Tomorrow’s the Big Day. Well, probably not the big day, but it is the day we find the All Star Game roster… unlike past years, the entire rosters, save for the final spot (to be voted on by fans as has been the practise for the past few years) are announced all at once rather than having the starting lineup , as chosen by fans, were announced days in advance of the subs.
Anyway, this year the announcement holds a little less interest than usual for the Jays and fans. Justin Smoak isn’t repeating his 2017 boffo first half, Josh Donaldson has been injured more than active and we’re now in the post-Bautista era (as an aside, check out Joey Bats’ New York numbers… after a slow, brief start with the Braves, he’s been heating up with the Mets, with an on base percentage of over .400 ) . In short, there are no obvious Jays’ candidates to be on the squad.
It seems almost inevitable that the rep for Toronto will be a pitcher. Kevin Pillar’s outfield “D” is brilliant as ever, but a gold glove won’t get you in when you’re hitting below .250 and are on pace for 50 RBI. Teoscar Hernandez has the best OPS for the Jays so far, .823, but as such he’s still only 24th among regular position players, hardly making a claim to be among the AL’s elite outfielders.
Most assume the All Star Blue Jay for ’18 will be JA Happ, and they may be right. Happ has been rock solid once again for Toronto, going 10-4 with a decent ERA of just over 4. Happ tries for #11 later today, against a team most seem to assume he’ll be with in August – the Yankees. I for one, hope they make a diligent effort to re-sign JA, and hold onto him. The organization has plenty of talent coming through the ranks at positions (Guerrero, Bichette, Biggio etc.) but is thin on new blood on the mound beyond Ryan Borucki who’s already here. Happ could be a good veteran anchor to build the rotation around for the next couple of years. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that he might be in a different uniform by the mid-season Classic.
While Happ has been good, it’s not without merit to suggest he’s not an All star. Granted, there’s something to be said about the “right stuff”- like Jack Morris and others before him, Happ seems to know how to pitch just well enough to get the “W” for his team… if you go 10-4 on a team with a losing record, you’re doing something right! But, Happ is just 20th in the league in innings pitched (102 2/3) and his ERA is highest among pitchers with double-digit wins. Since we, as well as every team, get at least one rep (have fun finding a Royals All Star) I would suggest that the proper choice would be Tyler Clippard.
Clippard has done an admirable job of anchoring an overall strong bullpen.The bullpen which has been a highlight of an otherwise rather forgettable season. With 44 appearances, he’s pitched in over half their games and is tied for second in the AL. He’s got a 4-2 record (not that the win-loss counts for much among relief pitchers) and a very decent 3.02 ERA. Not to mention his 6 saves after being thrown into the fire as ergo “closer” upon the suspension of Roberto Osuna. The last time Tyler held that role was in 2015, in the part of the season he spent with the A’s.
Will he be? Probably not. Should he be? I think so. If this past winter, I’d have advocated Clippard for the All Star team, it wouldn’t have surprised me much. I’ve long thought he was one of the better, more under-rated relievers around. What I wouldn’t have expected was for him to be the only suitable choice for the Blue Jays. And that, in a capsule, summarized the disappointment of the 2018 season.