012 Off season”… the team offering up money like a politician on the campaign trail to load up on Prince Fielders and Yu Darvish’s and utilizing its abundance of young talent to bring in a few Gio Gonzalez’s or Felix Hernandez’s to boot. Instead, we have been treated to a somewhat better bullpen and Jeff Mathis , a perfectly acceptable backup catcher if the DH can hit for him instead of the pitcher!
Adding Darren Oliver , Francisco Cordero and even Sergio Santos, as well as trading to return jason Frasor back to his rightful baseball home will indeed improve the late inning pitching for Toronto. Unfortunately, by not improving the starting rotation in front of them, the bullpen may well still be over-worked and running on fumes by July which was a large part of the reason for their poor numbers last year.
It’s all galling. After so many lofty promises in the now long distant past of October and November, we have Anthopolous saying things are rosy, that there is a difference between what they “need and want” and that while they “continue to want to add front of the rotation starters, big bats if we can” that they have done what they need. Which they have if what they need is a way to ensure another fourth place finish in 2012.
More disturbing , Paul Beeston seems happy with that prospect. Earlier this week the Toronto Star reported him saying “by 5 years from now, we’d better surely be in the post season.” FIVE years. Rather like JP Ricciardi’s well-publicized five year plan , circa 2001. For those counting, eleven years later, those five years still haven’t arrived. It’s too bad Beeston didn’t wait until today to make that pronouncement because for Blue Jays fans, it is indeed ‘Groundhog Day’!