Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Shoulda Woulda Coulda

I trust you will tolerate the terrible spelling. The purpose of the title is to introduce the concept of “What might have been…” with regard to the Toronto Blue Jays season.

There were many disappointments to the team at the beginning of the season, and the Jays could never recover from that time. Manager Cito Gaston recently summarized that time by saying that things would have been different had the Jays reached .500 baseball (winning and losing the same number of games), then going five games up on that figure, then ten games up on that.

As of last Monday night, the Jays record stands at 76 wins, 66 loses. Just where Cito wanted them a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, too little too late.

Some of the members of the current roster decided to put on their hitting shoes a little too late in the season.

Alex Rios is an example in point. He won the Player of the Week Award for the period ending September 7, 2008. He batted .414, hit three home runs, two triples, three doubles, and drove in eight runs. That is exactly what was expected of Rios at the beginning of the season. It just didn’t happen.

On the Jays web site, in an article by Brittany Ghiroli who writes for Major League Baseball, Rios states: “ I’m seeing the ball pretty good at the plate. I’m being a little more patient and swinging at balls that I want to swing at, instead of swinging at everything. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve been doing good right now.”

When Gaston took over the reigns in mid-season, he asked former Athletic great Gene Tenace to take over the job as his hitting coach. With Rios, so far, so good.

Even Gaston looks to next year for great things from Rios: “I think this kid is going to get back to where he was before and be even better.”

The team stands in eleventh place in hitting in the American League, out of the fourteen teams. They are near the bottom of the heap in terms of home runs.

From my perspective, unless you are Brooks Robinson, you must hit at least .250. There are a lot of Blue Jays on the current roster, and several who have departed who are below that line.

There are certain moves made by management prior to the season, and during the season that just didn’t pan out. Frank Thomas, Shannon Stewart, David Eckstein, Matt Stairs, Kevin Mench and Brad Wilkerson all batted far below their potential this season.

John McDonald is a superb infielder, and part of a Jays team that fields with the best of them in the American League. But John is batting .217, and that is just not enough.

Greg Zaun handles pitchers well, and is an asset behind the plate; however, he is batting .231, and his ability to throw out base runners is deplorable.

Injuries have crippled the Jays this year. Then again, every team goes through those same situations. But the Jays could have used Aaron Hill, Scott Rolen, Vernon Wells, and Joe Inglett far more often than they did. Neither of those players has been in uniform for 100 games so far this year, and the team has played 140 games.

The Jays are Number One in pitching. They have the best Earned Run Average in the American League. Halladay and Burnett continue to lead the league in strikeouts. They are getting quality performances from several other hurlers.

Too little, too late.

But these are professional athletes. They are playing for pride. They play this game because they love it. Doubt that? Just watch the team when one of their players hits a home run to win a game in extra innings!

The Jays are now in a spoiler position. They have one series against the White Sox, one against the Yankees, and two against the Red Sox and The Orioles. They can certainly do a lot of damage before the season wraps up. Cito and the rest of the brass will get an opportunity to see what the future will bring as rookies will be called up from the farm system to strut their stuff.

September baseball. So near, and yet…

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