Half way through- will ’12 be the Jays year?


Will the Blue Jays Make the Playoffs this Year? : well, last night marked the official half-way mark of the season and the Blue Jays end the first half at 41-40, remarkably similar to last year’s finish of 81-81. So I struggled with this question and how to word it. At first I considered, “can” the Jays make the playoffs and the answer to that is certainly, “yes.” But the reality of the situation is much more complicated.


While being in last place in the tough East division seems depressing, the good news is that the Jays are only two and a half behind the second place Orioles. And does anybody really feel the O’s will continue to contend in the second half? Those that answered yes would do well to consider that Baltimore is the only team in the division that has given up more runs than they’ve scored and are relying heavily on a pitcher who has a career ERA of 5 and has let opposition hitters hit .286 off him through his past. And that oft-injured second baseman Brian Roberts is once again injured.


The Jays hitters have come to life of late, and made john Farrell look like a genius with his alteration to the lineup putting Lawrie and Rasmus up front of Bautista. Of late, Bautista of course has regained his major league lead in homers and was AL player of the month for June and Rasmus has come close to making me eat my words by driving in 25 runs in June and upping his batting average by 25 points since May. Clearly this is a team which can score runs by the bushel and is never really out of a game.


That’s the good news. The bad news, as we know, is that the pitching rotation is decimated. Kyle Drabek is gone for years, Drew Hutchison , the come from nowhere suprise of the first half is maybe going to be back in September and Brandon morrow, who finally had it all together, is gone for another month at least. And that leaves us with questionable Henderson Alvarez, ricky Romero, reliever Carlos Villaneuva and whomever they can find in a Home Depot parking lot on game day for the other two spots. The bad gets worse when you consider that Villaneuva, while a more than adequate pitcher, coming from the bullpen is stretched to reach 6 innings, ironically causing more demand for arms in the bullpen like his own. All would not be lost if Ricky Romero was pitching like Ricky Romero, aka the team “ace”. But despite winning 8 games in the first half, Romero has lost increasingly lost out there , whispering his apologies in post-game scrums after pitching his team out of the game time after time of late. That in his last five starts he’s lasted 26 innings is surprising; that he has given up 40 hits and 27 earned runs in that time is appalling. One could almost wish he was injured but apparently he’s a-ok. He just can’t find the strike zone anymore unless he’s offering up a fatty right across the middle of the plate, belt high.


The prognosis isn’t good. Even a good-hitting team, which Toronto is, can’t be expected to put eight or nine runs on the board every night, which is pretty much what they will need to do with the current rotation. Nor can even a good bullpen, which the Jays are close to having, be expected to deliver four or five innings every night and stay fresh and sharp.


Which brings us back to the original question. Can the Jays compete? Of course. All that is required is the addition of a couple of good arms for the starting rotation. Don’t let the naysayers tell you this couldn’t be done: Ryan Dempster, Zac Greinke and Matt Garza are being openly offered up to the highest bidder and I steadfastly believe Seattle wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a good offer for Felix Hernandez, nor would I believe the Phils and Doc Halladay be unwilling to negotiate a way to bring Roy back to Toronto. It could be done. But the price for any of these arms wouldn’t be cheap. Which leads me to the answer to the question will the Jays make the playoffs? Unfortunately, NO.


Despite Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi assuring TV viewers last night that Alex Anthopolous is definitely trying to add to the Jays roster to make a run for it, we have lots of reason to be skeptical. Within days of three starting pitchers going down, all he’d done was acquire throaways David pauley (already off the roster ) and Sean O’sullivan. He did get veteran Jamie Moyer , which is a no-loss situation, but after two starts , Moyer remains in Las Vegas. He should be added to the big league roster; even if he is only so-so now, he can’t be worse than say Joel Carreno or Scott Richmond who have graced the mound lately, and perhaps some of his enthusiasm and 20+ years of experience might rub off on youngsters . Fellow soft-tossing lefty Brett Cecil in particular.


But even adding Moyer would only be a small step up. The Jays would still need to add at least one more rock-solid arm, and there’s no indication they are wanting to do that. They still cling to the mantra of building for the future and talk of “untouchables” through the minor league system as far down as rookie ball. Clearly, they would have to give up something to acquire talent now, and though they have an over-abundance of young outfielders (Travis Snider, Moises Sierra, Anthony Gose and on and on) and good arms at A-level,if they won’t part with any of them we’ll be limited to acquiring the likes of the next David Pauley rather than the next David Cone (ala 1992). the Blue Jays cling too much to the “build for the future” and “five years” mantra to give the fans anything to hope for now.


The Blue Jays will, when all is said and done, have a record remarkably like last year’s. They will leapfrog over the Orioles who cannot continue to fly so high, but end up in fourth, watching baseball in October like the rest of us.


Sigh. Maybe I do have to move to Texas to have a winning club to cheer on.


So, half way in, who will now win the season?

Well, even though Cliff Lee won a game today, his first of 2012, it’s abundantly obvious I (and most other pundits) were wrong about the Phillies. Even if they played .600 from hereon in, they’d still finish at 84-78, out of the playoffs for the first time since a certain George Washington was boating across the river there. The Nats are for real, Bryce Harper is impressive (astounding for a 19 year old) and Washington should hold onto the NL East.

I liked ST louis to win the Central, and I still do, even without Chris Carpenter or a good Adam Wainwright. But the reds should hang on to challenge them. The Pirates, alas , won’t although Andrew McCutcheon is worthy of MVP consideration.


The Dodgers are sinking, Matt Kemp’s big mouth is coming back to haunt him- with his hamstring, he’ll be lucky to hit 20-20 let alone 50-50 and SF are coming on like gangbusters. But I stick with my original prediction of Arizona taking the division when all is said and done and Aaron Hill is finished hitting for cycles.


In the AL, New York seemed the obvious pick for the East. Then Rivera got injured, A-Rod and Teixiera looked old and people started to write the pinstripes off before, lo and behold, like the cat in the hat, they came back. No one’s gonna come close to them again this year, even though CC is as over-rated as he is overweight.


In the Central, the Tigers have been as disappointing as the city they represent itself, yet somehow are only three and a half games out. Yes, fans, if Toronto was only about 300 miles west, the Jays would be winning the division in a cakewalk (not only would their record have them right there but the easier schedule would no doubt have them in first), but tis not to be. So look for the mediocre White Sox (with resurgent but recently slumping Adam Dunn and hot arm most fans have never heard about, Chris Sale) to fight the tigers right down to the wire. My guess; Tigers will still take it, albeit with an underwhelmng 84 or so wins.


In the West, never mind the Rangers 19-2 loss yesterday. They have too much hitting and too much pitching depth due back from the disabled list soon to be seriously run at, although the Angels may still make the wildcard and could be trouble in the playoffs.


Short story: the Nationals go to the World series for the first time, and face off against texas. The winner may rest on which league wins next week’s All Star game, and thus home field advantage, and on how many innings the N’s will let Strasburg’s arm endure.


The Blue Jays… maybe next year. Again.

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