Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hitting the Reset Button, Not the Panic Button

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Growing up, I can't say that I ever hit the reset button on the family Nintendo Entertainment System very often. More often than not, the only instance would occur when somebody bumped the button by "accident" if they happened to be losing.

While hitting the reset button while fully entrenched in the underwater level on TMNT would be met with disastrous results back then, hitting the reset button now might not be a bad idea for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Let me clarify what I mean by reset button; by no means am I insinuating "blowing the team up", firing the manager or resorting to any other extreme measures to shake up the team dynamic. What I mean is to simply forget April ever happened, and move on.

Four weeks ago, excitement about the Toronto Blue Jays was higher than its been in the past 20 years. But it really feels like it's been much longer than four weeks since the Blue Jays took the field on Opening Night, doesn't it?

That's because fans have already been put through the emotional ringer already; and that's only after the first 26 games of the schedule.

All across the blogosphere and Twitterverse, Blue Jays fans are wondering whether now is the time to hit the panic button on the 2013 season. Perhaps the better choice would be to punch the button next to it instead.

Yesterday's off day and the weekend allowed some ample time to think about things, and some time away actually brings some sense of clarity. And hopefully with the off day for the players yesterday, it provided some clarity for the players as well.

I believe it was R.A. Dickey who said something to the effect of "the Blue Jays are a bunch of great players, but they aren't a great team right now". And he's absolutely right about that statement; it's as if there are 25 guys out on 25 different islands right now.

Simply put, the Blue Jays are not playing good, solid fundamental baseball. Rather than finding ways to win, they are finding ways to lose or hand wins over to the other team.

As much as outside expectations aren't supposed to affect players, perhaps there are a lot of guys on the Blue Jays roster who are in fact feeling the weight of the fan base resting on their shoulders. Perhaps they're trying to prove their worth rather than just do what's made them successful in the past.

It's not exactly a quantifiable statistic, but yes this team is definitely "pressing". They are almost trying too hard, and that is clearly evident in their strikeout totals, lack of on base percentage, and their inability to hit with runners in scoring position.

It would be one thing if the Blue Jays were playing sound defensive baseball and pitching extremely well and just not hitting, but that's not the case. On any given night, the Blue Jays struggle to get all three of those things clicking at once.

The pitching is starting to come around, the defense is something that will likely trouble them all year, but the hitting is the one area which is very concerning. The Blue Jays possess some of the best hitters in the league, and yet they continue to struggle at the plate when games late and close.

Given that the Jose Reyes injury was a huge blow to the Blue Jays lineup, but he's still only one guy out of nine in that starting lineup. There are eight others who are expected to step up and contribute in Reyes' absence.

Jose Reyes could still be in the Blue Jays lineup and get on base at a torrent pace, but if the Blue Jays continue to hit .195 with runners in scoring position, it wouldn't matter much anyway if Reyes was healthy anyway.

Also, having a star player injured is hardly a situation that is unique to exclusively just the Blue Jays. Look around the league and you'll see many teams who were picked to be contenders with key players on the disabled list.

Here's where it's difficult as a Blue Jays fan; on one hand, there are the pundits who are telling folks that it's too early to panic. But if the team did get out to a torrent start, then it would come with the same disclaimer; it's still early.

With all this said, I don't believe it's time to hit the panic button on this season. No team's fate is ever completely decided by the end of April. In fact, no team's fate is ever sealed by the end of May, June, July, and sometimes August.

That's the beauty of baseball; in any other sport, a team mired in a month-long slump would be well out of contention. But in baseball, there's still five months of regular season left for the Blue Jays to figure things out.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Flashback Friday: The Pat Borders/Linda Hamilton Look-Alike Photo

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We all remember the time; in 1992 the Toronto Blue Jays were the best team in baseball, and Linda Hamilton (AKA Sarah Connor) was everyone's favourite estranged mother of the saviour of the human race in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

While those two things are total snapshots of the year 1992, what exactly do they have to do with each other? The photo above should tell you everything you need to know.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at this mysterious Pat Borders/Linda Hamilton look-alike photo that's been floating around the past few years.

Hat tip in the direction of your friend and mine, Dave, who initially lead me to this photo in the first place. I don't recall what the circumstances were, but needless to say I was intrigued the moment I saw it.

At least from the side, this woman very closely resembles that of actress Linda Hamilton. Needless to say, the big hair style of the 80's still permeated its way into the 90's, so it could very easily have been any woman.

As fascinating as it would be for the 1992 World Series MVP to have hooked up with Linda Hamilton, it doesn't appear to be the case. At the time, Linda Hamilton was with her future ex-husband James Cameron and Pat Borders was happily married.

In fact, Pat and his wife Kathy had three kids; Lindsay Rae, Levi and baby Luke. So while it appeared as though Pat Borders and Linda Hamilton were embracing, it was merely a husband and wife celebrating the big win.


For those needing further proof that the woman in the photo in question is in fact Kathy Borders, take a closer look at  this collage of all three photos and notice that she's wearing the very same watch on her left wrist in all three photos. Investigative journalism at its finest!


So there you have it ... the myth has been debunked that Pat Borders celebrated the Blue Jays 1992 World Series win by making out with Linda Hamilton in the visitor's clubhouse in Atlanta.

But wouldn't it have been cool if he did?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blue Jays Fans Are Getting a Bad Rap

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Courtesy of Global News
Whether they realize it or not, quite often the actions of a few speak for many. For the most part, the majority of fans of the Toronto Blue Jays are well behaved. But as usual, a few bad apples in the crowd are giving Blue Jays fans a bad rap.

It seems like their reputation has taken quite the a hit lately in the media, and the latest stemming from Justin Jackson's incident over the weekend with Yankees security. There was Justin's story, and then the rebuttal from the Yankees in Brendan Kennedy's piece in the Toronto Star.

The latest development came Tuesday when it was confirmed the patron did in fact throw peanuts at players in the Yankees bullpen. I'm sorry, but at that point I have no sympathy for fans getting kicked out for throwing things, because that's just inexcusable.

Regardless of whether it was a shelled peanut, an unshelled peanut, a bag of peanuts, or a peanut tree, you waive your rights to be treated fairly the instant you throw something.

I found the funniest part was the fan's excuse was he was trying to "pick up the team". Hey, here's a thought; why not cheer on the Blue Jays instead?

The incident raises a bigger question though; are Blue Jays fans as the Toronto Star suggests, among the most unruly and drunkest in all of baseball?

My first instinct is to say "no"; but judging by how select fans have acted the first three weeks of the season, I can certainly see why others around the league would agree with that assessment.

Here's why I'm on the fence about the whole heckling issue; while paying patrons to the Rogers Centre do have the right to cheer or boo for whomever they wish, that doesn't entitle them to be an unmitigated idiot.

What I don't understand is people who pay for a ticket to a Blue Jays game, and then proceed to heckle one of the opposing players for nine straight innings. When I go to a ball game, I go to watch the Blue Jays ... not to yell obscenities at an opposing player.

Another thing I don't get is why some people choose to relentlessly heckle the first or third base coaches, or even players in the bullpen. These guys aren't even in the game, and yet some treat them as though they're the second coming of A-Rod.

Much like the fan who threw peanuts into the Yankees bullpen, it's presumptuous to think heckling the opposition has even a remote effect on the outcome of the game. If anything, all that time and energy would be much better suited in cheering for the home team.

By no means am I indicating that heckling should be banned; a little ribbing here and there never hurt anybody. In fact, some players like Vernon Wells take it all in stride and actually have a great back-and-forth with visiting fans. 

The issue here isn't the majority of fans who come out to cheer on the Blue Jays in a civilized manner, it's the ones that get obliterated and make asses out of themselves - those that get the most attention.

The ones that throw their beers down from the 500 level, throw paper airplanes onto the field, and the ones that generally cannot hold their alcohol. These are the fans that make the front page of the paper and give everybody else a bad rap.

Typically incidents like these at the Blue Jays games have been few and far between in the past, but lately it seems like they've either become much more prevalent or they're garnering much more attention than ever before.

This is hardly is an isolated incident specifically in Toronto; there are misbehaved fans all across the league. In a gathering of 20,000, 30,000 or even 40,000 or more people, there are bound to be a few bad apples in the bunch.

It's just that these misbehaving fans in Toronto seems to be drawing more ire from the media this time around. Perhaps it just fits in with the current Blue Jays narrative; a struggling team with an unruly fan base. Because surely if the team were living up to expectations, maybe this wouldn't even be a newsworthy topic.

When high profile teams like the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees come to town, fans usually come out in droves to the Rogers Centre. But one of the negative side effects of all that extra attention is it puts Toronto under the microscope.

Once the Boston and New York beat writers comment about how unruly the fans are, that's when you know there's a problem. When opposing players make remarks about the behaviour of fans in Toronto, that's when you know there's a problem.

I don't want to sound like I'm a proponent of sitting there quietly at the Blue Jays game and clapping or cheering only at appropriate times. Sometimes folks congregate at the Rogers Centre simply to have a good time, and the game itself is secondary.

Ultimately, everyone who comes to the Blue Jays game should be there in the hopes of having a good time. However, one thing they should not plan on doing is having fun at someone else's expense.

When a select few put a black eye on the Blue Jays fan base, that's what really bothers me. Because I know there are a great deal of true, genuine fans out there ... and unfortunately their voices fade in the background.

Not everyone has to be a die hard Blue Jays fan to go to the game at the Rogers Centre, but everyone does have to be respectful. So please keep this in mind the next time you head to the ballpark.

Be respectful to your fellow fan, because after all ... we're all on the same team here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Week That Was in Blue Jays Land

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It's hard to believe, but week three of the Blue Jays schedule is already in the books. Nearly 12% of their 2013 campaign is behind them, and despite some early-season pitching and hitting problems, the team is finally starting to put it all together.

Toronto closed out the week going 3-4 against Chicago and New York at home, but with a lucky bounce here or there, the Blue Jays could have easily gone 4-4 or even 5-4 at home. Nonetheless, they'll hit the road for Boston three games under .500.

Here are just a few things that stuck out during the week that was in Blue Jays Land.

Brett Lawrie Was Jacked Up


If there's one lasting image that will stick with Blue Jays fans from this past week, it will likely be one of Brett Lawrie flexing his muscles in celebration. Something tells me that prior to the game, Lawrie switched from Red Bull to Powerthirst.

Lawrie's go-ahead RBI double was the turning point in Sunday's game against the Yankees, and that at bat was the culmination of a week of frustration for Brett. Luckily he came up big and it was as if he released a week's worth of pent up energy in one fell swoop.

On Tuesday, Brett Lawrie's presence was felt back at the hot corner with some great defense, and now that his bat is coming around as well, he can return to being that defensive and offensive force the Blue Jays so desperately need.

A Well-Rounded Offense

At times early this season, the Blue Jays have often looked like a one-dimensional offense. If  they weren't hitting home runs, often times they weren't scored very many runs ... if any at all.

It doesn't help when the Blue Jays have a lot of swing-happy hitters in the lineup, namely the two men who lead baseball in strikeouts, J.P. Arencibia and Colby Rasmus, who have struck out a combined 55 times in 18 games.

However, on Sunday the Blue Jays scored a slew of their eight runs in multiple ways. They did it via a sacrifice fly, they were able to string several hits together, and then they added a home run for good measure near the end.

Top to bottom, nearly everybody in the Blue Jays lineup contributed in some shape or form, and that's the type of offense that everyone has been waiting to see breakout for the first three weeks of April.

In their first 19 games of the season, the Blue Jays were held to three runs or less a total of 11 times.

Not that they are out of the woods by any means, but the Blue Jays are finally beginning to show signs of turning the corner in the offensive department. 

Suddenly the Toronto Blue  Jays starting lineup is looking much more like a well-rounded offense as opposed to a one-trick pony that relies exclusively on the long ball to score runs.

The Starting Pitching is Coming Around

After a disastrous first week of the schedule, much like the hitting, the pitching is the second part of the equation to finally come around for the Blue Jays.

According to Doug Walton of Rogers Sportsnet, the Blue Jays starters posted a 7.55 ERA in their first two trips through the rotation in 10 starts to begin the season, but have posted a 3.62 ERA ever since.

The embarrassment of riches in the starting pitching department is finally paying dividends as the starters are not just pitching well, but they're going deeper into games; which also becomes less taxing on the bullpen.

Starting pitching was thought to be one of the strengths of the Blue Jays going into this season, and after a shaky week or two, I think people are starting to believe in the power of Toronto's starting rotation once again.

Adam Lind - Four Walks?

If you check the boxscore from yesterday, you might be inclined to think there's a misprint in the walk column next to Adam Lind's name, but I assure you that he did in fact draw four walks in a single game.

In that game alone, Lind raised his on base percentage 70 points from .310 at the time of first pitch to .370 by game's end. And believe it or not, Adam Lind's nine walks on the season leads the Blue Jays roster.

Of the 23 total pitches that Adam Lind saw in his four plate appearances yesterday, Adam Lind swung at exactly two of them ... two! All he had to do was sit there with the bat on his shoulder, and Lind reached base four times. 

To put things in perspective, Lind drew a total of 29 walks in 93 games last year. So in one single game, Adam matched nearly 14% of his entire 2012 walk total in a single game.

As encouraging as it is to see Lind drawing more base on balls, if he's leading the team in walks, then there's something fishy going on with this lineup.

The Next Two Weeks - A True Test

On Friday, the Blue Jays began a 13-game stretch of games against American League East rivals, and 20 of 23 against teams within the division. That means the next two to three weeks is going to be a true test of this Blue Jays squad.

Their first road trip of the season was forgettable to say the least, so long as run production isn't a problem and the starting pitching continues to hold up their end of the bargain, the Blue Jays shouldn't encounter too much trouble in Baltimore or New York.

That's not to say the Blue Jays should underestimate the Orioles or the Yankees. Both teams are still formidable foes early in the season, and I still have trouble understanding how the Yankees makeshift batting order has lead them to ten wins.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Flashback Friday: George Bell Karate Kicks Bruce Kison

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Courtesy of Mop Up Duty
Typically, baseball is not a contact sport. In fact, it's the furthest thing from it. Aside from the occasional play at the plate or a takeout slide at second, baseball players remain relatively unscathed.

But every once in a while, there is in fact contact in baseball. And when it happens, more often than not ... it's not only controversial, but it's also entertaining.

The Blue Jays have been in their fair share of basebrawls over the years, but none perhaps more memorable than one instigated by George Bell. 

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at George Bell''s karate kick of Bruce Kison.

The event in question happened on June 23rd 1985 against the Boston Red Sox at Exhibition Stadium. Unfortunately, I couldn't find much dirt on the event, but the brief and grainy video below will tell you everything you need to know. 



If you feel like watching replay over and over, check out this isolated GIF of the karate kick itself. While the quality isn't great, the hilarity level is still up there.

Obviously, Bell didn't take too kindly to being plunked by the Red Sox starter, and dropped his bat and charged the mound barreling towards Kison. I have to give Bruce credit, as he didn't even flinch as all 190 pounds of Bell came barreling towards him.

Rather than tackling him or even attempting to land a punch, George Bell's first instinct was to leap into the air and kick Bruce Kison in the midsection. Apparently he also landed a few haymakers on Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman as well.

George Bell was suspended all of two games for this actions, and not surprisingly he didn't appeal the suspension. Two games seems like a slap on the wrist considering Bell landed a kick and a few punches on the opposition. One could only imagine how long a suspension that would garner today.

Although Bell was ejected from the game following his actions, the tension continued throughout the game between the Red Sox and Blue Jays. The penultimate moment being Ernie Whitt's grand slam in the bottom of the 6th off Bruce Kison.

Whitt was clearly seen barking at Kison as he rounded the bases, as evidenced by this video below.



There's no denying George Bell was a very outspoken player during his tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays. Bell often wore his emotions on his sleeve ... and apparently his foot as well.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Day After: Who Was the Scapegoat?

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The day after a tough one-run loss, people want answers. Despite a strong performance by Josh Johnson and homers by Colby Rasmus and J.P. Arencibia, they want to know why the Blue Jays missed a golden opportunity to put away the Chicago White Sox.

Frankly, I don't blame fans for seeking an explanation as to why the Blue Jays let their lead slip away late in the game, but I think any finger-pointing today towards manager John Gibbons is misplaced.

As I was listening to Jays Talk on the way home last night, I simply couldn't understand why so many people were pegging the loss on John Gibbons. In a close game like that, people tend to look for a scapegoat, but Gibby was merely playing the percentages.

You cannot fault John Gibbons for putting in Rajai Davis who is a career .289 hitter against lefties, for Colby Rasmus who is a career .207 hitter against lefties. The numbers do not lie.

Any sane manager would have pinch hit Colby Rasmus in the bottom of the 8th inning with a tough lefty on the mound. Unfortunately, the move didn't pan out for the Blue Jays, but in that particular situation, you simply have to play matchups.

There were some that were pining for Colby Rasmus to remain in the game, but what if he stayed in the lineup and simply struck out against Santiago, as he tends to do often against left-handers? Then fans would have been clamoring to why Gibbons didn't pinch hit for Colby.

What it all boils down to is run production (or lack thereof). More often than not, three runs are not going to be enough to win a ball game. So when runs are scarce, the margin of error is paper-thin.

That's when defensive mistakes become difference makers; like Emilio Bonifacio's miscue in centre field, the throw wide of the line by Rajai Davis and even the wild pitch in the second that allowed Paul Konerko to score from third base.

John Gibbons managerial style is a bit of a departure from what we've seen in the past few years with the Blue Jays. He often employs platoons, he isn't afraid to use his best relievers in high leverage situations, and he doesn't shy away from matchups.

However, I much prefer his managerial style as opposed to a laissez-faire approach, where previous Blue Jays managers might simply let Colby Rasmus swing away in that situation and hope for the best.

The only move I may have questioned by John Gibbons was his decision to keep Steve Delabar out there perhaps for a little too long. Given, Delabar had a clean 8th inning and threw only 12 pitches, but after walking the first two batters, at that point Gibbons should have given Delabar the hook.

If people are looking for a scapegoat for last night's loss, blame the starting lineup. They're hitting a paltry .193 as a team with runners in scoring position. I think that tells you everything you need to know. 

The Blue Jays are averaging just 3.8 runs per game. As a comparison, the lowly Houston Astros are averaging 4 runs scored per game.

Micromanaging the manager's decisions may only have a minor impact on the game, but the fate of the team rests in the hands of the starting lineup, the starting pitcher who goes to the hill, and the bullpen.

It's a simple solution for the Blue Jays, but for some reason it's been a difficult plan to execute the first two weeks of the season; score more runs. If the Blue Jays can do that, then minor mistakes will come out in the wash.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kawasaki Captures Blue Jays Fans' Attention

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Munenori Kawasaki; not your typical household name when it comes to Blue Jays players. 
In fact, he's only been in a Blue Jays uniform for a mere three days. And yet Munenori Kawasaki is quickly making a name for himself in Toronto.

Kawasaki was once the most Giffable player on the Seattle Mariners roster, and in one short evening he made himself the most Giffable player on the Blue Jays roster.



This particular exchange between Munenori Kawasaki and Emilio Bonifacio below (aptly named the "Bow Lo Viste") was one of the more entertaining moments from last night's 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.

Here's a full GIF of the bow/lo viste combination performed in tandem by Kawasaki and Bonifacio.


Both Kawasaki and Bonifacio are both very animated players, and judging by the camaraderie clearly evident in the photos above, I think it's safe to say they're new brand new best friends.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's just something incredibly endearing about watching fellow players adopt each other's mannerisms on the field and in the dugout.

And not only were the Blue Jays players quick to adopt Kawasaki as one of their own, but so too were the fans. How cool was it that in his very first game at home in a Blue Jays uniform, the fans were cheering "KAW-A-SAKI" in his final at bat of the game?

Within mere hours of arriving in Toronto, Kawasaki instantly became a fan favourite.

Lastly, I'll leave you with Munenori Kawasaki and Melky Cabrera bowing to each other. Welcome to the team Munenori Kawasaki ... I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot of these moments over the coming weeks.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Life Without Jose Reyes Begins

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After watching Jose Reyes work his magic in a Blue Jays uniform for two weeks, one could hardly imagine the team without his presence. And then the unthinkable happened ... nearly the worst possible scenario for the newly minted shortstop.

Life without Jose Reyes for the Toronto Blue Jays has officially begun.

It was a very surreal scene to watch on Friday in Kansas City; there was Jose Reyes, an extremely vibrant player, writhing in excruciating pain and in tears on the field. It's the antithesis of Jose Reyes' personality.

To see a player carted off the field is never a good thing; but it's especially concerning to see a typically upbeat guy like Jose Reyes just completely deflated and looking like a man defeated.

Now Jose Reyes is gone for three months, on crutches and not likely to return to the Blue Jays until around the All-Star break. That's huge for a team who heavily relies on a player like Jose Reyes to be a spark plug not only in their lineup, but in the dugout and clubhouse.

So how do the Blue Jays go on without Jose Reyes?

Well, the wheels have already been set in motion with Jose Bautista moving to the hot corner temporarily, Munenori Kawasaki going to shortstop and Brett Lawrie experimenting at his natural position at second base in Dunedin.

As unorthodox as it seems to have an infield of Bautista, Kawasaki, Lawrie and Encarnacion/Lind, it's an infield configuration that's so crazy ... it just might actually work. And frankly, the Blue Jays don't really have any other options at this point.

One thing that was very apparent the first few weeks of the season was the Blue Jays did not have a very good defensive infield. So now with Jose Reyes out, it allows them to reconfigure the infield to give them their best possible fielders on the corners and up the middle.

Even though Kawasaki was called up from Buffalo, there's always the possibility the Blue Jays could seek a new short-term shortstop in trade. It would be difficult to replace Reyes' offense and speed, but plugging in a defensive-minded shortstop would at least be focused on run prevention rather than run creation at the shortstop position.

I think the cost (whether it be via free agency or trade) for a slick-fielding shortstop would be far less than say an offensive one. A player like Brendan Ryan or Clint Barmes doesn't come with the clout or lustre of say an Ian Desmond or Elvis Andrus.

Whichever solution the Blue Jays opt for in the interim, it really is just a band-aid solution until Jose Reyes returns in about three months. It will be a long three months mind you, but the Blue Jays aren't the first team to suffer a setback like this.

The thing is ... good teams find a way to win in spite of injuries.

As badly as the Blue Jays were banged up last year, the New York Yankees were equally decimated by injuries in 2012, if not more banged up than the Blue Jays. And yet they found a way to win their 14th division title in 19 years.

In fact, go through the who's who of MLB's best teams over the past 25 years and you'd be hard-pressed to find a team that didn't sustain at least one injury to a key player during the regular season or the playoffs.

Over at Tao of Stieb, The Org Guy really puts the Jose Reyes injury into perspective; saying "you're not going to prevent the worst from happening, but you can prepare for it and insulate your team from its worst potential effects."

By rearranging the infield and adjusting the batting order, John Gibbons is doing the best with what he has; trying to shore up the defense while also creating a semblance of the on base power and speed that Jose Reyes provided.

This stretch until the All-Star Break will be a true test for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. People thought it was time to hit the panic button after what happened in week one, but what takes place over the next three months will be the true test for this team.

Until then, the Blue Jays will surely be hoping for a speedy recovery for Jose Reyes. While life without Reyes is one they would prefer not to imagine, it's something that's a reality. And how they react to this setback will define this team ... one way or another.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Flashback Friday: Ice Cold Wayne (The "Ice Cold Beer" Guy)

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ICE. COOOOOLD. BEEEEER.

During any given Blue Jays game, those were three familiar words you could hear echoing throughout the concrete confines of the Rogers Centre.

Although some may not have known him name, they definitely knew him when they heard him hawking beer with his famous catchphrase. Of course I'm talking about none other than Wayne McMahon, also known as "Ice Cold Wayne" or the "Ice Cold Beer Guy".

Wayne is the subject of the first Flashback Friday of the season. It's hard to believe it's been nearly five years since Ice Cold Wayne stopped selling beer to patrons at the Rogers Centre ... but it's true.

In 2008, Wayne was let get go rather suddenly and unexpectedly. After fans got wind that Ice Cold Wayne was fired, there was public uproar at the loss of everyone's favourite beer hawker at the Rogers Centre.

Last time I checked, there was an online petition with close to 3,000 signatures in the hopes of giving Wayne his job back. There's no question Ice Cold Wayne was a fan favourite and entertained thousands upon thousands of fans over the years.

I decided to reach out to Wayne to get his side of the story, as well as to see how "Ice Cold Wayne" came to be, and what he's doing now.

How did you get started as a beer vendor at the Blue Jays games?
I was looking to get some part-time work, just to be active. I got paid 20 bucks an hour to hawk beer at a game, I got to see some baseball, which I love. So I applied and they hired me, so I went to work in 2003 hawking beer.
Where did you come up with your famous "Ice cold beer" catchphrase?
That sort of came up for me to distinguish myself from the other beer vendors. It wasn’t the first year, but it was the second year. I started watching the other guys, and some had their shtick and doing way of things.

I’ve been in sales my entire life, and I have a big voice and I know how to use it.

So I just started playing around with a bit, started with the "ice" and the "cold" and I dragged it out a bit. Then little kids, 5,6,7 8 year olds were grinning ear to ear and they just seemed to be loving it ... that’s when I knew I had a winner.
How long was it before people started to take notice of you at the ballpark?
All it took was one season. I started doing it in year two, and by the end of that year, certainly all the regulars knew that was going on. The people that came to the odd game here or there were sort of in shock ... like I wasn’t playing with a full deck or something.

By my third season, it was full blown and people were egging me on to do it. Some of these kids were more interested in seeing the "Ice Cold Beer guy" than the Blue Jays.

I understand it’s tough to keep young kids occupied for three hours to watch a ball game. Giving them the interruption and putting a smile on their face that certainly made things go a little better for them, and the parents loved me for it too.
I wanted to get your side of the story when it comes to what happened in the summer of 2008; the incident that lead to the Blue Jays letting you go. Do you remember what happened that day?
They claim there was a mystery shopper that ordered a beer from me and I failed to ask for identification. I served him two beers without asking for ID. The rule was you had to ask for ID for anyone who looks under 30, and you’re only allowed to serve one beer per customer.

They tell me he was at this particular section, 19 seats from the aisle, and he was 23 years of age. And my claim to them was “I’ve been doing this for a long time, I don’t sell to minors. This guy had to look 30 or I wouldn’t serve him.”

And they fired me, and I was most upset ... I did nothing wrong under the liquor control act.
Do you ever miss selling beer at the Blue Jays games?
I miss it every single game. I haven’t been there for a year, it chokes me right up to be there. When I walk down the aisle, I’ll get calls from people yelling “Ice cold beer!” ... and they’ll start clapping.
What was your favourite part about working for the Blue Jays?
I would love to go down to the bottom of the aisle, with a full row, turn around and look up, and you could see they were all grinning from ear to ear waiting for me to say it.

So I’d do my thing, and it would bring so many smiles, laughter and chuckles to the fans.
My final question for you, Wayne - I'm sure a lot of people are curious, what are you up to these days?
I’m working as a standardized patient for some pharmacy companies and medical companies, and I try to do a bit of voiceover and acting ... just trying to keep busy.
As one hawker among hundreds, Wayne McMahon truly found a way to distinguish himself from everybody else. And he did it all with three simple words that cut to the core of all baseball fans: ice, cold, beer.

Cheers, Ice Cold Wayne.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Anatomy of a Blue Jays Comeback

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Courtesy of Yahoo/Getty Images
Baseball is a wonderful game; one moment your favourite team is seemingly completely out of it with next to no chance of winning. And then the next, your team catches a lucky break and it completely changes their fate.

The great thing about baseball is until that 27th out is recorded, there is always a chance. Down 6-1 to the Detroit Tigers in the fifth inning and a 2.5% chance of winning the game, it didn't appear as though the Blue Jays had a chance ... but they did.

So you're telling me there's a chance? Yes.

Yesterday's 8-6 comeback win over the Tigers may not have had any bearing on whether or not the Blue Jays will make the playoffs, but for some reason it certainly felt like that game had early season implications of what was to come.

So let's relive that fateful seventh inning in which the Blue Jays staged their impromptu comeback over the Detroit Tigers.

At bat #1: Single by Melky Cabrera
WPA Added: 0.40


With Jose Reyes just having lined out to third base, Melky Cabrera wasted absolutely no time in going after the first offering from Darin Downs. It was an 86 MPH changeup right down the middle of the plate, and Cabrera nearly took Downs' head off with another line shot.

It's a little difficult to make out, but in the still above ... you can see that Darin Downs nearly gloved the ball, only missing it by a few inches. But luckily for the Blue Jays, that lucky break was the beginning of their comeback.

At bat #2: Walk by Jose Bautista
WPA Added: 0.42


At first, I thought that Brooks Baseball missed a few pitches in the sequence to Jose Bautista. It actually turns out the third and fifth pitches in the at bat missed the zone entirely and bounced to the plate.

This is where the wheels started to come off for the Brayan Villarreal, as  pitch skipped to the backstop, and had it not been for some great glovework by Alex Avila, Melky Cabera would have advanced to third base as well. 

At bat #3: Walk by Edwin Encarnacion
WPA Added: 0.98


If I were Jim Leyland, this is where I start to panic. Villarreal was actually ahead in the count 1-2 at one point to Edwin Encarncion. EE did a great job of fouling off a couple of tough pitches; one up and in, and the other at the bottom of the zone.

And then Brayan Villarreal proceeded to throw three straight pitches down and away to Encarnacion, but he didn't bite on one of them. In the final pitch of the at bat, EE did check his swing, but it was well low of the strike zone.

At bat #4: Walk by Mark DeRosa
WPA Added: 0.146


Typically, Mark DeRosa might not seem like the type of player you'd want at the dish with the bases loaded. But with a career .350 AVG and five career grand slams, DeRosa was actually a wise choice to have in the lineup in that particular situation.

It turns out he really didn't have to take the bat off his shoulders very much, as Brayan Villarreal did most of the heavy lifting by walking Mark DeRosa on six pitches.

Villarreal was actually ahead in the count 1-2 to DeRosa as well, but subsequently missed his spots. The fourth, fifth and six pitches of the at bat where nowhere even close to the plate, which lead to a run being walked in.

At bat #5: Double by J.P. Arencibia
WPA Added: 0.340


With another right-hander coming to the plate in J.P. Arencibia, Jim Leyland opted to go with his third reliever in the inning, Octavio Dotel. With a career .202 AVG against him, Dotel has made a living of dominating righties, but this time Arencibia got the best of his former teammate.

J.P. was likely just looking to put the ball in play, which would explain why he swung at the first pitch up and in. And then Dotel came in with a 89 MPH cutter in J.P. Arencibia's wheelhouse, and he absolutely crushed the pitch.

Had the ball not hung up in the cold Detroit air, it probably would've had the distance to be a home run. But instead, J.P. split the outfielders and completed the Blue Jays comeback in the eighth inning.

As Lloyd Christmas and the Toronto Blue Jays have shown, sometimes in life ... all you need is a chance.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Week That Was in Blue Jays Land

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Courtesy of Yahoo
The start of the 2013 season began with much anticipation for the Toronto Blue Jays; and although it came with some mixed results, week one is now officially in the books.

It came with it's share of juicy story lines, (Dickey struggles at the Home Opener, Bautista's injury, Farrell's return, the bevvy of home runs), so here are a few brief thoughts on what happened this past week in Blue Jays Land.

Programming note: Patrick and Chris were kind enough to have me on the Triple Play Podcast yesterday to talk about week one for the Blue Jays, so have a listen to the podcast. The Blue Jays segment starts about halfway through.

The Sky is Falling ... It Is Not

The Major League Baseball season is an extremely long one; 162 games in total, 27 weeks, 6 months long. It truly is a grind; and that's why they say a baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint.

Unlike the NFL, people don't have to stew over losses for six days until the next matchup. In baseball, there is almost always another game the very next day. 24 hours later, it's a brand new ballgame.

These are things to keep in mind after a 2-4 week by the Toronto Blue Jays and a 13-0 drubbing at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. It's a long, long season.

At the risk of sounding like your atypical baseball manager, that game is now in the rear view mirror and Tuesday is a brand new day and the beginning of a new series against the Detroit Tigers.

Expectations for the 2013 Blue Jays are sky high, and they absolutely should high. If this were a 16-game NFL schedule, a 2-4 record might be cause for concern. But it's not ... only 4% of the schedule is down and there are 156 more games to play.

Jeff Blair described it best when R.A. Dickey was getting booed on Sunday; fans weren't booing the player per se, they were booing the situation. Fans were booing the fact that their number one starter was getting rocked.

Personally, I don't condone that kind of behaviour from fans, but I certainly understand it.

Don't Worry About Dickey

After a pair of bad starts this week, R.A. Dickey's debut in a Blue Jays uniform didn't go quite as expected. Then again, it's only two starts ... and it's a very long season.

Dickey wasn't the only high profile starter to get roughed up for eight earned runs yesterday, the same also happened to AL Cy Young Winner David Price, Matt Cain and even Cole Hamels.

So I'm willing to chalk it up to just a bad day at the office for R.A. Dickey.

In fact, the Atlanta Braves roughed up Dickey for eight 8 runs in 4.1 innings in early April as well, and then R.A. went 18-5 with a 2.50 ERA the rest of the way, and it netted him a Cy Young Award.

R.A. Dickey even noted himself that he's a bit of a slow starter, and the numbers reflect that; career he has a 4.93 ERA in April, and then it drops nearly a full run to 3.94 in May, and then 3.24 lifetime in the month of June.

The Boomsticks Were Out

Not only were the Blue Jays launching baseballs left, right and centre out of the Rogers Centre this week, so was the opposition. In total, 25 home runs were hit in six games played in Toronto.

It really has been feast or famine for the Blue Jays this week, as 18 of their 22 runs scored this week came via the home run. That means 82% of their runs that crossed the plate this week were due to the longball.

Although this team has to potential to manufacture runs, unfortunately the Blue Jays haven't had very much luck with that. Not to mention, they're dead last in the Majors with a team .091 AVG with runners in scoring position.

So looking at those numbers, frankly it's surprising the Blue Jays managed to scrounge up enough runs to win two games this week and not drop all six of them against the Indians and Red Sox.

Colby Crushes One



Colby Rasmus truly was two different players this week; he struck out six times in the first four games, and then he found his power stroke and started absolutely launching balls over the outfield fence.

Most notably, the home run above traveled 468 feet in total, which was the furthest home run hit in all of baseball this past week. The ball bounced off the facing in the third deck in dead centre field, and frankly I'm surprised it didn't go higher than it did.

It's amazing how effortless and fluid that swing looked by Colby Rasmus. There has been glimmers of it in the past, most predominantly on this grand slam in Spring Training and this moonshot at Yankee Stadium last August.

Hopefully that was just the first of many towering home runs Rasmus will hit this season for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Reyes the On Base Machine

One of the bright spots this week on the Blue Jays roster was unquestionably Jose Reyes. He managed to get in base in all six games this week, and he lead off the first five games for the Blue Jays by getting on base.

That is precisely what this Blue Jays lineup needs; a tablesetter at the top of the order than can get on base for guys with power like Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

Although, there were a few scary moments with Reyes after he bonked his noggin on Asdrubal Cabrera's shin on Thursday and then got tagged in the nether region on Saturday. The fact is that aside from perhaps Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes is the most important bat in the Blue Jays lineup right now.

Despite the Blue Jays batting a paltry 0.091 with RISP, they simply cannot afford to have Jose Reyes miss any time due to injury. It would upset the entire balance of the lineup and would completely change the dynamic of that order.

Luckily Jose Reyes shook those things off, and continues to get on base; reaching in 14 of 22 at bats so far, which translates to a .519 on base percentage. A small sample size mind you, but that's an extremely promising start for the new Blue Jays leadoff man.

Friday, April 5, 2013

John Farrell: Public Enemy Number One

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Courtesy of Yahoo/USA Today Sports
"How's your dream job?"

That is the one chant that will unquestionably be chanted by over 40,000 Blue Jays fans tonight. And rightfully so ... John Farrell has officially become public enemy number one in Toronto.

John Farrell returns to the scene of the crime this evening, coming back to the place where he cut his teeth as a manager. Needless to say he'll receive anything but a warm welcome, as some are attending this game for the sole purpose to give Farrell a piece of their mind.

Not very often does one person alone bring people down to the ballpark, but tonight will be the exception to the rule. In previous years, some former Blue Jays have received their fair share of jeers, but often times it wasn't all that warranted.

The most recent one I can recall was Alex Rios' return at the Blue Jays Home Opener in 2009. The funny thing the Blue Jays were the ones that traded him away, and yet he was booed as if he asked for a trade. Let's not forget ... Alex Rios being dealt to the White Sox lead to Jose Bautista becoming the everyday right fielder.

Then there was A.J. Burnett, who opted out of the final two years of his contract with the Blue Jays could test free agency. To be honest, at the time I harboured a little anger towards Burnett for the decision, but frankly now I can't blame him for doing what he did.

Despite the dislike for former Blue Jays like Alex Rios, A.J. Burnett and even Eric Hinske, it pales in comparison for the vitriol that exists for John Farrell. The difference is the disdain for John Farrell is completely warranted.

Whether Farrell wants to admit it or not, he essentially turned his back on the Blue Jays. I can't quite pinpoint the exact moment his heart left Toronto for Boston, but you could argue that it was never in Toronto in the first place.

It may have been difficult for Alex Anthopoulos to sniff that out in John Farrell's initial interview with the Blue Jays, but AA must have had some inkling that Farrell would at some point want to head back to Boston down the line.

Perhaps the front office was a little preoccupied with hiring the next big baseball mind rather than going for the guy who was the best fit for the job. Anthopoulos even noted that the second time around, he went with his gut in hiring John Gibbons.

In retrospect, looking back at some of the events that transpired with the Blue Jays last year, it's clearly that John Farrell lost control of the clubhouse. So when players like Omar Vizquel were taking flack for not stepping up and policing the team, the finger should really have been pointed squarely at John Farrell.

One thing I wanted to ask Alex Anthopoulos at the State of the Franchise back in January is "what was the tipping point was for the 2012 season". I wanted to know what the catalyst was for the blockbuster trade with the Marlins and the acquisition of R.A. Dickey.

What was the one thing that set it all off? Personally, I believe it was the John Farrell trade that set the wheels in motion.

It wasn't necessarily one of the lowest points in the Toronto Blue Jays franchise, but the optics of it were horrible. 2012 was a season where anything that could do wrong, did go wrong; and the cherry on top was John Farrell all but asking for a trade to division rival.

Things don't get much worse than that.

But maybe that low point in the franchise was the catalyst for everything else that happened this offseason. Because the Blue Jays certainly owed it to the fans to go out and do something after that nightmare of a season and the Farrell debacle.

I think the reason why so people have so much hate for John Farrell is not that he took the Blue Jays manager job in the first place, but that he pit the Blue Jays and Red Sox against each other for his services.

Farrell put the Blue Jays in an impossible situation; either they had to carry on with a manager who clearly didn't want to be there, or they had to trade him away to the Boston Red Sox.

John Farrell simply used the Blue Jays as a stepping stone to get to his dream job in Boston. And that kind of move deserves every boo, jeer and hiss it gets this evening ... and beyond.

For the first time in a long time, there is a certified villain in Blue Jays Land; and his name is John Edward Farrell.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

10 Reasons to Be Excited About the 2013 Blue Jays

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Courtesy of DCN on Flickr
Looking back, it’s very easy to pinpoint the franchise-defining moments of the Toronto Blue Jays. There’s George Bell’s catch in left field to clinch the pennant in 1985, Mike Timlin’s feed to Joe Carter to win the World Series in 1992, and of course Joe Carter’s touch ‘em all home run in 1993.

For a franchise that’s relatively young compared to others, the Toronto Blue Jays certainly have a great deal of history and have a lot to be proud of; namely two World Series trophies.

But as great as it is to reminisce about the Blue Jays glory days from the 80’s and 90’s, it’s time to create new memories.

As the odds-on favourites going into this season, there are a slew of reasons to be excited about the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. Here are just 10 of them.

Courtesy of CBC
R.A. Dickey

It's not every day that a team has the opportunity to acquire a reigning Cy Young Award winner like R.A. Dickey. But the Toronto Blue Jays did exactly that on December 17th, effectively putting the cherry on top of their newly overhauled starting rotation.

From the moment he took the mic at his press conference back in January, it was quite evident that R.A. Dickey isn't your average baseball player ... he truly is something much more.

As a 38 year old knuckleballer born without an ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, R.A. Dickey truly is a freak of nature. Doctors said Dickey shouldn’t be able to turn a doorknob without feeling pain, and yet that doesn't stop him from throwing one of the most unique pitches in all of baseball.

Despite that quirk, Dickey is entering the prime of his career and continues to be one of the most fascinating players in the Major Leagues.

It's not just Dickey's story that's enthralling, but he was a revelation with the Mets last season and was rewarded handsomely with a Cy Young Award. And now he's set to take the mound in the Home Opener for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The acquisition of R.A. Dickey hearkens back to the early nineties when the Blue Jays went out and bolstered their starting rotation by signing the best arms on the market; Jack Morris in 1992 and Dave Stewart in 1993.

The R.A. Dickey trade with the New York Mets truly was the tipping point of this offseason for the Blue Jays. After years of building up the farm system, the Blue Jays finally had the prospects and payroll flexibility to go after a player like Dickey.

R.A. Dickey is the kind of pitcher who captures headlines, and rightfully so. As only one of a few to master the art of the knuckleball, every R.A. Dickey start essentially becomes "must watch television" for Blue Jays fans.

Courtesy of Yahoo
Jose Reyes

He’s an All-Star shortstop. He’s a stolen base and triples machine. He has a career on base percentage of .342. And now he’s the everyday shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Jose Reyes is a premium talent at a premium position. He is the true leadoff hitter the Blue Jays have lacked for many years, and not to mention … he does it all with a huge smile on his face.

For me, it’s still a little surreal to see Jose Reyes in a Blue Jays uniform simply because he’s a once in a lifetime talent. Reyes has received gushing reviews from the top down; from Alex Anthopoulos to John Gibbons and even his teammates.

But the man who spoke most highly about Jose Reyes was his former and once again teammate R.A. Dickey. He gave about as glowing a review as anyone could write in his autobiography “Wherever I Wind Up.”

Here’s how R.A. Dickey best described the unique talent that is Jose Reyes:
“He’s not only a terrific teammate and one of the most gifted players I’ve ever been around, but he’s also probably the game’s single greatest energy source.

His exuberance and energy are unmatched, and so is his ability to win games with his glove, his bat, and his legs.”
R.A. Dickey called Jose Reyes the game’s single greatest energy source.
Hey ... I’m sold.


Joey Bats is Back

Boy, isn’t Jose Bautista a sight for sore eyes. After missing most of the second half, Jose Bautista will be welcomed with open arms back to the heart of this lineup and in right field.

More than any other player on the roster, Jose Bautista is the lynchpin for the Toronto Blue Jays. When Bautista suffers, the Blue Jays suffer. So it’s no coincidence that the Blue Jays run production took a nosedive after Jose Bautista sustained a wrist injury just after the All-Star break and his subsequent season-ending surgery in August.

Without Jose Bautista in the lineup, the Blue Jays scored an average of 1.15 less runs per game. The Blue Jays also posted a 28-44 record the remainder of the season with Joey Bats absent on the lineup card.

Even though they have a much more balanced lineup this year, the Blue Jays will still rely heavily upon the offensive contributions of Jose Bautista. They’ll be hoping that Joey Bats won’t feel any ill effects of his wrist injury, and frankly the team can’t afford to.

To no fault of his own, what hurt Jose Bautista’s MVP bid in 2010 and 2011 was that he didn’t play for a contending team. Not only that, but Bautista was virtually on an island all by himself in the Blue Jays lineup.

So just imagine what kind of MVP-esque numbers a healthy Jose Bautista could put up with this impressive supporting cast surrounding him.

Courtesy of SI
The Revamped Rotation

Time and time again the pundits say the same thing regarding starting rotations; “pitching wins championships”. And while the Blue Jays have had some championship calibre pitchers before, they haven’t had a championship calibre starting rotation for a very long time.

The Blue Jays essentially overhauled their entire starting rotation this season; acquiring the reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, a former National League ERA champ in Josh Johnson, and a perennial workhorse with 12 consecutive seasons of 200 plus innings in Mark Buehrle.

Just as a comparison, last year’s Opening Day starting rotation comprised of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Joel Carreno, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek. Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays starting pitchers had the 6th highest ERA among all 30 teams in baseball.

Since the departure of Roy Halladay, the Blue Jays starting rotation has lacked that true “ace”. The way this starting five is constructed, one could argue there are two or even three aces up their sleeve now.

Needless to say, the 2013 starting rotation is a huge upgrade compared to last year. No longer does the skill level fall completely off a cliff after the second or third starters. This rotation has a great balance of power pitchers in Morrow and Johnson, and soft-tossing R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle.

Throw in the crafty lefty J.A. Happ, and the Blue Jays no longer have a glaring weakness when it comes to starting pitching.


The Speed

By nature, baseball is an extremely slow sport. That is until a player like Jose Reyes gets on base. Just make sure you don't blink, because you might miss some blazing speed on the base paths.

Last season, the Blue Jays possessed a lot of speed, but clearly John Farrell did not know how to harness it properly. Players constantly ran into outs and there were numerous baserunning gaffes, despite having players with the natural ability to steal bases.

John Gibbons has already stated that Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and Rajai Davis have the green light to run at any time. Including those three guys, the Blue Jays have five or even six legitimate threats to steal 15 or more bases each this season.

There’s another unique opportunity all these speedsters provide John Gibbons, and that's the ability to have speed at both the top and the bottom of the lineup in Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio.

So that makes a stolen base bookend, which I can’t ever recall the Blue Jays having speed in both the 1 and 9 spots in the lineup.

One weapon the Blue Jays have which many teams do not is a professional pinch runner. The man who had the second most stolen bases in the AL last season , Rajai Davis, is the Blue Jays pinch-runner/fifth outfielder.

That is a huge ace in the hole for the Blue Jays to have games which are late and close. No longer does Rajai Davis have the daunting task of getting on base; John Gibbons can simply have Davis pinch-run late in a game and let him run wild.


The Return of John Gibbons

Some would say that at best, even the best manager only has a negligible impact on the game. There is no man who’s more aware of this than the man affectionately known as "Gibby", Blue Jays manager John Gibbons.

Even Gibby himself noted that his job this season as the new skipper will essentially be to just let his players play:
“That's our number one job; get the most out of these guys and get out of the way, to be honest with you.”
John Gibbons is a true southern gentleman; he isn’t trying to prove his worth and he certainly doesn’t manage with a chip on his shoulder, unlike his predecessor.

Overall, Gibbons seems like a very likable and relatable person; a quality which much be very beneficial when managing 25 different personalities in the clubhouse.

Gibbons returns to the Blue Jays with a reputation of being a bullpen savvy manager, as well as a man who enjoys employing the occasional platoon.

Let’s be honest … for the most part, this team is going to run itself. But it will require an astute manager to get the most out of certain players and determine which roles fit them best in order to maximize their performance.

In addition to the return of John Gibbons, the coaching staff also boasts new names like the highly touted DeMarlo Hale and Chad Mattola, and old faces Dwayne Murphy, Luis Rivera, Pete Walker and Pat Hentgen in new roles with the club.


Brett Lawrie at the Hot Corner

Offensively speaking, the Toronto Blue Jays shouldn’t have any trouble at all scoring runs this year. Defense however, is a different story.

While the starting lineup is virtually stacked from top to bottom, one thing the Blue Jays are sorely lacking is any Gold Glove calibre defenders. That is with one exception: Brett Lawrie (and to a lesser extent, Mark Buehrle).

Lawrie has shown that he’s willing to do anything for an out, almost to a fault. Whether he’s diving into a camera well or careening off a wall in foul territory, one thing most people can agree on is Brett Lawrie plays some incredible defense at the hot corner.

In 2012, Brett Lawrie saved 20 runs with his glove alone, which was the most by any third baseman in baseball. Couple that with the 14 runs he saved in 2011, Lawrie has saved 34 runs the past two seasons, which is the second most in all of baseball.

Just imagine how a healthy Brett Lawrie could be poised to produce a continuous highlight reel of miraculous plays at the hot corner this season.

Courtesy of National Post
The Dominican Blue Jays

Without a doubt, the most exciting part about the World Baseball Classic was watching the Dominican Republic team play their energetic style of baseball. And to think, the Blue Jays have six players from the D.R. on their roster.

One only hopes that some of that energy Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion displayed at the WBC will not only carry over to the Blue Jays, but that it will also rub off on fellow Dominicans Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Emilio Bonifacio and Esmil Rogers.

Judging by some of the photos the players posted on their trip back to Toronto, it seems like there is a real kinship between the Dominican players on the Blue Jays roster … something that can only be beneficial to the performance of this team.

The Dominican contingent is something that’s always been prevalent with the Toronto Blue Jays, dating back to the 80’s when George Bell, Tony Fernandez and Alfredo Griffin all hailed from the D.R.

And now that Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion have tasted success at the World Baseball Classic, surely they’ll be looking to add another trophy to their case this year: a World Series ring.

Courtesy of Toronto Sun
AA Isn’t Messing Around

One thing became very evident after the Blue Jays decided to send Ricky Romero to Dunedin and opted to choose J.A. Happ as the fifth starter; they aren’t messing around this year.

In previous seasons, Anthopoulos might have been inclined to stick with certain players and let them dig themselves out of their slumps. Not any longer. With the amount of talent this team has for a relatively short period, time is not a luxury the Blue Jays have any more.

One thing AA has preached numerous times over the past few months is the importance of "depth". By depth, he really means options; now the Blue Jays have options at who to play at centre field,and they have options at who to play at third base.

The rope will definitely be very short on questionable players like Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind. Now that reinforcements are in place, the Blue Jays should not hesitate to adjust those players' roles if need be.

The wheels have already been set in motion, as John Gibbons announced Adam Lind will not face left-handed starters to start the season.

On the flip-side, as quickly as Alex Anthopoulos might be possessed to subtract players from the roster, he could also add them. Come July if the Blue Jays need some help at the trade deadline, they could become buyers when in previous years they have been sellers.


It's the Beginning of a New Era

Think back to how long it’s been since people were this excited about the Blue Jays.
Think back to when the Blue Jays looked this good on paper. It’s been 20 years.

Sure, there's always been a sense of optimism for the Blue Jays on Opening Day, but the way this roster is constructed, the excitement will last well beyond the Home Opener.

This year, it isn’t going to take an inordinate amount of things to break right for the Blue Jays to have a shot. It isn’t going to take career years from the majority of the players for them to have a contender. All these guys need to do is simply do what is expected of them to put forth a winner.

The great thing is the Blue Jays don’t have all their eggs in one basket so to speak this year. 2013 is not one last-ditch Hail Mary pass by Alex Anthopoulos to save his job. This team is built to be a sustainable winner. Not just this year, not just 2014, but 2015 as well.

The Blue Jays aren’t just built to contend, they’re built to win.

Regardless of what happens this year, one thing’s for sure; 2013 is going to be a very exciting season for the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans. And it all begins tonight … at the Blue Jays Home Opener.
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