I am already having a hard time remembering these last 20 years of Blue Jays baseball – the Glory Days of Mediocrity, the post-Carter Home Run era when expectations of averageness were all the rage in Toronto and caring about what happened at 2nd base was a teenager’s issue. Alex Anthopoulos has quite clearly lost his mind - or alternatively has decided, unlike fellow Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo – to take his job seriously and not just accept at face value that no ‘stars’ want to play big league sports in T.O. Pending a physical, last year’s National League Cy Young winner and knuckleballer extra-ordinaire R.A. Dickey will be on his way to Toronto in a deal that involves highly touted prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard being sent hurtling into the black hole of talent known as the New York Mets. Along with his $5M salary for 2013, Dickey gets a 2-year extension valued at $25M, a bargain for a pitcher who went 20-6 last year and logged 230 Strikeouts while eating up 233 2/3 innings.
Just spit-balling here but I think this should take some of the pressure off of Ricky Romero whose second half Waldo impression last season left fans and coaches confused and concerned. The 2013 starting rotation has the makings of a dominant staff with Dickey likely receiving the Opening Day honours, newly acquired ex-Marlins Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle filling 2 slots and Brandon Morrow and Waldo rounding out the 5. Is it Hentgen, Guzman, Stewart, Stottlemyre, Morris? Maybe not quite but that ’93 version holds a very special place in our hearts and what we conveniently tend to forget – no 20-Game winner, lowest ERA was Hentgen’s 3.87 and other than Guzman’s 194 SO’s, nobody else bested 122. And that’s the lesson to all those claiming that d’Arnaud and Syndergaard were too heavy a price to pay – prospects make for great kitchen table, dynasty fantasy league discussion but when push comes to shove, give me Eddie Harris out there throwing 8 innings of Major League junk every time and we can all sing “Wild Thing” in the 9th when some guy from the penal league comes in to close it out.
Let’s for now assume that Anthopoulos is finished with the wheeling and dealing and Rogers has decided to keep payroll for 2013 in the sub-$150M range – both could make asses out of us – we can safely prognosticate that Alex’s Army should at the very least be competitive in the American League East. Las Vegas odds – for those that consider such things – have shifted from 100-1 before South Beach came north to a rather un-stomachable 10-1 in the new Dickey era. While the pitching staff may very well be the best in MLB, the batting line-up offers opposition pitchers little in the way of respite from top to bottom. Latest projected: 1) Jose Reyes (SS), 2) Melky Cabrera (LF), 3) Jose Bautista (RF), 4) Edwin Encarnacion (DH), 5) Brett Lawrie (3B), 6) Colby Rasmus (CF), 7) Adam Lind (1B), 8) J.P. Arencibia (C), 9) Maicer Izturis (2B). Joey Bats has to be waiting for the other shoe to drop and someone to wake him from his own remake of Field Of Dreams reverie.
The team will be exciting… of that there is little doubt. There is power, speed, pitching and glaring defensive weaknesses which will give some over-expectant Fans fits in the late innings of games but, the fact remains – it is December and there is a buzz for baseball in Toronto that hasn’t been palpable since Cito Gaston called The SkyDome his office. While the Yankees continue to get older, the Red Sox retool from Bobby Valentine’s Massacre and the Orioles and Rays tread water, it is the Blue Jays that have made the biggest splash and while the chemistry of this team is yet to be put to the Litmus Test, one has to admire Anthopoulos for at least being willing to experiment. “Sir, I have Mr. Colangelo on the phone… he’s wondering if you have any need for some soft Europeans to make up the numbers…oh…yes sir, I will have him give Mr. Gillis a call in Vancouver.”
Until next time Kelowna… hold your children close this season and always, and we will talk again in the New Year…