In 2013 no team entered the season having done more to upgrade over the winter than the Blue Jays. In the 2013 regular season however, no team under-achieved more than the same Blue Jays. Despite landing three All-stars in one trade, a reigning Cy Young in another and upping the team payroll by something in the magnitude of $50 mil, the sadsack Jays managed to only upgrade their win total by one measly game- and actually sank in the standings due to the re-emergence of a powerful Red Sox team (much to the chagrin of Toronto fans who were more galled than most realize by the sights of a cheery, friendly John Farrell at the helm, something of the antonym of his demeanour in his Canadian tenure.) That is all ancient history now, as is GM Alex Anthopolous’ oft-repeated commentary last fall that all that was wrong with the team was lousy starting pitching (starting pitching he assembled one might note, although he seemed not to make the connection) . All that was needed to right the ship, he said time and time again, was to add one or better yet, two, quality starting pitchers over the off-season.
Now there’s no denying how bad the starting staff was last year- 29th out of 30 in fact. Even the horrendous Astros put together a more competent rotation than the Jays. After Buehrle and Dickey (who were both consistent innings-eater and acceptable although nowhere near having career years) it was something of a black hole. Highly touted Josh Johnson arrived from Miami and missed half the season with elbow ailments and when he did pitch, merely made Jays fan wish he would ache more often. Brandon Morrow was horrible and missed months with random arm pains. And so on. The assumption of the starters being bad was accurate but also missed the other shortcomings of the ’13 staff- too frequent injuries (by mid-August the entire ‘regular’ outfield was on the DL and would remain so more or less for the remainder of the year), a year of epic failure by one-time “superstar in waiting” JP Arencibia – his .227 on base percentage was lowest of any regular on any team in over 20 years, he led the league in passed balls and throwing errors and managed to start a war of words with the local sports media,- second basemen through most of the year had difficulty (to be kind) playing the position, let alone hitting, and a bullpen which, on the whole was good but which (probably due to over-use) slumped after the All Star break.
Clearly more than a few licks of paint were needed to make the House of the Jay presentable for 2014. This was more of a total overhaul fixer-upper, but the ever-upbeat Anthopolous insisted just one or two more starting pitchers would be just fine and dandy and give Ontario fans a shot at seeing October baseball at home for the first time in two decades.
Now opening day is only a week off and AA has managed to add, well not two,nor one but zero significant pitchers to the roster but remains positively upbeat. He’s consistently told the Canadian press and fanbase this spring that he considers the rotation to be much stronger than last year, despite the absence of new names and the departure of the under-achieving but high-ceilinged Johnson . (Who it might be added is already injured in his new home of San Diego).
Hope springs eternal, it is said, but one must wonder if for Blue Jays fans if the hope isn’t slowly going from one of a distant chance to return to the post-season to one of a hope of an even worse foul-up than last season which it is commonly assumed would bring to a close the Anthopolous chapter (and by extension all traces of the JP Ricciardi era) of baseball history here. For, it’s getting tougher and tougher to ignore that for all his charm and good press conferences, all Anthopolous has managed to do in his time at the helm is to drive them deeper into the depths of the American League basement.
…to be continued