By Matt Mistele
May 16, 2011
Yes, this is absolutely an attempt to cash in on a headline in its dying hours of relevancy.
Let’s disguise that with a question: How does one best evaluate the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays at the season’s quarter pole?
Let’s disguise the answer with another question, so I can avoid saying anything definitive and play with rhetoric: If my answer to the above is, basically, “It could and should have been worse,” would that be considered pessimism or optimism?
So far, things haven’t exactly been sunshine. Literally. And there have been some absolutely gut-wrenching moments. Yunel Escobar narrowly avoided a major concussion. One night, the team blew a 7-0 lead against one of the worst teams in baseball. And amidst The Curious Case of Brett Cecil’s Slow-Motion Fastball, opposing hitters shelled the former 15-game winner all the way back to AAA.
But, a proper midterm report card needs to be cumulative. Big picture. It can’t be influenced by individual moments of failure, the current five-game winning streak, or Jose Bautista’s ability to simply will baseballs over the left (and now apparently, right) field walls.
This is an all-things-considered discussion. And, all things considered, fans should consider the 2011 Jays pretty impressive thus far.
This is a young, inexperienced team who traded their rotation leader/#1 starter and clubhouse leader/#4 hitter during the previous offseason. Technically, they were replaced on the roster with…no one. Roles were re-defined, but there was no incoming talent to offset the departures of Shaun Marcum and Vernon Wells
But here we are, May 16, and the kids are playing .500 baseball in the AL East without those assets in place.
Even with secondary additions in the form of Rajai Davis, backend bullpen help, and a non-Cito-impeded promotion of JP Arencibia to the starting backup’s job, don’t be fooled.
You may be able – rightfully – to argue all of Anthopoulos’ moves mentioned above were good moves. The right moves. But on paper, the current team is no doubt worse than last year’s squad.
Is #HustleAndHeart really that powerful? Can you really out-try someone in the game of baseball when they have you out-skilled and out-experienced?
Funnily enough, I’d consider all that nothing more than a preface to the real issues in play. Allow me to illustrate, with a subjective and arbitrary example.
The Jays opened the season with a lineup that looked like this...
…and almost every hitter in the top seven has missed significant time.
Davis was out 19 games, due to an ankle sprain and unfortunate re-aggravation. Escobar’s missed 2, due to his near-concussion/near-miss, phrased depending on which you remember being more of: frightened or relieved. Bautista’s missed 8, for the birth of his daughter and a bout of neck spasms. Lind’s missed 8, largely due to back trouble. Hill’s missed 17, hamstring issues. Encarnacion’s missed 10, amongst wrist injuries. And Snider – well, he simply can’t hit a curve ball and has missed the last 15 big league games refining his timing in Las Vegas.
Despondent? Shocked? Desperately looking for a silver lining? Fine, look at it this way:
The 2011 Toronto Blue Jays have managed a .500 record through 40 games, despite the fact that all but one of their top seven hitters have missed at least 20% of the games.
That is some uncharacteristic success for injury-riddled ballclub. Let alone a rebuilding, young, injury-riddled ballclub.
Make of it what you will. I don’t really have a thesis beyond the observation.
Even if I did, I’m afraid I’d find myself accidentally supporting the notion that replacement players of the Corey Patterson ilk have carried the team in the absence of others (a wonderful illustration of my own bias, as I wouldn’t hesitate to give Johnny Mac more credit than he deserves in that same area).
It’s too early to make conclusions. All we have are early evaluations, and at best, those lead to open-ended generalizations by me:
Young team, injury ravaged, playing .500 ball in mid-May.
Either you have to consider that to besomething positive...or I can’t help, because the Seasonal Affective Disorder’s already got you.
Half Done, Kid Won
Well, technically, she didn’t “win.” But my sister took down the half-marathon in Toronto yesterday.
Consider it a major personal victory worthy of a shoutout. Product of a great attitude and extremely intense training program which, incidentally, seemed to take more out of the cat.