Jays

Blue Jays Monthly Report - May

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

What a time to be a Jays fan. Just when all hope seemed to be lost, and everybody and their mothers were on the disabled list, the scrappy Jays found ways to grind out important wins and not only keep the team afloat, but propel them back into the playoff picture. After ending the month of April with an 8-17 record, the beaten up blue birds ended the month of May with a 17-10 record, finishing as the third best team in baseball during May. If you told me at the beginning of May that the Jays would be the third best team in baseball during the month with all the injuries they had, I would have encouraged you to call a doctor.

Not only did the bench bodies contribute massively, but certain regular players that survived the DL plague improved on horrendous performances in April. We will touch on a few key contributors that helped the Blue Jays get to where they are currently and what we can expect from this team moving into June.

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

Look no further than the Blue Jays "Player of the Month" for May than Devon Travis. In my opinion he should have won AL Player of the Month as well, but that's another discussion all together. After batting an abysmal .130, Travis turned it around and batted .364 for the month of May and had 16 doubles to go along with that. Along with the hot bat came some great defence, and we were treated to a lot of stellar plays from Travis this month. His improved play is arguably the most influential factor in propelling the Jays back up near .500.

Source: UPI

Source: UPI

Sense a theme here? The longest tenured Blue Jay on the team took a long time to reclaim his WBC form, but once Bautista figured that out it's been nothing but rave reviews for the fan favourite. Bautista struggled mightily in April, but had a .317 average and nine home runs during the month of May. These improved numbers help the Jays finally put runs on the board, something that they struggled to do all April. I recently wrote an article showcasing the highlights and disappointments of the 2017 season so far (you can read it here if you haven't already), and I had Bautista listed as a disappointment. I knew that list would look different, I just didn't realize it would only take 10 days for any changes to happen...

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

I don't think there's enough that can be said about Smoak and his season that he's put together so far. At the time of writing this article (June 4th) he leads the team in average (.283), home runs (14) and RBI's (39). If that doesn't have you impressed for whatever reason, here's Smoak's ranking in categories among AL first basemen: Home Runs - 2nd, Runs - Tied for 1st, RBI - 1st, Slugging Percentage - 1st, OPS - 1st and WAR - 2nd. Smoak is on his way to not only being in the All-Star game, but being the AL starter for first base. These type of numbers and productivity from someone you never expected it from goes a long way for a once struggling team. I have been so critical of Smoak in the past, so all I can really do at this point is say that I'm sorry I ever doubted you.

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

I know I'm going off the board here, but in my opinion the most underrated (or underappreciated) add to this team has been the 8th inning presence of Joe Smith. The 32 year old right handed sidearm pitcher came into this season fighting for that set up role, and he has done a tremendous job closing the gap between the starting pitchers and Osuna. In 27.2 innings pitched, Smith has a 2.93 ERA to go along with 42 STRIKEOUTS! He's also only walked seven batters all year, and has not issued one walk to a right handed batter. This shows an incredible ability to control and locate pitches, and Smith has brought a calming presence to a bullpen that had no sure thing other than Osuna leading into May.

I know these guys, they get frustrated like everybody else, but they never shut down.
— John Gibbons

Maybe Gibbons knew something that the fan base didn't leading into May. He stated that his players "get frustrated" but "never shut down." He must have a great feel for his clubhouse because it appears as though the words "shut down" aren't in anybody's vocabulary.

June promises to be a month in which the Jays can build upon their success of May. Do they have another 17-10 month in them? It's possible. With series matchups against weak opponents such as the A's, Mariners, White Sox, Royals, and the choke of a team Texas Rangers, expect the Jays to finish June no longer being the basement dwellers of the AL East, and being closer to first place than last.

Blue Jays Highlights and Disappointments of the 2017 Season So Far...

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

It's so hard to figure out if the Jays are contenders or pretenders two months into the 2017 season.

The Jays have so far managed yet again to become the most frustrating yet gratifying Toronto sports team to watch. After starting the year 1-9, the Jays have managed to go 20-17 (.541) since. The recent play of the Jays has been a roller coaster ride to say the least, going on a 5 game win streak that included a series win against the Indians and a sweep of the injured Mariners, but also included three straight losses to the oldest team in baseball (!) and worst in their division, Atlanta Braves. (Side note: The tomahawk chop may be the second worse thing in baseball, with the wave taking the cake). Sitting with a record of 21-26 (.447) after the 8-4 beat down of the Brewers yesterday afternoon, the Jays still sit in the bottom of the AL East, but optimism has started to rise with fans of the beloved blue birds.

Below is a list of the (early) highlights and disappointments from the Blue Jays, and what we can expect to see going forward.

*Note: Players that were expected to be highlights or disappointments were omitted for the purposes of not having a boring article.

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

HIGHLIGHT: Justin Smoak

If you believed that Smoak would be an major contributor to the team and play an integral role in their success, put your hand up. Nobody? Anybody? As the old saying goes, "where there's smoke, there's fire." There's no statement more true that can describe the year Smoak is having than that one. The 30 year old former first round pick has turned critics into believers, myself included. With a slash line of .278, .340, .542 through 40 games, he's outpacing his careers highs in all three categories. Reaching double digit home runs already while reaching base shows that Smoak is seeing the ball a lot better than he has in the past. A more calm, relaxed approach and stance at the plate might be a factor. It is quite possible that Smoak will have a career year, but don't be surprised if he has a 1 for 20 slump sprinkled in here and there. There will be regression throughout the year, but if he can reach a .250 average, over .300 on base, 20-25 home runs and 60-70 RBI's, I'll be more than happy.

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

DISAPPOINTMENT: Jose Bautista

Yes, I know. Bautista's bat is finally starting to come around. His fielding and arm seem to be in better shape than last year. Recency bias suggests that Bautista is one of the best Blue Jays right now, and that may be true, but it's hard to ignore his horrendous start to the year. Up until around two weeks ago it seemed like fans wanted to run Jose right out of town. Now with his recent surge in offensive productivity, he's starting to climb back to respectable numbers. He has seemed to find whatever was working for him in the pre-season and the WBC and is now producing like the Jose we are used to seeing. I'll classify Bautista as a fringe "disappointment" for now, because if he keeps up this production level, fans will easily forgive and forget the atrocious start. Expect Bautista to continue improving on his numbers gradually throughout the season.

Source: Fox Sports

Source: Fox Sports

HIGHLIGHT: Kevin Pillar

There's a reason why he's called Superman. He's the hero we need, but don't deserve. Arguably the Blue Jays early MVP candidate, Pillar has career highs in average (.306), on base percentage (.357) and slugging (.483), it seems as though Pillar has finally found his groove in the major league level. It was only a matter of time too, as Pillar has been an offensive weapon in every level of baseball that he has played in leading to the majors. He has solidified himself as the ideal leadoff batter for the Jays, with the ability to hit, walk, and steal. Also, who can forget his defensive prowess? He's like a human vacuum out there, catching any baseball that's remotely within 5,000 feet of him (or so it seems like...). Oh, and don't forget his amazing catch he made on Indians batter Jose Ramirez, robbing him of a guaranteed hit. Most amazing catch I've ever seen live in-stadium. I don't know what's more of a robbery; that catch or the fact that Pillar still hasn't won a gold glove. He is well deserving of an All-Star position in Miami, and I believe he will get one.

Source: Blue Jays Nation

Source: Blue Jays Nation

DISAPPOINTMENT: Injuries

I don't know what the team or the players did to anger the Baseball Gods, but my goodness did they ever do something. Here's a full list of Jays that have made at least one trip to the DL this year: Alford, Ceciliani, Donaldson, Happ, Howell, Liriano, Martin, Osuna, Pearce, Pompey, Sanchez, Shultz, Sparkman and Tulowitzki. That's FOURTEEN different players and we aren't even through May yet. The amount of games lost to injury this year is at 336. That's a truly astonishing and "disappointing" number. I don't believe this has anything to do with the training staff, as it is essentially the same staff that allowed the Jays to be one of the healthiest teams in baseball last year. Also couple in the fact that the new CBA eliminated the 15-day DL and introduced the 10-day DL and teams are now less reluctant to place a player on the disabled list. Don't expect this trend and these numbers to remain constant throughout the season.

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

HIGHLIGHT: Marcus Stroman

The Stro-Show is off to the best start of his young career. After winning the MVP Award at the WBC, he carried that momentum over into the 2017 season, proving to doubters yet again that he is the real deal. Stroman had a disappointing start to the 2016 season, which saw fans and critics alike call for his demotion to AAA to sort out whatever issues he had going on. Since the second half on the season onward, he has showed an improved maturity and sense of the game on the mound. He's still the youthful, energetic pitcher we all know and love, but he doesn't let the highs get too high and the lows get too low.

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

DISAPPOINTMENT: Aaron Sanchez

Yes, I know that Sanchez is lumped in with the injury category, and I understand that when he has been on the mound he has been quite effective. The disappointing part of Aaron Sanchez is the false hope we as fans receive. When it seems like his finger and blister problems are behind him, he will be back on the disabled list after one start. Sanchez has already made three separate trips to the DL, which leads the club. It's disappointing that Sanchez cannot get fully healthy because he has shown flashes of brilliance even with blood dripping down his finger. With Biagini holding down Sanchez's spot in the rotation, there's no sense to rush him. With a proper amount of time to heal and recover, I expect Sanchez to make an immediate impact upon return.


I'm fully expecting someone out there to roast me on some of my choices, but those were the ones I feel really stuck out to me. Sure I could have easily thrown in Estrada as a highlight, but that was to be expected leading into the season. Martin was expected to have a disappointing season due to age and wear and tear. Things are sure to change throughout the year, and this list will definitely not look the same come September. It will be interesting to see who the new heroes and villains of the Blue Jays are in a few months. 

3 Reasons For and Against a Blue Jays Rebuild

Source: TSN

Source: TSN

Should they, or shouldn't they?

That question seems to be on the minds of every Blue Jays fan when pondering the possibility of a rebuild. The franchise that stole the hearts of over 35 million fans across this beautiful nation by making it to two consecutive ALCS series has taken a massive nosedive to the cellar of the league's standings. Yes, I know it's early. Yes, I know nobody should be looking at the standings before July 1st. However, when a team that has been picked by experts to make the playoffs starts this poorly, it becomes hard not to look at the standings. 

As of May 3, 2017, the Blue Jays hold a record of 9-18, which places them 29th out of 30th in the league only behind Kansas City (which is a whole other story in itself). Ironic that the two teams who ferociously dueled it out in the 2015 ALCS and created the infamous Caleb Humphreys scandal are now dueling it out for last in the entire league just two years later. At least we won't have to hear any more terrible interviews from Erin Andrews and awful lies from the Amish sensation...if you forget what I'm talking about, click here.

The Blue Jays are not strangers to slow April starts. Last season, the Blue Jays finished April with an 11-14 record. Should we classify the past month as just another "slow start" for the Jays, or should Toronto fans be slamming the panic button? Below are three reasons why the Jays should rebuild as well as three reasons why they shouldn't.

Reasons to blow this team into smithereens:

1) The start is the main catalyst for the whole "rebuild" conversation to even take place. The benchmark record to make the playoffs based on last year's standings was the Blue Jays record of 89-73, which placed the team in a tie for the Wild Card spot with Baltimore. Let's assume that it will take 90 wins to get to the playoffs in the American League this year. In order to accomplish this, the Jays must go 81-54 the rest of the way. Even that mark might not be enough to get this team in the playoffs. Does the core of this team have what it takes to reach this benchmark?
2) This team isn't getting any younger. With an average age of 30.7 on the MLB roster, the Blue Jays are the oldest team in baseball (thanks Grilli...). A rebuild is inevitable, so why not get a head start on it and get some value for quality players sooner rather than later. Some valuable Blue Jays that will become free agents after the 2017 season include Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano. They have been one of the few shinning spots in an abysmal start to the year, and there's nothing more coveted by a playoff team than reliable pitching down the stretch.
3) Our farm system is actually better than most Blue Jays fans realize. Ranked 19th by SB Nation (who admits they could have ranked the Jays system as high as 12th) and 16th by Bleacher Report, the Jays farm system is not top tier but it is serviceable. If the Blue Jays were to trade players such as Estrada, Liriano, Happ, and even Bautista and *gasp* Donaldson, they could grab some mid to top tier prospects and suddenly have a top 5 farm system once again. Players such as Rowdy Tellez, Sean-Reid Foley, Lourdes Gurriel, Anthony Alford, Richard Urena and more are waiting in the wings for their opportunity to shine on the big stage. They would be more than capable of coming on to a big league roster that would go in the direction of "we don't need to win now, but keep the game exciting" stage. Oh, and don't forget about Vladimir Gurerro Jr. He's pretty good too.

Stay the course you overreacting idiot (actual words from a colleague of mine):
1) I don't need to remind you that the Jays started the year 1-9 do I? I didn't think so. BUT since that disgusting start, the Blue Jays have played better of late, going 8-9 to bring their record to 9-18. Hovering around .500 at this time of the year is respectable, especially when you couldn't even reach .120. The recent play suggests that the Jays players might actually be adjusting to playing proper baseball and potentially turn this season around for the better.
2) Feeding off the first point, the Jays have been able to accomplish this recent record of 8-9 without arguably their best players. Donaldson, Tulo, Happ and Sanchez are all on the 10 day DL with some form of injury, and yet this team has found it within them to play at a level that keeps them treading water. Yeah, we see you Goins and Pillar.
3) Remember that 11-14 record I told you about from April 2016? The Blue Jays were the only team in the league last season to make the playoffs with a record of more than one game under .500. They seem to find an extra gear in the months of May and June, so what's to stop this team from doing the exact same thing and shocking the baseball world yet again?

There's a lot of information to digest, which makes this decision not an easy one either way. Fans seem to be divided on the topic, and one way or another someone won't be happy with the outcome. What would I do if I were Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro? I give this team until the end of May before I start making a decision. If the team performs at a rate lower than a .500 clip (a record worse than 22-31 by end of month) I would blow it up. Percentages and odds are not in your favour, and I would want to recoup value for assets as supposed to letting them go for free.

It's going to be an interesting summer, regardless of the Blue Jays results.

Toronto, PLEASE Don't Turn Into New York

Source: Cogeco

Source: Cogeco

Dear Toronto sports fans,

As a city, we are collectively in a situation that has never been experienced before. We are finally beginning to breed success with all three major sports teams. The beloved Maple Leafs finally appear to have a promising future ahead with all star rookies and arguably the league's brightest coaching staff and front office. The Blue Jays have made it to two consecutive ALCS series, lead by an American League MVP and a fantastic starting rotation. The Raptors have made it to the postseason for the fourth year in a row, and Ujiri has single handily turned around a franchise that was the laughing stock of the NBA (excluding the Kings, they will always be trash). Hell, even TFC has managed to capture the hearts of all sports fans across this wonderful city.

Rolling Stone recently wrote an article explaining why Toronto looks to become the next sports mecca in North America, which can be viewed here. Reading this article made me think of other sports cities and meccas across North America. Cities such as Boston and Los Angeles come to mind, but arguably the highest profile of them all is New York. When New York teams are successful, sports media can't get enough coverage of them, players flock to the city practically begging to play for their teams and fans will lay roses at the feet of anything and anyone associated with sport success. We are currently in an era where New York sports have taken a turn for the worse. Let's take the Knicks for example. Media still cover them, but every piece that comes from them seems to revolve around negativity. Players and their agents claim to be avoiding the sinking ship and its captain James Dolan. Which leads me to the fans...they will not hesitate to pick up the roses they laid on the ground and use the thorns to stab everyone they deem to be "a disgrace to the city", which on a failing New York sports team is literally everyone.

The city of New York is used to seeing championships. The fans expect nothing less than championship calibre teams year after year. As quickly as they praise athletes is as quickly as they shun them. I see the same behaviour in Toronto whenever a team is on a losing streak or doesn't start the year off quite like it hoped (we are all looking at you Blue Jays). Toronto sports fans can't be like this, and I am here to explain why.

1) We are Canadians. It is literally unpatriotic to be rude or impolite to anybody, especially our sports teams. I have never heard anyone say they love people from New York more than people from Toronto, so let's not go down to their level.
2) They have seen a lot of championships in the past few decades. Toronto fans haven't stood in a parade route for almost 25 years. I get it, I'm hungry for a championship too, but let's take success where we can.
3) People will begin to view Toronto and Canada in a different light if they see us running players and executives out of town. While an extreme example, Vancouver has left its reputation tarnished forever with these riots from losing the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
4) Speaking of negative perceptions, Toronto needs to act like it's been there before. Throwing beer cans on the field during the playoffs and being labelled as "the most despised fan base in baseball" doesn't help distinguish us as the polite Canadians that we are... 
5) There's a difference between critical analysis and plain stupidity. It's okay to have an opinion and have healthy debate, but saying outlandish things such as suggesting trading former AL MVP Donaldson because he is hurt doesn't give us true fans a good profile.

People in general seem to like and respect Toronto. For some sports, Toronto represents not only a city, but a nation. We as Toronto sports fans need to understand this, accept it and embrace it. Let's enjoy the ride, and let's enjoy the processes and changes that come along with it. When the mighty Toronto teams fall, and they inevitably will, we need to hold our heads high and know that this generation of Toronto sports has firmly placed our city as a premier North American sports city.