Posted tagged ‘pitching’

The 2019 Blue Jays: A tale of two chapters

September 29, 2019

See, that wasn’t so bad!

Right???

Okay…when you look at the standings, it was pretty bad. But we knew this season was going to look like Plan 9 From Outer Space.

I embraced the pain; others chose to complain and bang their drums. Either way, I hope we can sit on a porch one day and laugh about the experience as we sip lemonade.

The 2019 season can be split into two chapters: Before Marcus Stroman was traded and after he was dealt.

As the trade deadline approached, there were storm clouds surrounding the team. There had been a couple of bright spots, but there was sense of dread. Stro – the most popular/polarizing player left from 2015-16 – was going to get traded. We knew it, he knew it, the league and his teammates knew it. Stro was dropping passive-aggressive grenades and the anti-Shapiro mob was sharpening their pitchforks.

Then the trade finally happened, followed by the premature trade of Aaron Sanchez. Jays Twitter was a scene of blinding fire, suffocating smoke and vile screaming.

And then…the smoke cleared, the sun came out and Bo Bichette started making history.

Believe me, I am NOT suggesting Stro was poisoning the clubhouse. I love the guy, his character and his brand! However, things felt and looked different once Marcus was sent to the Mets.

The transition was complete. All remaining band-aids had been ripped off. The roster was officially young and developing. Now, we could say it’s “Vladdy’s team” or “Bo’s team.” If one were to consider the rebuild as u-shaped, then on the evening of July 28, 2019 – when Stro was traded and Bichette was called up – the Blue Jays reached the bottom. The steep, uphill climb had begun.

I saw a team full of youthful energy. It was exciting and fun! Bo took off like a bullet train, Vladdy continued his gradual production, Cavan Biggio made history, Danny Jansen was figuring things out and Lourdes Gurriel and Reese McGuire were pleasant surprises. Sure, they went through a tough stretch in late August-early September. However, as Stephen Brunt pointed out a few weeks ago on Prime Time Sports, we were finally seeing some flickers of light.

The final two months of the season provided all kinds of reasons to watch the Jays, despite their record. My favourite moment was Bichette’s walk off home run, capping a dramatic victory over the Yankees.

As we look towards 2020, it’s important to be cautiously optimistic. There might be flickers of light, but they still have a long way to go before a window of opportunity opens. This season, they won 67 games. In 2020, I would be happy if they pick up 10-15 more victories (77-82).

The outfield corner sports are set, as are the infield positions and behind the plate. They need to figure out centrefield and DH over the offseason and during Spring Training. There are options on the current roster, but said options have been inconsistent. Rowdy Tellez’s struggles are also concerning.

However, the main priority needs to be on PITCHING; starting rotation and bullpen. Right now, Matt Shoemaker and Trent Thronton will likely be in the rotation, while the other three spots are up for grabs. Jacob Waguespack and Ryan Borucki are “question marks,” while Anthony Kay and T.J. Zeuch need to perform well in Spring Training. Don’t forget about the eventual arrival of Nate Pearson.

Ideally, Ken Giles will anchor the bullpen and I’d like to see Wilmer Font return, along with Ryan Tepera, Sam Gavigilo and Derek Law. After that, who knows?

What really scares me is how Bichette’s concussion will effect him. An injury like that is unpredictable. I’m praying he listens to his body and doesn’t try to overdo it as he prepares for 2020.

Things won’t be outstanding next season, but they (hopefully) won’t be as bad as this year. We’d all love to see a vast improvement. However, we must be patient and let the story play out. This team is still developing and I hope the youngsters build from their positive experiences and teachable moments.

Fingers crossed.

ER

***

Time for some “awards!”

Best Jays Hitter: Vladdy Guerrero Jr.
Best Jays Starter: Marcus Stroman
Best Jays Reliever: Ken Giles

Injured, But Optimistic

June 3, 2019

I am envious of your optimism

Teach me to live that way

You tore your ACL,
after the second forearm injury,
after the first forearm injury,
after a serious head injury,
after several demotions,
after being undrafted,
and there you stand, holding a half-full glass

Teach me to live that way

Those setbacks would make me bitter, angry
More antisocial than I already am
I would want nothing but isolation and revenge
Setting the field on fire, when you only pounded it

This is why you are paid to pitch and I pay to watch it.

Bottle your positivity
You could sell millions!

Teach me to live that way

I am envious

ER

Seriously, I really want Aaron Sanchez to get his groove back

February 25, 2019

Honestly, I’m not dreading the upcoming regular season. Yes, the Jays are likely going to be akin to the 2011/2012/2013 Houston Astros. It’s going to be ugly, save for Vladdy’s debut. But I’m okay with that. With a pair of rose-coloured glasses, I intend to treat 2019 as a season of development and teachable moments.

In fact, the only amount of worry I have is for Aaron Sanchez. Seriously, I really want Aaron Sanchez to get his groove back.

Do you recall Spring Training 2016? Sanchez showed up with 25 pounds of added muscle and a very confident disposition. The kid wanted to be a starter and was determined to make it happen. Don’t know what it was about his work effect, but my gut was telling me we were in store for something special.

Not only did Sanchez deliver, but he captained a starting rotation that carried the entire team to another exciting playoff run.

Sanchez was an artist out on the mound. You’d fall to your knees and weep at how he dominated the competition. No inning limit – though a compelling storyline – was going to stop him. He got the Jays into the postseason and picked up an ERA title along the way. Aaron Sanchez was an elite starter.

And then….he was robbed at gunpoint by a blister and a suitcase. We were robbed too.

2017 and 2018 were rough years for Sanchez. Having him on the sidelines was my biggest frustration two seasons ago and the one of the biggest reasons why they finished with 76 wins.

Imagine if Sanchez was fully healthy in 2017. Maybe they would’ve had at least 10 more wins. Maybe they would’ve competed for a wild card spot. Maybe things would be different.

Alas, dust in the wind.

So here is Aaron Sanchez caught in a baseball version of purgatory. It seems like there’s a chasm between what he was in 2016 and where he is now. I’m just hoping he can close that gap.

A recent Shi Davidi article on Sportsnet.ca highlighted his strategy. He’s studying film and correcting bad habits caused by last year’s finger injury. It reminds me of that same determination from 2016.

If he can regain his form, his path will be clearer. Of course, that path can lead one of two ways: Either he’ll be an integral part of the rebuild or he’ll be traded for younger talent. I’m actually conflicted with what I’d prefer. But I know this: A healthy and optimum performing Aaron Sanchez will make things less murky. The less murkier, the more he can move forward.

I don’t want him to be a one hit wonder. I don’t want him to be lost in obscurity. The Jays can lose games and be the joke of the league. That won’t bother me. What will be upsetting is if Sanchez’s once-promising career fades away.

It can’t happen. Just like Ricky Romero, it would be tragically unfair.

ER

Spring Training Haikus: The “Tradition” Continues

February 11, 2019

construction begins
at the spring training complex
where the earth is scorched

the new manager
leads a rebuilding roster
with future promise

fans want young Vladdy
to address his potential
and answer the hype

where does Travis fit
in a packed middle infield
with many options

pitching has questions
mixed with low expectations
and hopes for good health

ER

PS: Here’s another round of Dimsum Stories.

Eovaldi

November 19, 2018

The Red Sox needed Nathan Eovaldi
a day before his start
So he threw six heroic innings
plus one bad pitch
ending the historic match
as the east coast said “Good morning”
and the west coast said “Goodnight”

Walking off the field
dejected, upset
He hears the opponents celebrating and
thousands of joyous screams inside Dodger Stadium.

Pounds of salt on a fresh wound

His teammates show their appreciation
Not a single player or coach leaves the dugout
They know he didn’t lose the game
They lost the game for him.

ER

Final Thoughts on the 2018 World Series

October 29, 2018

Sometimes, the antagonists win. With that in mind, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox – 2018 World Series Champions.

Bias aside, Boston is more than deserving of this title. During the postseason, they showed everyone why they won 108 regular season games. They were the league’s best from late-March to the present; so it’s only fitting they captured the prize.

Moreover, I am absolutely THRILLED for David Price and Steve Pearce!

Price’s tenure in Boston has been controversial. But after some stellar performances this month, he has slammed the door on all the haters and critics. David Price is a much-deserved world champion and no one can take that away from him. As he told reporters during the post-game news conference, he now holds the trump card.

I always liked Price and this was before he was traded to the Blue Jays in 2015. Watching him bolt from the dugout to celebrate his team’s triumph put a big smile on my face. Fairly certain I wasn’t the only one.

We know what a Steve Pearce hot streak looks like. Seriously, the man couldn’t have picked a better time to go on one. Regardless of what happens next for him, he has achieved folk hero status in Massachusetts.

It was also funny how certain members of Jays Twitter freaked out over Pearce’s MVP performance.

“HOW COULD THEY PAY TO GET RID OF STEVE PEARCE AND GET NOTHING SUBSTANTIAL IN RETURN?!” they shouted.

I guess these particular fans never saw a team rebuild before.

***
Small Housekeeping Note

I’ve joined forces with Jays Journal’s Ari Shaprio and will be contributing items to his website – AriShaprio.ca – in addition to my usual DNJT stuff. Currently, I have two pieces up: A short story called Living The Dream and an article entitled, October Baseball.

ER

David Staright @davidstaright – http://www.unsplash.com

First Round, 22nd Pick

September 17, 2018

Man on the radio,
I’m driving while the city sleeps.
Tell me about the new draft pick.

He’s from Medford and runs with a proverb:
Height doesn’t measure heart.
It gives him a chip on his shoulder and
the meaning of life.
His life.

Man on the radio,
What’s the kid’s story?

Imagine being told you’re too small.
He got angry and
worked to prove everyone wrong,
using a fastball, slider and confidence.

Man on the radio,
what does his future look like?

He will tear his anterior cruciate ligament, but recover faster than anyone else.
He will help his team to the promised land after a 22-year odyssey.
He will earn a degree and several playoff starts.
He will win gold for his country.
He will build a fashion empire and maintain a mansion.
He will have ups and downs.
He will face adversity and a recurring blister.
He will energize the fan base.

You might be turned off by his bravado,
but baseball isn’t fun without character.
His character.

Man on the radio,
How will it all end?

Let the story play out.
Let the story play out.

ER


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