Tuesday, May 3, 2005

In the words of Fergie Oliver: How about those Blue Jays

I know it's only early May, but it's a refreshing change. We are a month in to the baseball season and I am still watching Blue Jays games that have some meanning. I must admit it makes the whole viewing experience much more enjoyable when it actually matters to me whether they win or lose, as opposed to when they are 30 games out and a win plus a loss by the first place team will get them back within 29 games. We haven't seen this team play meaningful games in May for a few seasons now. It's a good start, but I keep hearing many boo birds saying that it won't last.

You know the ones - the bunch who jumped on the 1992-93 bandwagon and likely couldn't name 3 players on the current roster. They attended a couple of games at Skydome back when it first opened because they wanted to see the roof open and close. The ones who were sitting in the private box next to my father and I in '89 and asked what we were cheering about when Dave Steib took a perfect game into the ninth inning. I must admit that I believe I do have the right to bash if I so desire since I've still probably watched 60 games a year on TV over the past 10 years, even when the team was in the basement. However, I am not going to do any bashing. I am actually going on record right now as saying that this early season success will last...oh, and I've even included some insight as to why I think this since I have the knowledge to back it up.

Reason #1 - Quality Starting Pitching

This year’s team will not be plagued with the same terrible pitching that has been the norm over the past few seasons. The ace of the staff, Roy Halliday, is injury free now and has returned to his 2003 form. He will once again prove he is the best pitcher in the American League and win another Cy Young award this season. Rookie sensation Gustavo Chacin has been stellar on the mound. His record so far is no fluke - this guy knows how to pitch. He doesn't try to overpower batters, but instead uses his pinpoint control to locate his pitches producing pop ups and groundouts. He provides another arm that can be counted on for quality starts. The team's record is good even without Ted Lily heating up yet. Lily has been bumped to #3 in the rotation in my mind with the emergence of Chacin, but would be a #2 starter on most other staffs. It's only a matter of time before he warms up and is pitching again like he did in his 2004 break out season. Dave Bush and Josh Towers won't be on the all star team, but both can be counted on to pitch in a way that allows the Blue Jays to hang around in a game and give the opportunity to pull off a win.

Reason #2 - Hillenbrand & Koskie

Excellent off season work by JP Riccardi. These two look like bargains - and as a bonus Delgado's salary is off the books. Hillenbrand is an excellent pure hitter, and is willing to play wherever John Gibbons want to put him - 1B, 3B, DH. Not only will he play in the field, but his defence has been outstanding. Koskie had some early season jitters, but looks comfortable now and his bat has come around with it. The best thing about these two is they haven't come in with big egos - they are quality players who want to contribute and do whatever is asked of them in order to win games. These two have provided a nice spark and I believe have made other players around them improve - just like the player I'm going to mention next.

Reason #3 - 2002 AL Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske

Forget about the awful two seasons Hinske has had since then. He is off to a good start and looks like he belongs in the big leagues again. He has come through with some very clutch hits in situations where he would have choked the past two seasons. He is showing maturity as a player and given the Blue Jays another solid bat in the lineup.

Reason #4 - The emergence of a legit closer

Miguel Batista has been very good so far. I was skeptical at first and thought Batista should have remained a starter, but it's tough to argue with 7 saves in 8 chances and a 2.25 ERA. It's been a while since the team has had someone to be counted on to protect the lead in the ninth.

Reason #5 - New Manager, New Philosophy

The players have responded well to Gibbons. Both the offence and the pitching have been good so far, and players such as Hinske and Rios are realizing their potential under the new boss.

Reason #6 - Money to spend

Ted Rogers is willing to open up his pocketbook if the team continues to play well and add a player or two who can help out. Right now my wish list would include a lead off hitter with speed, and a good middle reliever.

A few other notes on the early season:

-The team has scored lots of runs despite their best hitter, Vernon Wells, getting off to a poor start. Wells will come around and I expect 30+ homeruns and 20 steals from him.

-Greg Zaun has done a very good job with the pitchers thus far, and come through with some clutch hits as well.

-Orlando Hudson appears poised to capture his first gold glove. His outstanding play at 2nd base has been fun to watch.

-Hitting coach Mike Barnett was fired after the team went into a 5 game slide. The team has responded under new hitting coach Mickey Brantly by winning 6 out of 7. The firing of Barnett was a good early season move by Riccardi to shake the team up and show that the losing skids the team has gotten use to the past few years must be broken.

As long as the team can stay away from injuries I think this consistent play has a good chance of continuing throughout the summer. And a note to Shane: please refrain from attending Blue Jays games in person. You're presence at the stadium is murder on the standings.

Posted at 2:50 PM by Mike :: 1 comments

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At 9:26 AM, Blogger naedoo did sayeth:

ha HA, yes, I have seen a number of losses the last couple years at the the Skydo...I mean Rogers Centre.

But I don't think even my presence will hurt them this year. I've already seen them beat the Red Sox live, so I think my days as a jinx might thankfully be over.

Some good points here Mike, I hope you're right. I've been enjoying the games so far this season.


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