Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Welcome Back, Baseball!

The Toronto Blue Jays have once again stormed out of the gate and are in first place in the American League East. They did the same thing last year.
It has given those of little faith the opportunity to begin their rants as to when and why the Jays will falter again this year.

Those of you who cheer for teams from Hogtown, no matter what the sport, have reason to be a little cynical at this point in time. The Raptors were expected to compete well in their division; however, they have faltered badly going down the stretch, and lost two key games to the Chicago Bulls to all but seal their fate. Their chances of making the playoffs are slim and nil at the moment.

The Argos piled up the losses as the season progressed last year. Yet again, they are attempting to re-invent the wheel, and have hired all new coaches. They will have plenty of sizzle heading into the pre-season, but expectations are not exactly at pinnacle heights.
The Toronto Maple Leafs did disappoint this year. There were several bright spots, and they will return next year with a hungrier and younger crew. Members of the Leafs Nation will now have to enjoy the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a little less enthusiasm.

Ah, but the Jays are here and now, and they are doing fine. Perhaps they are playing over their heads. So what? Wins must be taken, graciously, when they come. As is often the case, the pundits in the Toronto press have already buried the Jays.

On Monday night the Jays came from behind several times only to fall short in the eleventh inning to the Chicago White Sox. They have made a habit of clawing back into games this season, achieving success in four of their five wins in that manner. For the record, last year, the Jays did not record their second win when they were trailing after eight innings until August 26th!

In his first start of the season, lanky Brian Tallet held the Texas Rangers to two runs for the victory. He has been with the Jays for five years, and has the most Major League experience of any of the Blue Jay five starting pitchers. That does not bode well for the Toronto Nine in the long run; however, so far, so good. There are some fine arms in that mix, including Ricky Romero. I expect Romero to break out this season, barring injury.

Vernon Wells has provided plenty of fire power for the Jays. He leads the league in home runs, and has shown good hustle in the outfield, chasing down fly balls with ease. Vernon has been inconsistent in the past, often playing with nagging injuries. As is the case with all professional sport, most injuries are not shared with the media and the fans. Players are often required to play with aches and pains, especially in baseball, the longest season of them all.

Vernon currently ranks fourth on the Jays all time home run list, trailing George Bell by six dingers. He also needs four runs batten in to overtake Joe Carter, who is in third place on that list. These are personal numbers, and this is a team game; nonetheless, it does say something about Vernon’s contributions to the team over the years.

Noticeably absent from the lineup Monday night was Aaron Hill. Hill has been placed on the disabled list after playing two games. He will be sorely missed. He and Adam Lind were the truly bright spots with the Jays last year. Both received Silver Bats at the end of the season, a fine tribute to each.

The Jays ranked 11th out of the 14 teams in the American League going into Monday’s game on the hitting charts. Their team batting average is a rather dismal .233. For a team to challenge for the pennant, it must hit in the .280 range. The Detroit Tigers are currently leading the league at a .295 clip. The Jays are tied with the Twins for the most home runs, eleven each.

We all chuckled a little to hear the fans giving a “Bronx Cheer” to Alex Rios. He started his career with the Jays with unlimited potential, and most of us expected he would eventually become a superstar. He is still trying to find a groove with the White Sox, although he has not excelled with them. He had worn out his welcome in Toronto when he departed.

All part of the lore of the great game of baseball. Tie up those laces on your spikes, Henry. We have a lot of games left this season! Play Ball!

James Hurst
13 April 2010.

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