The wonderful thing about a long 162-game season is it allows opportunity for the unexpected.
The highs and lows and unimagined scenarios that can present themselves are countless. But the remarkable thing about 162 games is…over a large enough sample size, probability becomes your nemesis and you pretty much end up where you expected.
Looking back at spring training, most believed the Jays needed another solid arm in the rotation. Many felt staffing second base was going to be an issue. Some speculated whether the bullpen could repeat their dominance from the year prior. All of these instincts proved correct. And though you can’t predict injury, you must, never the less, predict that there will be some.
More importantly, the Jays were inconsistent. The rollercoaster often darted from shutout to blowout over the course of a couple nights. Either the pitching staff wasn’t given the run support it deserved, or the offense would jump out to an early lead only to watch the implosion of that same pitching staff. Additionally, the Jays were forced to rely too heavily on platoon pairings. They need “everyday players” who can show up consistently and perform.
These are not tears spilt meaninglessly over beer. These are lessons the Jays must take forward into the off-season. The core remains. Bautista, Encarnacion, and Reyes. The young pitchers – namely Hutchison, Stroman, Sanchez and even Norris – appear ready to contribute. Buerhle and Dickey are under contract for another season; though don’t be surprised if at least one of them is moved this winter – a trade for an everyday second baseman, perhaps?
The loss of Brett Lawrie to injury was undervalued by most. His return to third base and his ability to range to the left side will help Reyes look less old at shortstop. And with the emergence of the young arms, the bullpen can receive support from would-be-starters like J.A. Happ and Dustin McGowan.
Perhaps most importantly, the Jays need to bring Melky Cabrera back.
The team’s outfield is already facing several questions with the departure of Colby Rasmus. Melky has delivered this year, and deserves to be paid accordingly. With Bautista and Melky in the corners, the Jays can afford to groom a youngster in center – such as Gose, Pillar, or Mississauga’s own, Dalton Pompey.
A miracle will not help us. But a couple of signings and trades might.
The Jays host the Baltimore Orioles at the Rogers Centre over the weekend. Expect to see some of the young talent showcased in these final games. With Baltimore having clinched the division and the Jays officially out of it, these games are about little more than pride and a final record. The young prospects will be given a chance to prove why they belong – plus it helps ensure the superstars don’t injure themselves for an otherwise meaningless game. The Jays will send Drew Hutchison, J.A. Happ, and R.A. Dickey to the mound for the 3 remaining games, respectively.
Last call for an afternoon out at the old ballgame.
Manager John Gibbons seems to be a polarizing character – which is ironic given his extremely laid-back demeanor. When asked, most fans are only-too-ready to list the various reasons why they either love or hate the man. As we approach the end of a disappointing season, the pundits have begun to discuss whether the Jays need a new face at the helm in order to turn things around in 2015.
Gibbons was signed to what is called a ‘rolling contract’ – meaning he is always under contract for the current year, plus one additional year. Many teams employ rolling contracts with managers and front-office staff because it removes the need to renegotiate new contracts every couple years, and eliminates much of the gossip and drama that occurs when a manager is nearing the end of his term. In practice, a rolling contract is automatically renewed until it is officially terminated – at which point the remainder of the current year and one additional year are still owed. In that sense, it can be viewed much like a severance package.
Will John Gibbons be back in 2015? When asked for specifics, General Manager Alex Anthopoulos stated, rather ambiguously, that “Gibbons is currently under contract for next year”. The many fans of Gibbons will list the positive traits he brings along with his leadership, while his detractors will point to another discouraging year. Only time will tell how ownership decides to ‘shake things up’ this winter.
Buzzword of the Week: “The Mendoza Line”
A term that began as a joke between teammates in 1979 has become an established part of the baseball lexicon. Today, you may even find its use beyond the confines of the game – describing many scenarios in pop-culture at large.
In 1979, shortstop Mario Mendoza played with the Seattle Mariners. Though a very good defender, his batting skills were below average. For most of his career, his batting average sat near the .200 mark. During this time, if another batter were to struggle offensively and his average dip, his teammates would joke that the batter would soon be batting worse than ‘Mendoza’. The joking slowly evolved into what they called ‘The Mendoza Line’.
With time, the term was popularized all throughout baseball. In modern use, the ‘line’ is commonly understood to be a batting average of .200 – and is meant to describe the threshold of competent hitting. Regardless of what a player may bring to his team defensively, it is hard to justify his presence in the lineup if he is unable to keep his batting average above “the Mendoza Line”.
So what have you learned?
Gibbons seems likely to return, maybe? Given all the platoons and hitters who struggled to stay above the Mendoza Line, he did what he could – though many disagree. If Anthopoulos has anything planned, he’s keeping it quiet for now.
The baseball season is often a long and grueling race to the middle. The Jays’ takeaways should be to address their hole at second base, bring Melky back, and work their consistency mojo heading into next season. The pitching staff looks promising, but a couple trades could help the picture on the field, as well as bring some fresh veteran blood into the clubhouse. Management needs to seek out new life and new civilizations, in order to boldly go where…well, perhaps not.
Sadly we will not be back next Friday. As we enter the post-season, please think about the good times, the warm fuzzy feelings, and what might have, could have, and almost was for the best damn (and only) ball club north of the border.
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