The Toronto Blue Jays have been alone in or tied for first place for about two weeks now and it seems more nerve wracking than it has ever been. Remember those calm days of the past where the only thing that troubled us in Blue Jay land was is management really going to send Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen? That was literally the main concern for weeks for Blue Jays fans and regardless of how much talk-time was put in broadcasting or how much coloumn inches were given to it in the press, no one…. I mean no one, ever predicted that it would turn out like this.
John Gibbons knows that moving Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen will not be a popular move. pic.twitter.com/VRpHLaVl5s
— Tim and Sid (@timandsid) July 20, 2016
Oh sure some people said there was no way a Cy Young candidate was going to head to the bull pen, but even they didn’t imagine it would be because of a six-man rotation and being optioned to the minors. With the addition of lefty Francisco Liriano at the trade deadline, GM Russ Atkins visited the clubhouse to talk to the pitchers about what to do with Sanchez. It was a response to some notable backlash from Russell Martin, Manager John Gibbons and other players who want to win now and feel that can only be done with the kid pitching as a starter. So these alternative courses of actions took place to accommodate the whiz kids arm and unfortunately we won’t know if it was a success until the future, but we should at least acknowledge that it at least mitigated the one main issue they had. But this is Toronto and we sure as heck don’t do anything easy around here. All of a sudden, there are a significant number of issues cropping up and we are running out of time or space to discuss them all.
We will start with the starting rotation (bad pun yes, but I really always wanted to say that) where once upon a time it was considered one of the best in the American League. Lately however, they are showing signs of aging. Marco Estrada’s back problem should have been helped by the extra day’s rest, but it hasn’t and he has pitched worse. Marcus Stroman has pitched better in the second half but has had a string of bad luck. For Stroman to be successful he has to be a ground ball pitcher. In his last start he did manage 14 ground balls, but 8 of them had eyes and holes in the infield costing 5 runs. R.A. Dickey has had difficulty with giving up the long ball all season and his starts also mean that Russell Martin is out so Jim Thole can catch. It’s not the end of the world but if the Blue Jays do make the post season, it most likely will be without the veteran knuckleballer and his sidekick catcher.
Fans also began to realize that we had an issue with the bottom of the lineup as Justin Smoak, Melvin Upton Jr. and Michael Saunders continued in their slumps. Jose Bautista was hurt again and now apparently has been a liability in right field and should DH a lot more. But that would mean, Edwin Encarnacion is forced to play first base. He can play the position but again, there are better defensive options. So Gibby has a lot of moving parts on this team and that is even before rosters expand to 40 players next week. As with a lot of things, sometimes having too many options is a bad thing, especially for a player-manager like Gibby as he tries to do right by his players. The problem is there are only 8 defensive positions and only 9 batters in each games layout and Gibby has to figure it out in a hurry as there are about 30 games left in the season.
Josh Donaldson's 3rd home run of today's game pic.twitter.com/k2xXmzef8y
— gabrielle || JD²⁰☔️ (@TeamJDonaldson) August 29, 2016
Despite the flaws that we see in this team and how lucky they have been to win some games of late, one thing still astounds me. They are still in first place. After losing two out of three against the Angels they were fortunate to find out the Red Sox and the Orioles were also struggling. And when they beat teams like they should (Twins) they have a difficult time and have to score late and often to win those games. Say what you will about all the issues they have, but the one thing this team has by the boatloads are competitors. Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Encarnacion, Martin and Bautista only know how to play one way and the entire team is adapting that philosophy. They may not be playing pretty baseball the rest of the season and at times may look nowhere near what a championship team should; but this squad plays hard each game and takes nothing for granted. Despite Toronto fans being very good at worrying, they can fret over all the issues that are impacting this team, just don’t forget to enjoy this team and the games as well. This pennant race will be a joy to watch even if they still make you rip your hair out in frustration. Well that’s the excuse for my baldness anyway… and I’m sticking to it.
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