Regular Season Reflections – Highlights, Lowlights and Everything In Between.

opening day

It is hard to believe that 162 games have already come and gone, it honestly feels like Opening Day just happened…

With the regular season wrapping up on Sunday, the “real” season is ready to start up on Tuesday night as the A’s and Royals face off in the AL Wild Card game, followed by the Pirates and Giants in the NL Wild Card game on Wednesday night. With the post season on the horizon lets take a look back at the highs, lows and everything in between that got us to where we are…

The Highlights:

Royals 2014

The Kansas City Royals did the unthinkable; they actually managed to make it BACK to the post season for the first time since 1985. In doing so, they ended up breaking the longest post season drought and handed that honour over to the Toronto Blue Jays (sigh).

The Royals were criticized for moving MLB’s top prospect (Wil Myers) for James Shields and Wade Davis before the start of the 2013 season and were further criticized when that move failed to get them into the post season, while Wil Myers went on to win AL Rookie of the Year in Tampa.

Luckily for GM Dayton Moore and his job the 2014 season would see Shields anchor a solid and young rotation, while Davis helped solidify an already airtight bullpen and in doing so, the Royals are off to the Playoffs for the first time since the Reagan Administration. What a difference a year makes.

Morneau

It’s hard to believe that it has almost been a decade since Justin Morneau won the AL MVP as a Minnesota Twin. Once regarded as one of the premiere 1B and power hitters in all the game, Morneau’s career nearly got completely derailed thanks to a concussion and the resulting effects of Post Concussion Syndrome. Morneau struggled so mightily that the organization that drafted him (the Twins) traded him to the Pirates as a rental player for .10 cents on the dollar in 2013.

After helping the Pirates make it to the post season for the first time since 1992, Morneau was looking for a new gig this offseason when the Rockies offered him a 2 yr/$12.5 million dollar deal. He quickly thanked them by posting his best stats since 2010. His .319 average this season was good enough to take home the NL Batting Title and despite not being voted in by the fans for the All Star game in Minneapolis this season, he was named to the NL Home Run Derby team by captain Troy Tulowitzki.

The Twins faithful made sure to acknowledge their former MVP.

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/81536970/v34576985/hrd-morneau-receives-standing-ovation-in-minnesota/?query=justin%2Bmorneau%2Ball%2Bstar%2Bgame

trout-and-kershaw

Fans in California are spoiled. Not only do they have FIVE teams to choose from, but they also have the benefit of seeing some of the best players in the game today on a consistent basis. Fans in LA and Anaheim have the luxury of seeing the Dodgers and Angels and their STACKED rosters of perennial All Stars and former MVP and Cy Young Award Winners. The Angels have former 3x NL MVP Albert Pujols and AL MVP Josh Hamilton.

While the Dodgers counter with Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig, hell even Matt Kemp almost won an MVP. With that being said, it looks like there will be even more hardware coming to LA LA Land as both Trout and Kershaw look poised to take home the MVP awards from their respective leagues. Oh and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that Kershaw is an absolute SHOE IN for the NL Cy Young Award.

If Kershaw does in fact win both the Cy and the MVP, he will become the first NL pitcher since (my boy) Bob Gibson did so in the infamous “Year of the Pitcher.” (1968).

Bob-Gibson

Meanwhile in the Bay Area both the Giants and the A’s are hoping to advance past the Wild Card round on the strength of their arms alone. The A’s decided at the Trade Deadline that they needed to solidify a position that was already a strength (starting pitching) in exchange for top level prospects and one of their few sources of offensive power. Instead of just going out and picking up one pitcher, A’s GM Billy Beane decided that he wanted ALL THE PITCHING.

Jason Giambi To Return To Oakland A's Next Season

In two separate moves the Athletics added SP Jeff Samardzjia and SP Jason Hammel from the Cubs in exchange for top prospects SS Addison Russell, OF Billy McKinney and SP Dan Straily. Just over a week later, Beane took advantage of a fire sale in Boston and picked up Jon Lester and Johnny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes. Beane’s mindset was that he needed pitching in order to stack up against the power arms in Detroit, as well as neutralize the big bats in Anaheim.

Unfortunately for Beane and the A’s, you also need to score runs in order to get to the post season and by trading Cespedes, the A’s had given up one of their premiere run producers. Luckily for the A’s, they would be helped out by a floundering Mariners squad and easily secured a post season berth.

Across the Bay in San Francisco, the Giants were coming to the realization that their once dominant rotation may be a thing of the past. Injuries to Matt Cain and ineffectiveness of Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong saw the Giants forced to make the additions of veteran Tim Hudson in the offseason and Jake Peavy at the trade deadline. Luckily for the Giants faithful, the reinforcements helped patch the holes in a thin rotation and backed by Madison Bumgarner, the Giants could make some noise in October.

Sorry San Diego… you stay classy.

fister

The offseason move that no one talked about was hands down the acquisition of Doug Fister by the Nationals. Fister was able to slot in behind an already menacing rotation led by Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. Throw in the surprising Tanner Roark and the Nationals had arguably the best rotation in baseball this year.

An even bigger benefit for the Nationals was the fact that the rest of the NL East was the weakest it has been in recent memory. The only real threat to the Nats this season was the Braves and the Braves were never able to really rebound from the injuries sustained to their starting rotation. The Nationals rotation capped the season off in style as Jordan Zimmermann became the first Nationals pitcher to throw a no hitter. He did have a little help from OF Steven Souza Jr. who picked a great time to do his best Dwayne Wise impression.

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/70087564/v36687991/miawsh-souza-dives-to-seal-zimmermanns-nono/?query=zimmermann%2Bno%2Bhitter

waino

Should we really be shocked that the Cardinals are playing baseball in October? That is the tradition after all. What has also become a recent tradition has been Adam Wainwright’s inability to win a Cy Young Award.

Trust me; it’s not for his lack of trying. It’s just the old cliché of always being a bridesmaid but never being the bride. The main problem for Waino is that he decides to have his career years in the same year that someone else is having a historic year.

In 2009 he finished 3rd in voting behind Tim Lincecum and Chris Carpenter, despite the fact that Waino had arguably the better numbers.

Lincecum: 15-7 • 2.48 ERA • 225.1 IP • 261 K’s • 1.05 WHIP

Carpenter: 17-4 • 2.24 ERA • 192.2 IP • 144 K’s • 1.01 WHIP

Wainwright: 19-8 • 2.63 ERA • 233 IP • 212 K’s • 1.21 WHIP

In 2010, Wainwright won 20 games for the first time in his career and still finished 2nd behind Roy Halladay and his 9 complete games. Last season, Waino was once again the runner up in Cy voting behind the eventual winner, Mr. Clayton Kershaw.

And that brings us back to this season. Once again Waino has won 20 games and put up a stat line that would normally warrant a Cy Young award. But instead it looks like Wainwright will be digging through the closet and picking out his best bridesmaid dress as he looks to finish runner up (yet again) in Cy voting. Once again Waino’s best isn’t good enough and once again he will be runner up to Mr. Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw: 21-3 • 1.77 ERA • 198.1 IP • 239 K’s • 0.86 WHIP

Wainwright: 20-9 • 2.38 ERA • 227 IP • 179 K’s • 1.03 WHIP

More Highlights:

• One season removed from a Biogenesis suspension and Nelson Cruz turns out to be the best free agent signing of the year. Cruz’s 40 Home Runs were good enough to take home the AL Home Run title this season. He also added 108 RBI and a .271 batting average in 159 games for the 1st place Orioles.

• The White Sox and Jose Abreu for proving doubters wrong… big time. Abreu is easily the consensus pick for the AL Rookie of the Year and will probably garner an MVP vote or two thanks to his monstrous rookie year that saw him light up AL pitching to the tune of .317/36/108. Not bad for a guy who some saw as a potential quadruple A player. Now his 6 yr/$68 million dollar might be a steal.

• Not having to hear about that bum A-Rod all year!

A ROD

The Lowlights:

Fernandez TJ

Over 45 players required Tommy John surgery during the course of the 2014 campaign. Some of the more notable names include Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy of the Braves, Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, Matt Moore of the Rays and Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks.

Surprisingly it wasn’t just pitchers who were forced under the knife, as All Star C Matt Wieters of the Orioles and Twins top prospect Miguel Sano both required the surgery by mid season. Even the Yankees high profile free agent signing (Masahiro Tanaka) was forced to miss nearly 2 months as he rehabbed a partial tear in his UCL opposed to opting for the surgery. So far it looks like they made the right decision as Tanaka looked solid in his return to the rotation against the Blue Jays.

One has to wonder why there has been such a rise in Tommy John related injuries. Although the surgery hasn’t kept teams away from investing in players with a history of Tommy John, in fact two players (Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde) who had just undergone the surgery were drafted in the first round of this year’s MLB Amateur Draft

crush

Another year, another All Star gets busted for PED’s/Amphetamines. This time it was Chris “Crush” Davis. Should we really be surprised that this positive test coincided with an abysmal season at the plate for Davis? The bigger concern should be whether this was a onetime deal or was it just the first time he has been caught? Rumours circulating make it seem like the latter of the two. Hard to understand why a guy would risk the suspension when his team is in the middle of a pennant race.

wren and gonzalez

The Braves were never able to completely rebound from the rash of injuries suffered at the start of the year to their rotation and dismal play down the stretch led to them finishing 9 games out of the NL Wild Card and the eventual dismissal of GM Frank Wren. It now looks like Freddi Gonzalez may be on the hot seat as manager, even though new interim GM John Hart has given him a vote of confidence.

Perhaps Hart, if he stays on as GM, will keep Gonzalez on board to use as a sacrificial lamb next year if the Braves stumble out of the gate. And judging by the question marks and injury concerns regarding their rotation, it’s a good possibility that they stumble just may happen. At least Braves fans have a new stadium to look forward to.

cano

The Mariners have nobody to blame but themselves for missing out on the Wild Card. Their paltry play in the last two weeks of the season is what effectively sealed their fate. Unfortunately for Mariners fans their team picked the wrong time to slump as the rest of the AL Wild Card contenders were also mired in poor play. Part of the issue was the Mariners leaky rotation being exposed for what it was.

Outside of studs like King Felix and Iwakuma, the Mariners relied too much on thrift store pick up Chris Young, who decided to turn back into a pumpkin when the Mariners needed him most, and the young, unproven arm of James Paxton.

Heading into the season, the Mariners knew they needed offense in order to compete in the AL West, so they went out and signed Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. Hell, even when their offense struggled, their GM went out and traded for Kendrys Morales and Austin Jackson. But why didn’t GM Jack Zduriencik make a move or two to shore up that rotation?

I bet that item #1 this offseason in Seattle will be to add an arm or two.

More Lowlights:

• The whole Michael PINE-da ball doctoring issue. I am not mad or disappointed that Pineda used pine tar to try and doctor the ball, Im sure A LOT of major leaguers do it. My issue is the fact that he did it once against the Red Sox and they basically let him away with it and then he did it AGAIN in his very NEXT START against THE SAME BOSTON RED SOX. Pretty sure Crash Davis said it best in Bull Durham,

“Because you don’t respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don’t respect the game, and that’s my problem.”

• The Houston Astros have been a perennial cellar dweller for the last handful of seasons and the only benefit that comes with being the worst team in baseball is the fact that you get rewarded with the 1st overall pick in the MLB Amateur Draft. This time around the Astros used the 1st overall pick on a high school LHP named Brady Aiken. Originally it had appeared that the Astros and Aiken had agreed on an entry level contract. However it was later revealed that Aiken had an issue with his UCL (TJ ligament) and the Astros slashed their offer by more than half. Aiken in turn decided to take his 100 mph fastball and not sign with the Astros.

• Following their superb handling of the Brady Aiken affair, the Astros decided to bring 2013 1st overall pick (Mark Appel) up to Houston so he could throw a bullpen session. This move caused a lot of tension and frustration between the Astros players and the front office as the players viewed the organization as “babying” and “playing favourites” with one of their “shiny nickels” (baseball term for prized prospect). It wouldn’t have been as big of an issue if Appel was performing well and moving up the organizational depth charts and the club wanted to take a closer look. But the case was that Appel was struggling and the Astros brass thought a bullpen sesh at MLB field may help him out. I suppose the Stros are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. I wonder how much more rope GM Jeff Luhnow has. Have to assume that Nolan Ryan is starting to eye up that GM chair of his.

• Troy Tulowitzki’s never ending battle against the DL. I’ll never fault a player who gets injured for playing too hard but unfortunately for baseball fans as a whole, injuries are robbing us of seeing a potential Hall of Famer’s prime seasons.

Breakouts and Busts:

The Breakouts:

altuve1

Jose Altuve • 2B • Astros: Normally I wouldn’t say that a guy enjoyed a breakout season when he has just improved on his stats from the year before, but when it comes to the diminutive Altuve, I’ll make an exception.

The 5’6 middle infielder burst onto the scenes as a 22 year old rookie back in 2012 and quickly gave Astros fans hope for the future. Despite playing on the worst team in baseball, Altuve has shown no effect from having little to no protection in the lineup. His first two season’s saw him put up great numbers for a 2B:

2012: 576 AB • 167 H • 7 HR • 37 RBI • .290 AVG • .340 OBP • 33 SB
2013: 626 AB • 177 H • 5 HR • 52 RBI • .283 AVG • .316 OBP • 35 SB

This season he has completely put those numbers to shame.

2014: 660 AB • 225 H • 7 HR • 59 RBI • .341 AVG • .377 OBP • 56 SB (oh and he added 47 doubles for good measure.)

His 225 hits are a new Astros single season club record and his .341 average was good enough to fend off Victor Martinez in order to take home the AL Batting Title. Although Altuve may never put up the sheer power numbers that other 2B like Cano, Kipnis, Pedroia and Utley have put up, his ability to hit for contact and manufacture runs with his legs will see him remain as a top 3 2B for years to come.

I also absolutely love the fact that he refused to sit out the last day of the season in order to secure the AL Batting title and was able to talk himself into the lineup. Shame on the Astros for even debating holding him out of the lineup in the first place. How can you hold a guy out of the lineup who wants to hit so bad that he jumps at balls?

http://m.mlb.com/video/v36506551/houtex-altuve-jumps-while-swinging-makes-contact/?query=jose+altuve

kluber

Corey Kluber • SP • Indians: The unheralded Kluber not only made Indians fans forget about the meltdown that was Justin Masterson, but he also single-handedly kept their post season hopes alive as long as possible. The AL Cy Young should come down to either Kluber or the Mariners (King) Felix Hernandez. Personally I gotta give Kluber the edge as he put up these numbers in only his second full season in the show. Kluber’s 2014 Stats: 18-9 • 2.44 ERA • 269 K’s • 235 IP • 1.10 WHIP

harrison

Josh Harrison • Everywhere • Pirates: This season, Josh Harrison did it all for the Pirates. He played 2B, 3B, SS, LF and RF, with most of those appearances coming because of injuries to regular day players. He also had two of the most amazing run downs in recent history, even Benny “the Jet” Rodriquez would give him the thumbs up for getting out of these pickles. Harrison’s 2014 Stats: 520 AB • .315 AVG • 15 HR • 52 RBI • .347 OBP • 18 SB

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/63817564/v34873141/pitcol-harrison-steals-and-escapes-rundown/?query=josh%2Bharrison

http://m.mlb.com/video/v34094561/nympit-harrison-advances-to-third-on-long-rundown/?query=josh%2Bharrison

brantley

Michael Brantley • LF • Indians: I’ve always known that Brantley was capable of being a breakout star; it just seemed that he could never put it all together. I base that prediction solely on his ability to rake against my hometown Blue Jays. The 2014 campaign saw Brantley set career highs in every offensive category, as well as earning his first All Star appearance. Luckily the Indians locked him up to an extension through 2017 before he decided to go off on the league. Brantley’s 2014 Stats: 611 AB • .327 AVG • 20 HR • 97 RBI • .385 OBP • 23 SB • 45 2B

lucroy

Jonathan Lucroy • C • Brewers: One of the main reasons why the Brewers were in the post season picture for so long was the play of their backstop. The 28 year old not only set new career highs in games played but also set a new MLB record for most doubles in a season by a catcher with 53. His offensive output and durability has helped solidify Lucroy’s positioning as a top 5 catcher in the game today and gives Brewers fans a whole lot to look forward to as he is locked up through 2017. Lucroy’s 2014 Stats: 585 AB • .301 AVG • 13 HR • 69 RBI • .373 OBP

richards

Garrett Richards • SP • Angels: Richards was enjoying a breakout season in his 3rd full season in the bigs and 2nd as a starter, but all that came to a quick end on August 20th at Fenway Park. During the game, Richards tore his patellar tendon in his left knee while covering on a routine play to 1B. The severity of the injury resulted Richards’ undergoing season ending surgery and the Angels hope to have him back in 6 to 9 months. Before his injury Richards was arguably the Angels best pitcher and was one of the bigger snubs at this year’s All Star game. Richards 2014 Stats: 13-4 • 2.61 ERA • 168 IP • 164 K’s • 1.04 WHIP

The Busts:

brewcrew loss

• The Milwaukee Brewers late season collapse.

• The Red Sox going First to Worst a year after going from Worst to First.

• Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales free agency plans. Perhaps Scott Boras should take the fall for that one…

• The Rangers finishing BELOW the Astros

• The seasons had by Baseball America’s 2013 top 5 prospects: Jurickson Profar, Dylan Bundy, Oscar Taveras, Wil Myers, and Jose Fernandez.

• Phillies SP Miguel Alfred Gonzalez’s professional debut.

• Jay Bruce’s 2014 season.

• Jim Johnson’s career as a closer.

Buh Bye! Nice to Know Ya!

ron gardenhire

Ron Gardennhire • Manager • Minnesota Twins
Career record: 1068-1039 (13 seasons)
Managed the Twins to six AL Central titles (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010)
2010 AL Manager of the Year

ron washington

Ron Washington • Manager • Texas Rangers
Career Record: 664-611 (8 seasons)
Managed the Rangers to back to back AL West titles and AL Pennants (2010 & 2011)

kirk gibson

Kirk Gibson • Manager • Arizona Diamondbacks
Career Record: 353-375 (5 seasons)
Managed the Diamondbacks to the NL West title in 2011
2011 NL Manager of the Year

bo porter

Bo Porter • Manager • Houston Astros
Career Record: 110-190 (2 seasons)

konerko

Paul Konerko • 1B • Chicago White Sox
Career Stats: 18 seasons • 2349 G • 2340 Hits • 439 HR • 1412 RBI • .279 AVG • .841 OPS
Six time All Star
2005 World Series Champion

Oh yea… and some guy named Jeter retired too.

jeter tip

– $

Next Stop… 2015

Adam Jones

Is there anything worse than seeing another team celebrate clinching a post season berth on the field at your own expense? Oh there is… let me guess… is it when said team hasn’t won the division in 17 years and has only made the playoffs one other time in that duration? OR is it seeing a team celebrate clinching a division that YOU once had a 6.5 game stranglehold on (including over the eventual division champs)?

There is no wrong answer.

Seeing the Orioles celebrate winning the AL East was just the proverbial cherry on this crap sundae called the 2014 Blue Jays season. The days of win streaks and division leads seem like a lifetime ago (remember when we swept the A’s at the Dome or sweeping the Tigers IN DETROIT!?).

Despite a season in which the Jays (SHOULD) finish above .500 for the first time since 2010, it will be remembered more for the “what if’s” and “could’ve beens,” than it will for any positives. I would love to drone on about the emergence of Stro and Hutch as big league starters, the flashes of brilliance shown by Sanchez or (ANOTHER) great season from Joey Bats and Edwing. Unfortunately the positives of our bright future, reemergence of Melky and solid seasons by Lind, Buehrle and Navarro aren’t enough to keep the stank from creeping off of this season.

I think the one thing that this Jays season will be remembered for is MISSED OPPORTUNITIES.

Blown leads, blown saves, no run support, lack of movement to solidify a paper thin roster that was OVERACHIEVING while the rest of the division underachieved and most importantly… a lack of sense of urgency.

There was no reason for the Jays front office to have sat idly by waiting for the other shoe to drop while the injuries mounted and the division lead slipped away. Apologies to Danny Valencia, Nolan Reimold and John Mayberry Jr. but those are not the trades you make when you have a legitimate chance of October baseball. They didn’t have to mortgage the farm or deal away the Stromans, Sanchez’s and Norris’ of the world, but are you telling me that we couldn’t have gotten rental players like Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley for the same turd sandwiches that the Yankees got them for?! You know… not like those players have helped the Yankees to the EXACT same record that the Jays currently sit…

So as we sit here and get to watch (again) as more and more teams clinch and celebrate, the only thing left to contemplate is where do we go from here?

Buck Showalter

The Jays currently look to enter 2015 with only one OF position completely spoken for (Bautista in RF) and the other two up for grabs, a bullpen with more vacancies than sure things, a now hiring sign for the closers position and that isn’t even including the questions about who plays 2B, 3B and SS next season…

What Should Happen

melkman1

First things first, the BIGGEST offseason priority should be re-upping the Melkman’s contract. I honestly don’t know what the Jays are waiting for on this one. I hate this BS about not negotiating with players during the season. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t both the contract extensions doled out to Joey Bats and Edwing come during the season? What is the hold up? We stole the Melkman with a 2 year/$16 million deal before the 2013 season. PED’s or not, that was a steal. After an abysmal 2013 campaign that saw him hindered by a TUMOUR in his SPINE, the Melkman was arguably the Jays best player this season until his season came to a premature end on a pickoff play (sigh). Melky hadn’t missed a game until that illfated dive back to 1B and was an absolute monster at the plate, hitting .301/16/73 with a .351 OBP! In fact he had the 2nd most multi hit games in the AL this season, behind only the diminutive 2B for the Astros, Jose Altuve.

altuve

How did AA not offer Melky a contract extension during the season!? Now we get to see him hit the open market where his price will be driven THROUGH THE ROOF! Are you telling me that Melky shouldn’t be looking for/demanding a contract in the same neighbourhood that Shin Soo-Choo got just this past offseason – 7yrs/$130 million. Hell… Melky should actually get more seeing as he is a) younger than Choo, and b) THE BETTER PLAYER!

But no… instead… the Jays are happy to extend a qualifying offer to Melky. But hey, AT LEAST we will get a supplemental draft pick for him (most likely late 1st round) when he signs with another team. Knowing the Jays luck, said draft pick will probably not sign with us either…

Be honest… do you honestly believe that the Jays have a chance of contending for a post season spot next year knowing that 2/3 of our OF will be made up of a combination of Kevin Pillar, Tony “the Chain” Gose and MAYBE Dalton Pompey!? I sure don’t…

melkman

Here is another shocker, another need that should be addressed is the addition of more SP, even if it’s depth signings. Right now we look to enter 2015 with a rotation of Dickey, Buehrle, Happ, Stroman and Hutch. And that’s not including the possibility of Norris and Sanchez cracking the rotation. If that happens that is A LOT of expectation to heap upon 2 and maybe more 23 year olds with less than 200 innings MLB experience apiece. Whats more likely to happen: a) a trio of young Jays pitchers morph into the Oakland Big 3 (Mulder, Hudson and Zito) and lead the team into contention… OR… b) One, maybe more, of the young pitchers doesn’t pitch up to expectations… or worse… they get injured. Let’s be honest here… we know how this one ends.

Speaking of pitching, there were rumours circulating that the Jays should look to move one of Dickey or Buehrle a little while back. What is the upside into moving one of, if not both, of our only proven starters? Is it a money thing? Is it an age thing? If it’s either, why make the move for them in the first place? Did the Jays think they were going to get younger and cheaper as the years passed? And what would we realistically get for a 40 year old novelty pitch pitcher and a 36 year old soft tossing southpaw? Rumours like this solidify my belief that the Jays are looking to offload salary and will never dole out the money and contracts needed to make this team a winner. Simple as that.

Coffee is for Closers

janssen

It looks like the revolving door at closer has started to spin up once again. I hate to see Janssen go but he did all but show himself the door this season. His late inning struggles could have been looked past but his critiquing of the Jays management and their lack of urgency to win is what nailed his coffin short. Unfortunately for Casey, his contract is up and he isn’t as valuable as Bitching Bautista, so it is time for him to have his torch extinguished. Its a shame to see one of the longest tenured Jays leaving, but Im not all that surprised. Well here we go again… Time to interview for another closer…

Bye Bye Bama

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays

When the Jays made the decision to move the struggling Colby Rasmus to the bench in favour of more playing time for Gose and Pillar, that all but sealed the deal on Bama’s future as a Blue Jay. To Rasmus’ credit he handled the demotion like a true pro. He said all the right things that need to be said, how he would be there to help the team if and when it was needed, and he was correct. Rasmus blasted two (clutch) pinch hit HR’s and eventually saw more playing time with the season ending injury to the Melkman.

As a Jays fan I am sad to see Rasmus go. He made everything look too easy. He patrolled CF with the ease of a gazelle and his ho hum pop is some of the EASIEST power I have ever seen on the baseball field. What really makes me sad about Rasmus leaving is wondering what could have been.

For someone who has so much promise and talent, it amazes me how much they can struggle and look lost. I guess thats why the Cards were so willing to ship him out in favour of Jon Jay. Oh well, not like we gave up a lot for Rasmus. What scares me is knowing that he does have the raw ability and pure talent to turn his career around in the blink of an eye. I just really hope it doesn’t come back to haunt us…

rasmus1

One of the only things worse than knowing that the Jays season is all but officially over, is knowing that the heartbreak of the Maple Leafs season is just around the corner. Don’t worry though, Im sure there will be no drama in Leaf land this year, not like reports are already circulating about a rift between Phil Kessel and an Assistant Coach, and this is BEFORE Training Camp starts… Oh well, at least the Raptors are looking pretty decent….

leafs

– $

Thanks, That Was Fun…

so youre

Unfortunately for the brilliant Jays fan who showed up to Saturdays contest vs the Rays, with what may be one of the better crowd signs ever, I am indeed in fact telling you that there is… wait for it… cue the Vince McMahon entrance music… NO CHANCE for post season baseball in Toronto.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but in all honesty, what did we expect?

Despite being still mathematically “in it”, the Jays post season hopes went out the window when they failed to take the series, let alone sweep it, from the Rays this past weekend. It’s hard to figure out what the bigger gut punch was:

a) Blowing an outstanding performance by JA Happ in Friday’s 1-0 loss. Trick or treat Happ gave up two hits, one walk and struck out seven over seven innings. His only blemish was serving up a home run to back up catcher Ryan Hannigan.

b) Getting CARVED UP by a virtual no name in the same Friday contest. Seriously! Who is Nathan Karns? This guy only managed to throw a two hit shutout over seven innings while striking out eight Blue Jays! The more astounding thing is how the Jays were suppose to be “lucky” to be missing the Rays young LHP Drew Smyly, who was shut down with an innings cap earlier in the week.

c) Rallying in the 8th and 9th innings, including John Mayberry Jr’s epic game tying solo shot in the ninth with two outs, only to immediately give the Rays the win in the 10th. I wouldn’t even be that mad about losing a game after rallying to tie it, but it was the way that they GAVE AWAY the game in the 10th that was a pretty big kick in the dick. Seriously! Bases loaded with no out?! Come on!

dead jay

The sad thing is that we should have been prepping the Blue Jays obituary a week ago when they managed to lose a series to the lowly Red Sox, including a disastrous Friday night affair that saw the Jays bullpen blow not one, but TWO SAVES in the SAME GAME.

And then… Just when you thought you were done with them, they REEL you back in… Just like they do every September, the Jays offer a glimmer of hope. That glimmer came in a series sweep of the pitiful Cubs, a sweep that saw the Jays offense pound the Cubs a combined 28-3 in the three game set.

And just when you start believing that there may ACTUALLY be a chance… a relative no named pitcher pitching for a cellar dweller comes in and crushes that chance.

In reality we shouldn’t pin their recent downfall on the reason there will be no post season baseball AGAIN in Toronto. This season was doomed ever since the Jays pulled off an AMAZING May and went 21-9. Despite winning the first five games in June, the Jays finished the month 12-15 and followed that up with back to back monthly records of 15-11 in July and a dismal 9-17 in August.

Perhaps if they could have finished even REMOTELY close to .500 in August then we would not had to have worried about these MUST WIN and MUST SWEEP series now.

As it stands, the Jays are now in Baltimore for a three game set against the AL East leading Orioles, who have reduced their playoff clinching “magic number” to three games. Somehow I get the feeling that we have a STRONG chance of seeing the O’s clinch a post season berth during this series.

stroman

The Blue Jays will send their (potential) young ace in the making (Marcus Stroman) to the mound against savvy lefty Bruce Chen in Monday’s opener. I have to admit that despite ANOTHER year of having to “look forward” to NEXT year, at least next year we get to enter a full year with Stro, Hutch and Sanchez, with Pompey and Norris a call away in Buffalo.

As long as they can remain healthy, they future does look bright indeed for the Blue Jays.

21 Years and counting…

– $

Monday: Stroman (10-5) vs Chen (15-4)

Tuesday: Hutchison (10-11) vs Jimenez (4-9)

Wednesday: Happ (9-10) vs Norris (13-8)

Transactions Abound

soler2

September Call Ups

As the calendar moves from August to September the MLB rosters grow in size from a 25 man roster to a 40 man roster. For some teams the expanded rosters are used to bring up reinforcements for potential runs at playoff spots down the stretch. For others, it is simply an open audition call for next years Opening Day roster, as well as a chance to see prized prospects in an big league situation.

Some notable names among the September call ups include: OF Joc Pederson (#3 Dodgers) – IF Cory Spangenburg (Padres) – OF Jorge Soler (#5 Cubs) – SP Daniel Norris (#1 Blue Jays) – OF Dalton Pompey (#3 Blue Jays) – C Christian Bethancourt (#3 Braves) – 3B Maikel Franco (#3 Phillies) – C James McCann (#13 Tigers).

Both Jorge Soler and Cory Spangenburg have already made a splash in their (very) young careers. Soler joined Enos “Country” Slaughter (1938) and Will Middlebrooks (2012) as the 3rd rookie in the past 100 years to have at least one extra base hit in his first 5 games, while Spangenburg notched his 1st career hit and drove in the first two RBI’s of his career in a 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Monday; he also added two highlight reel defensive plays.

finnegan

Another notable name to be included in the September call ups was Brandon Finnegan of the Kansas City Royals. Finnegan was drafted THIS YEAR by the Royals and becomes the first member of the 2014 MLB Draft to get promoted to the MLB. Considered one of the better college LHP in the draft, Finnegan was available to the Royals at 17 overall because of a minor injury he suffered before the draft.

Despite being relatively small in stature (5’11, 185lbs) for a SP, Finnegan has had no problems pumping his mid 90’s heater past minor league hitters. His numbers aren’t jaw dropping, but they are impressive for a kid who has only pitched 27 innings in his pro career: 13 Games/5 Games Started – 1.33 ERA – .200 Opponent AVG – 26 Strikeouts/4 Walks. Finnegan could help out in the rotation as a spot starter or look to bolster an already formidable bullpen.

Waiver Trade Deadline

The long weekend also marked the passing of MLB’s Waiver Trade Deadline. Although not as anticipated as the “real” Trade Deadline that passed back at the end of July, it was still met with a minor flurry of roster moves.

Adam Dunn

The Oakland A’s acquired the Big Donkey (Adam Dunn) from the Chicago White Sox for a minor leaguer in the hopes that Dunn could help jump start an Athletic’s offense that has sputtered since they dealt Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox back in July. Sure enough Dunn hit a HR in his first AB as an Athletic, marking the 3rd time that he homered in his debut with his new team.

The Angels acquired 2B Gordon Beckham from the White Sox. The Orioles added some LH bench depth in two separate moves when they acquired IF Kelly Johnson from the Red Sox and OF Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox. The Brewers added some bullpen help when the picked up RP Jonathan Broxton from the Cincinnati Reds. And the Blue Jays (finally) made a big splash when they acquired OF John Mayberry Jr. from the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Pending Retirement of the Big Donkey

Adam Dunn, Nick Hundley

Adam Dunn made his MLB debut with the Cincinnati Reds as a 21 year old OF way back in 2001. Since his debut, the man affectionately known as the “Big Donkey” has amassed over 8200 plate appearances in just under 2000 career MLB games. He has played for five MLB teams and in both the AL and the NL. He currently sits tied with Big Papi (David Ortiz) at #35 on the All Time HR Leader List with 461 career long bombs. He is also #3 on the All Time Strikeout Leaders with 2353 career strikeouts. For his career no one has better exemplified the “all or nothing” approach like Adam Dunn did.

dunn2

The 6’6, 285 lb Texan was known for some of the most raw, country strong strength ever displayed and would routinely flex that strength with tape measure shots that left fans and opponents in awe. In his 14 year career, Dunn hit 40 or more HR’s 6 times, including an amazing 5 seasons in a row from 2004-08. He also drove in 100 or more RBI in 6 seasons. However with great power often comes a great ability to swing and miss. For his career Dunn has topped 100 or more strikeouts in 12 of his 14 seasons, including an astounding 222 in 2012. Somewhat surprisingly for someone with his proneness to whiff, Dunn did manage to top 100 or more walks in 8 seasons.

Following his most recent trade to the Athletics, Dunn stated that he plans to retire following the end of the season. This isn’t completely shocking as Dunn had contemplated hanging the cleats up heading into this season, What is shocking is that Dunn will turn 35 at the end of the season and appears to still have enough talent/ability to still play at the highest level, even if only for a few more seasons. Dunn’s power and lack of defensive ability makes him a perfect candidate to spend his years as a DH in the AL and there are more than enough AL teams that could use a big power hitting LH bat. However it seems that the Big Donkey has made up his mind and you cant blame a guy for going out on his own terms before he becomes a shell of his former self.

dunn

One has to wonder what his status as a potential Hall of Famer is. Dunn sure has the power and offensive numbers (461 HR/1160 RBI/.365 OBP) to garner a look, but you have to assume that his low career average (.237) and high strikeouts will hinder any shot he has. Personally I see him as our generations Dave Kingman, a very respectable hitter and feared slugger but just not quite good enough for Cooperstown. Here is a comparison of the two sluggers careers:

Dunn: 14 seasons – 6820 AB – 461 HR – 1160 RBI – .237 AVG – 2365 K’s

Kingman: 16 seasons – 6677 AB – 442 HR – 1210 RBI – .236 AVG – 1816 K’s

Hall of Famer or not, Dunn will always be remembered as one of the originals Monsters of Mash and the slugger of the furthest hit ball I have ever seen.

– $