Category Archives: MLB

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Exit Encarnacion

Well I can honestly say I hadn’t loved another man with a parrot in Rogers Centre since the great Koko B. Ware rode in a small mobile wrestling ring cart at Wrestlemania XI.  Never again did I believe a man with a parrot could steal my heart, yet Edwin Encarnacion did just that.  It wasn’t a real parrot, unlike Koko, who had Franky, and Franky was HILARIOUS, but the parrot was there in spirit nonetheless.  But the parrot is being walked on out the door, and it really is a shame now that we know how it shook down.

 

Truth be told, I was good with him leaving after the season.  I was looking at some of the possibilities, fully trusted (obviously still do) Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, and felt like there were better moves the organization could make than to get tied down with a long term, big money deal for a soon to be 34 year old DH.  It was already the oldest team in MLB, too right handed heavy, not quick enough on the bases, Encarnacion just simply wasn’t a great fit…at what was thought to be the price.

 

But now that we know what we know, did both sides overplay their hand?

 

We know Encarnacion’s camp did.  Edwin made it pretty clear that Toronto was his first choice, and almost felt like he was reluctant to go to free agency.  Maybe that’s just the Jays homer in me, but if he wasn’t being sincere he sure fooled me!  But it really did feel like he was more so advised…as he should be…to go get the big contract.  I worry for his sake that even though he’ll get that big contract (though not near as big as his camp thought he would), that he’s not going to be happy elsewhere.  I guess it depends on the team he goes to.  Winning can help alleviate any problems he may have.

 

I wonder though if the Jays aren’t going to regret moving on so quickly from Encarnacion though as well.  It was the right move, and I’m a pretty big fan of the Kendrys Morales signing.  I think in this lineup, playing in Rogers Centre which is a much more friendly park for power hitters, 35-40 bombs honestly wouldn’t shock me in the least.

 

The Steve Pearce signing (which of course is the reason we now know Encarnacion’s time in Toronto is done) I like too…depending on who he’ll be platooning with.  He crushes lefties, and seems to love Rogers Centre (loves hitting against the Jays anyway), so that could be a ton of bang for their buck.  Again though, that all depends on who he is platooning with.  If it’s Justin Smoak then I’m not too happy.  If it’s Mitch Moreland, I’m a little more happy with that than Smoak, but still feel like an upgrade will be needed by July 31st.  It wouldn’t dare be Rowdy Tellez already…would it?!

 

So I like what the Jays have done to this point.  If by March the front office has only added Jay Bruce and Boone Logan to this team then I’m not happy.  But so far, so good.

 

But I can’t help but wonder if they couldn’t have got Encarnacion for 3 years/60 million or somewhere in that range.  Because it sure is starting to feel like without the Red Sox chasing him hard that the market just isn’t there for the now former Jays slugger.  I absolutely get not wanting to sit on your ass and running the risk of being left with nothing, but it will really suck if this guy ends up in Baltimore or Texas for that price.

 

As for the Jays and what is next, as I eluded to early they still have a ton of work to do.  Dexter Fowler intrigues me, as I’m still a believer in having a guy who is comfortable in the leadoff role, but more importantly it just would give them more speed on the base paths.  The numbers being talked about are comfortable to me, and as Arden Zwelling tweeted yesterday, the Jays have quite a bit of money to play with after doing the deal with Pearce.

 

Again, trust this front office.  So far, they haven’t given Jays fans much to bitch about.  And as I said off the top, I’ve been fine with Encarnacion walking sine the offseason began.  But should he walk for a deal that’s at or less than the Jays offer of 4×20, that’ll be tough to stomach for all Jays fans.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Feeling Blue?

ee-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x724Well I don’t know about you, but that sucked worse than last year for me.  Last year, you had a red hot and experienced KC Royals team that felt like the favourite in the ALCS.  I’m a pretty big fan of this Cleveland Indians team, but the Jays on paper were heavy favourites, especially with all the injuries to the Tribe’s starting staff.  Even at 3-0 a lot of my buddies and myself were looking at the pitching matchups and saying “they beat Kluber, the Tribe are in a ton of trouble.”  But it wasn’t to be and the better team won in five.

 

That’s the bad news.  There is a lot of good news with this team moving forward.

 

Lost in the September swoon that had the country on pins and needles as to whether or not the Jays would make the playoffs was the hiring of Ben Cherington.  Who is Ben Cherington?  He’s the former GM of the Boston Red Sox.  He built much of their 2013 World Series winner.  He is responsible for them having arguably the best farm system in baseball entering this season.  Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, Moncada, Benintendi, Swihart, they’re LOADED with young talent both on the team already and still to come in the system.  Things don’t always go as planned, but I’d be surprised if under this regime the Jays don’t have at least a top 10 farm system in two years time.

 

And if that’s the case, that young talent could arrive just in time, as this isn’t a young roster.  Josh Donaldson is 31 next season, Troy Tulowitzki just turned 32, Russell Martin is about to turn 34, and if they keep one of Encarnacion or Bautista, Encarnacion will be 34 and Bautista turned 36 yesterday.

 

I say one of, because I believe they have to let one of them walk.  Both are DH’s at this point, but even if you put one at first and the other at DH, you’re ensuring that the lineup stays as is and that simply can’t happen.  Cleveland’s staff didn’t pitch a great series, despite what everyone has and will say.  What happened is that the ALDS was a mirage.  Cole Hamels and Colby Lewis were amazing matchups for the Jays, and Yu Darvish just had a poor outing in game 2.  Teams have figured out how to pitch to the Jays, and they refuse to adjust.  So they need to mix in some left handed or switch hitters, and they need to mix in more speed.

 

If you ask me which one of them you let walk…you put up with a guy like Bautista when he’s got one of the biggest bats in baseball.  I have to think his act has gotten REAL old in that clubhouse.  I’m a Jays fan, and while I have liked his bat, I’ve never liked the guy.  I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but I know for me he would be a guy that you could get sick of real quickly with some of the garbage he pulls.  He’ll be the cheaper option of the two, but I’d be willing to do a four year deal with Encarnacion.

 

It is very possible that the organization lets them both walk.  With such an old roster I wouldn’t suggest that they’ll want to get younger, but they may want someone in that position who they don’t have to commit to long term.  So perhaps Carlos Beltran?  They were interested in him at the deadline, he’s a switch hitter, despite being 39 he’s coming off an outstanding season hitting 29 HR’s, 93 RBI’s, .295 AVG and a .337 OBP.  Tough to expect THAT again, but close to that would be pretty great.  In doing a move like this, you would also keep more of your options open for the 2018 free agent class that is shaping up to be incredible.  Still a couple years away, but no doubt management will be keeping an eye on it.

 

Something that became evident as a need this October is a good backup catcher for Martin.  He was gassed in the playoffs, and he was gassed last year in the playoffs despite Dioneer Navarro seeing a lot of his AB’s.  A left handed or switch hitting backup who can be trusted defensively (so probably not Navarro at this point) is what is needed.  A guy like Jason Castro is probably too good to be true, but he’d be perfect.  He is the only guy who can hit left and is solid behind the plate on the free agent market, so if they’re going to find this guy they’re going to have to trade for him.

 

As for other needs…I could see them making a big run at Josh Reddick in free agency.  Lefty stick (hope you don’t get sick of me saying this!), former gold glove winner, and a guy who hits for average.  Hasn’t been great since being dealt to the Dodgers, and wouldn’t be cheap.  But I think he’s a perfect fit for this Jays team.

 

They could use a leadoff man.  Most sabermetric fans will tell you a leadoff man is a myth.  I lean that way as well, but over the last two years the lineup has been at it’s best with Jose Reyes and then Ben Revere leading off.  Jose Bautista didn’t work.  Troy Tulowitzki didn’t work.  Devon Travis didn’t work.  The only other guy that kind of worked was Ezequiel Carrera, and the jury is definitely going to be out on whether he was a guy who simply got on a hot streak, or if he can continue to improve.  I love his approach, love his swing.  I’d be willing to try him as a platoon with Melvin Upton.  But I’m not sure either are the answer at the top of the order.

 

Speaking of LF, what about Michael Saunders?  I’d say he’s another candidate to be a short term answer at DH if he’s willing to accept a two or three year deal for reasonable money, but it’s tough to gage what kind of deal he’ll get.  He’s not a terrible glove in left, but again I would think Shapiro and Atkins would like a guy who can hit at the top of the order and that’s a prime position to find those types.

 

They need a big time lefty for the bullpen much like they did last offseason, but I really hope they look to use Francisco Liriano in that role.  He’d have to be ok with it, but should he be I’d rather he be a 14 million dollar Andrew Miller than a 14 million dollar 5th starter.  You can find 5th starters, and in my opinion you should want to leave that spot open for a value signing type guy.  Look at how valuable Miller has been to the Indians.  That type of guy isn’t easy to find and the Jays may have him with the type of stuff Liriano has.  C.C. Sabathia was rumoured to have interest from the Jays at the deadline due to his relationship with Shapiro, perhaps he is of interest to them as a free agent?

 

I don’t think the pen needs much work next season.  If Liriano did start the season there, they’ll definitely be picking up the option on Jason Grilli, and Joe Biagini should be able to improve on this season so that gives them a rock solid back end of the rotation.  Joaquin Benoit is a free agent that I’m sure they’d have interest in bringing back, as is Brett Cecil.  Cecil has been up and down with this team but I’d want him back as well.  Even at his worst he can still get left handers out.  And he’s likely the 3rd best lefty reliever on the open market, if not the 2nd.  But having said that, you never know the trade options which could be out there.  I was livid that they didn’t touch the pen last offseason and then they did the Storen deal, which obviously went sideways before flipping him for Benoit, but at the time looked like a fantastic move.

 

Then of course you have the big want for just about all Jays fans.  I know hardly any of you would have read this, but do you recall what I suggested a year ago at this time?  I’ll refresh your memory….or it’ll be your first time reading this.

People might laugh at this notion, but I’m going to put it out there.  I could see Joey Votto at 1st to start next season.  The Reds are rebuilding.  Votto has a monster contract which the Jays could afford to take on.  The Jays lack a big left handed bat.  The Jays lack a guy who’ll hit for average in the middle of the order.  He’s a former gold glove winner.  And for ownership to sign off on bringing such a big contract in…he’s a Toronto born player.  It is totally just a hunch, I haven’t even seen Votto’s name mentioned in rumors.  But Anthopoulos has pulled trades out from seemingly nowhere a few times before, and this would make sense.

That was written on October 24th, 2015.  Of course, Anthopoulos is gone now.  But rumours have really heated up about this since around the trade deadline, and word is that the Jays are very interested should the Reds move Votto this offseason, which is a very real possibility.  He is 34 next season, but there isn’t a more perfect fit for this team at 1st base than Joey Votto.  .326 BA this season, .434 OBP!  A left handed bat that doesn’t just simply go up there looking to hack, what a concept!  The Reds would need to eat some money on the back end of the deal, but if they were willing to (they pretty much have to if they want to move him, the contract is an albatross despite how great Votto is) I could see the Jays landing him.  I also want to say that Votto has a no move?  I would guess that’s 10 and 5 rights which is basically the same thing.  I’m sure if he were to be dealt he’d have interest in more teams than just the Jays, but the fact his hometown team is a contender and he would be such a great fit at 1st and in the lineup, I’m certain would put them near or at the top of the list.

 

Yesterday sucked, no doubt.  But this team is setup.  They’re setup for next season, and next season this front office will begin setting them up for the next decade.  As shitty as it was to see them get bounced in the ALCS for the 2nd year in a row, they appear to be here to stay.  The AL East will be tougher next season with the Yankees on the rise and the Red Sox being so young and already so good, but the Jays are in excellent shape.  I don’t think we’re going to see things go back to the way they were anytime soon.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Round 3

jays-v-rangers

Just in case you weren’t sick of seeing this yet Jays fans, figured I’d put the video up here.  This team may have gone 22 years between postseason appearances, but in the last four years they’ve been in the dance they haven’t shorted their fans on memorable moments!  Alomar against the A’s, Sprague’s pinch hit home run, Devon White’s catch, Winfield’s two run double, the game four comeback against the Phillies, Joe Carter, Bautista’s bat flip (not a flip), Estrada’s masterpiece against the Royals, and now the Encarnacion bomb to win the wildcard game.

 

So it’s on to Arlington.  This is the tilt everyone wanted to see since May.  I remember saying to buddies after the Odur punch was thrown “how SICK would it be if these two meet in the playoffs?!”  I doubt we see anything crazy, but the intensity is going to be off the charts for this one.

 

The Rangers have a very good team, but what’ll be interesting in this series is now the recent history of the two clubs.  Record wise, the Rangers SHOULD take this series.  However, not to be a Jays homer, but I think the Jays are all kinds of wrong for the Rangers.

 

The Rangers since 2010 have built up quite a reputation of choking in big spots.  People forget, they were the World Series favourites in 2010 yet they lost in five to the Giants.  2011 of course they choked away game 6 of the World Series a couple of times to the Cardinals.  2012 they blew the division to the A’s and then the wildcard game to the Orioles.  2013 they lost a one game playoff at home to the Rays.  And then of course last season they had a 2-0 lead heading home against these Jays and we all know what happened there.

 

MEANWHILE the Jays went 4-1 in elimination games last year, and are essentially on a three game winning streak in elimination games right now.  The way it worked out over the weekend they didn’t actually NEED to win the last two games against Boston.  But the O’s were playing the Yankees and the Tigers had the Braves, so the Jays definitely would have felt like those were must wins.  And I thought the body language last night was much better.  Everyone looked real comfortable in big spots.

 

But it would be dumb of me to base liking the Jays off that alone.  And I’ve done some dumb things.  Heck, just Tuesday night I was at the Jays game sitting out in left field when I finally made up my mind in the 7th inning that I was done drinking alcohol and really wanted to declare I was done with it and make a statement so to speak.  OOPS!!!

 

Just kidding guys that wasn’t actually me.  I had you going though didn’t I!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Back to the task at hand…I love the pitching matchups for the Jays in this series.  Cole Hammels isn’t going to scare the Jays.  They didn’t dominate lefties this season like they did last, but no doubt they prefer them.  Meanwhile, Estrada proved how great he is when the pressure is on last season, and he seems to be hitting his stride just at the right time.  Over his last three starts Estrada has gone 19 innings, allowing just two earned runs.  So that feels like a bit of an advantage for the Jays.

 

Game two I feel like J.A. Happ will need to be great, because Yu Darvish is a matchup nightmare for the Jays, and he much like Estrada looks to be peaking at the right time.  8-2 since August 7th, and in his final two starts he went 13 innings allowing only 1 earned run and striking out 21.  He is ALL KINDS OF WRONG for this Jays lineup!  If I were Jeff Bannister, he’d have been my game 1 starter and this feels like it could be a decision that really hurts the Rangers.

 

Game three the Jays are rolling out Aaron Sanchez, I’m guessing vs Colby Lewis who does have a good playoff track record, but that is still a big pitching advantage for the Jays.  Game four it’s Marcus Stroman, and I have to believe that it would be Cole Hammels on three days rest, but it shouldn’t have been Derek Holland in game four last year yet Bannister went with him.  So should he make this mistake again I have to guess he would go with Martin Perez, unless he’s facing elimination and then maybe his mindset changes.  Man, wouldn’t it be nice to have the option of a power right hander to give the ball to in that game rather than letting the Jays see another lefty….

 

So the Jays in my mind have a big advantage with the starters unless the Rangers roll with a 3 man rotation, then it’s a lot more even.  The x factor in the series could be if Roberto Osuna is healthy (and as of writing this we still don’t know).  I said it on Monday, I’ll say it again: The bullpen is massively improved having Liriano coming out of it.  It was good with Benoit, it’s even better with Liriano in that spot.  With a healthy Osuna, I definitely prefer the Jays bullpen to the Rangers.

 

Finally you have the lineups.  No doubt the Rangers have the better lineup right now.  I really feel it’s a lot like the Royals lineup was last season.  Not to say they don’t have power (five guys with 20 or more home runs), but 1-9 there is essentially no let up.  They’ve plugged the holes that were there last October.  And the addition of Carlos Beltran is scary.  That guy is in the twilight of his career, but he’s still as clutch as any hitter in the game.

 

The Jays lineup hasn’t been itself for almost two months now.  I’ve bitched about it lots and will one more time, they’re too caught up in trying to play hero ball instead of showing patience and keep the line moving.  If they’re on, they’re just as potent as the Rangers.  But there is no reason to believe they’ll be on.  Tuesday night they didn’t change anything and were constantly getting themselves out, specifically grounding into double plays far too often in big spots.  Let’s be honest.  If it wasn’t for an awful managerial decision by Buck Showalter to go with Jimenez over Britton, the Jays could easily be done right now.

 

But I will say this, and it’s just a hunch.  But I think we’ll see this lineup start producing a bit more now.  The pressure is off.  They aren’t expected to win this series and are riding a pretty massive high.  This is another reason why I hate the Rangers going with Hammels today.  Well, I don’t like it for the Rangers…

 

I’m definitely starting to sound like a guy who is hoping on an off the bandwagon.  Not my intention, but would not blame anyone for viewing it that way!  Three weeks ago I wrote them off.  10 days ago I felt like they had righted the ship.  Going into Boston I had no faith.  After Boston I had a bit of hope.  Now I’m calling for them to knock off Texas.  Maybe I’m the jinx?!  If that’s the case, go Rangers!…

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Wasn’t That Fun…

0ef8e26ce9c344d093a188c496738d53-1560x1054I’ve got a miserable cold right now.  It doesn’t prevent me from doing anything.  Not missing work, not avoiding doing my cardio workouts, not avoiding writing shit like this, so it really isn’t stopping me.  But man, it’s brutal and it won’t go away.  A few times it has felt like it was getting better, only to get a little worse.  Is that not how September was as a Jays fan?  What a convenient opening that is.  I can bitch and moan about my cold, and I could draw a parallel to the topic.  Just delightful.

 

If you’re a Jays fan, you literally begged for a September like this from 2001-2014.  “Let’s just be in it”.  Sometimes things seem a lot more fun than they actually are.

 

I’ll give them this: I’ve had trouble finding good narratives about the Jays in past seasons.  Even last year they were somewhat difficult to write about.  Not this season!  Cruised right into September and had a 2 game lead in the AL East at the start of the month, 4 games up on Baltimore.  Even though the standings were tight, they always looked like the most complete team in the division, maybe in the American League.  The offence hadn’t been what it was, but still elite.  Starting pitching was the best in the AL.  And the bullpen had been stabilized thanks to the Drew Storen/Joaquin Benoit swap.

 

What the hell happened!!!???!!!

 

This team definitely has the feel of a team running on fumes, both in terms of health and confidence.  Donaldson is playing hurt, Bautista is getting somewhat healthy but I’m sure isn’t 100%, Travis has been beat up, Martin is without a doubt hurting too.  They definitely stopped getting breaks too.  I don’t know what the stats say on this, but it’s felt like a lot well hit balls hadn’t been dropping of late.  The D hasn’t been near as air tight, and I have to believe that’s a result of the bats going cold forcing guys to press a little more.

 

It wasn’t pretty at all, but they’re in.  And there is something to be said about struggling a bit to get in.  But I’d counter that by saying teams that normally benefits are teams that get hot late, not teams that struggle to get in like the Jays have.  Not to be negative about it, just trying to be realistic.  One team that did so were the 2000 Yankees, but that was in the midst of a dynasty.

 

I wrote them off a few weeks ago after the horrendous performance against the Rays at home.  I didn’t say they wouldn’t get in, though I didn’t have much confidence they would, but figured they had no shot at advancing.  Now?  I’m not sure.  The more thought I give to the game tomorrow night, the more I find my confidence growing.

 

Their offence won’t give them shit, so we can stop waiting for that to happen.  And John Gibbons specifically needs to stop waiting for that to happen!  Enough leaning back in your chair and say “well, that’s just baseball” when asked why the bats aren’t producing.  No John, you need to understand that sometimes there are exceptions to the rule and need to ask Jose Bautista to lay down a bunt when you’re tied in the 8th inning of game 162 and needing a win.  I get that you wouldn’t dare to that in the bottom of the 4th against Minnesota in June, but you do it then.

 

But it’s not so much the bunting or lack there of which is the problem.  Everyone thinks they need to play small ball and bunt all the time.  That’s not really it.  More so, this lineup needs to ditch the “hero ball” mentality and just look to keep the line moving (and yes I know Tabler says that a lot and he’s annoying, but I don’t know what else to call it).  Patience.  Put a bat on the ball.  There are far too many great hitters in this lineup to be as piss poor as they’ve been lately.  Hitting in the postseason is like golfing in the U.S. Open.  You aren’t putting up four rounds of 63 at the U.S. Open.  Par is real good.  In the playoffs, you aren’t facing shitty pitching, so take what you can get.  That’s why teams that can mash and do nothing else virtually never win in the postseason.

 

But what really has my confidence growing is remembering that now that the playoffs are here (though it’s not really the playoffs yet, more so just game 163) the bullpen is getting a massive shot in the arm.  As of writing this it remains to be seen who gets the ball tomorrow night.  I’d think it’ll be Stroman, but it could be Liriano who has been real solid of late (thought the fact that he was in the pen yesterday probably means that’s where he’ll be), or it could be Estrada on just 3 days rest.  If it’s Estrada, it’ll be Estrada on a very short leash with the other two available.

 

I know Andrew Stoeten has tried to make the argument for Stroman to go to the pen and Liriano remain a starter for the playoffs, but I don’t see it that way.  Even without Benoit you still have Grilli, Biagini and of course Osuna you can rely on in the pen from the right side.  It is Cecil and nobody else from the left side if you don’t put Liriano down there.  Plus, as has been suggested by just about everyone, he could be lights out coming out of the pen.  It allows him to cut down on what he throws and exclusively use that slider.  That is a tremendous weapon to have.  Plus, I trust Stroman more.  Liriano has been good of late, but he’s had a poor season overall.

 

Either way though, being able to put a guy back there to put into Benoit’s spot is so huge.  Without Benoit they’ve been completely gassed the last few weeks which is why the pen blew so many games in that stretch.

 

This game very much so though is worrisome.  The O’s just took two of three against the Jays last week, with both Ubaldo Jiminez and Chris Tillman shutting them down.  Not the first time those two have locked down the Jays this season either.  And if it comes down to a battle of the bullpens, the Jays are in a ton of trouble.  Zach Britton is likely going to win the Cy Young award (not saying he should, but he likely will) and is unhittable this season.

 

But winning these last two games in Boston in the fashion they did does give some hope.  Those games weren’t vital to the Red Sox, but no doubt they felt the need to get those wins.  And I think it’s better for the Jays that they get the O’s than the Tigers.  As much as Tillman and Jiminez have shut them down of late, they would have had no shot against Justin Verlander.

 

They’ve stumbled to the finish line.  Will they regain their balance and go on a big run?  (how sexy would it be should they win tomorrow to see Jays v Rangers?!)  Or will they complete the stumble and fall flat on their faces?

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

It’s Become Clear

jays-rockedWhy can’t people figure out how to use a four way stop?  Every freaking day I pull up to a four way stop and every day…LITERALLY EVERY DAY some schmuck is sitting there looking at me.  He or she pulled up to that sign well before I did, yet there they are, starring at me, wondering why I’m not going.  Like, I don’t want to see people get shot, but in that moment a part of me wouldn’t mind seeing these people get shot, or at least shot at.  If they do get shot, not to kill, that would be too far.  But maybe in the leg, or shoulder?  You know, just a heads up for them that says “hey, schmuck…learn to drive.  Mmm k?”

 

So yesterday was my breaking point.  Mike Wilner is a level headed Jays broadcaster and he’ll never say it.  Andrew Stoeten is maybe the best follow for Jays fans on Twitter, he blogs on the team and co-hosts the Birds All Day podcast, and he’ll never say it.  Buck Martinez, Pat Tabler, nobody will say it.  I’m saying it.  The Jays are done.

 

I have to shout out to my buddy Chris Roberts for calling this before anyone else.  Back in late August he tweeted that he thought they were falling off and would down the stretch, and I mocked him.  Idiot!  He was spot on in this assessment, and I was a moron!  But I’m more worried about getting it right than being right.

 

“Yeah, the division is a lost cause”.  Nope.  “Well they’ll still get a wildcard spot”.  Nope.  They’re done.  Sabermetric guys would tell me I’m a moron, and there is no doubt this team is still going to make the playoffs.  “It’s baseball!  It ebs and flows like this all the time, they’re just in a slump.”  No, they’re done.  I’m not meaning to be a downer for anyone, it’s just the fact of the matter.

 

For starters, this offence has been trending down all season.  It’s gradually gotten worse and worse.  And yes, the lineup is very flawed.  1-9 this team has a lot of the same guy.  Don’t have a true leadoff hitter which is like a closer.  Any analytics guy will tell you needing a closer or a leadoff hitter is a myth, but both spots are mental.  We saw it last season with Troy Tulowitzki.  He just was never comfortable in that role, where Ben Revere was.  But more than that, they don’t have enough contact guys, and they don’t have enough lefty/righty balance.

 

With so many flaws, pitchers can figure out how to beat you.  Lefties who were getting destroyed by this lineup last season are now having solid outings against them, and righties who were better against them last season are now completely shutting them down, especially righties who have heavy stuff.

 

Add to that, the pitching staff has comeback to earth.  Marco Estrada has to be spot on with his stuff, and when he’s not he’s getting shelled.  Well lately he hasn’t been spot on and has gotten rocked a lot!  Happ has been coming back to earth a bit of late, neither one of Dickey or Liriano can really be trusted (even though Liriano was solid last time out), Sanchez now has blister problems and hasn’t been the same of late either, and Stroman is fine but despite what some think of him, he’s just simply not an ace.  He has ace type makeup, but at his best he’s only a number 2 or 3 guy in a rotation.  An ace can completely shut a lineup down.  At his best Stroman is allowing 2 or 3 runs.  Not a knock on the kid, I’m a massive fan of his!  But if he’s your top pitcher it’s not great news for your staff.

 

That’s not just limited to the starting staff either.  Joe Biagini is now getting hit.  Jason Grilli is coming back to earth.  Joaquin Benoit isn’t lockdown like he was for his first month.  Scott Feldman just simply sucks.  And Brett Cecil is just now a lefty specialist anymore.

 

So everyone flat out sucks right now.  That’s pretty simplistic to say.  And it’s pretty simplistic for me to say the team is done.  But it feels like the team knows they’re done too.

 

Look at the celebration from the team on Monday night after the 3-2 win against Tampa.  They celebrated as hard over that win as they did after the last win against the Yankees last season which essentially clinched the AL East crown.  A 3-2 win against the lowly Tampa Bay Rays.  When you celebrate like that, it’s as if you didn’t REALLY believe you could win.

 

I remember thinking that same thing during a Yankees/Jays game last year.  August 14th of last year, the Yankees came into the game against the Jays, at Rogers Centre with just a 0.5 game lead in the division and the Jays were coming on real strong.  Carlos Beltran hit a 3 run bomb in the top of the 8th to give the Yanks a 4-3 lead, and the vibe you got from the Yanks dugout was somewhat of shock.  When I win betting football, I’m a hell of a lot more excited about that than I am when I get a paycheck.  Point is, if the Jays had any confidence right now it wouldn’t have been much of a celebration at all about a 3-2 win vs Tampa.  Instead, it was party time.  Not a good sign.

 

It sucks to say after such a great season, but it happens.  The Jays aren’t even the biggest collapse this baseball season.  The Giants, the three time World Series champion San Francisco Giants are in a total free fall as well right now.  And I don’t think this will be it for this group of the Jays.  They’ll be retooled this offseason, but I believe they’ll still be a favourite in the AL East, at least until the Yankees are fully rebuilt.

 

The fan in me desperately hopes I’m wrong, but the realist in me knows they’re done.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

The Marathon Is Now a Sprint

rm-jays-v-twins-09.jpg.size.xxlarge.promo

Ok, so maybe I’m not “the king”, but I have to be at least in your top 150 sports bloggers.  So suck on that to that guy in Omaha Nebraska who is 151st, talking non stop about the Cornhuskers and other things of that nature.

 

Anyway, haven’t done much throughout the summer, but that is about to change.  NFL starting up and I’ll have my season preview and picks for week 1 coming out soon.  World Cup of Hockey starts shortly after that and while I think the tournament is purely a cash grab and quite a joke, I won’t lie.  I’ll still watch.  And maybe I’ll do a little preview on that, or else do some follow up’s on a few of the games and the tournament itself.  Then of course the NHL will start up, College football gets going this weekend, and basically things are going from zero to sixty in the sports world.

 

Oh yeah, and the MLB races heat up, essentially beginning tonight.

 

The AL East is one of only two divisions in MLB right now that is really a race.  The Indians, Rangers, Nationals, and Cubs all look as though they have their divisions wrapped up, though a September collapse isn’t unusual.  The Jays finally bought themselves a bit of breathing room this weekend heading into their big series with the O’s in Baltimore.  Two up on Boston, three up on the O’s.  I believe that to be their biggest lead of the season.

 

Now the O’s aren’t a big threat right now.  That starting staff is dreadful, even more so now that Chris Tillman is on the DL.  And they’re coming into this series sitting three games back of the Jays (although two up on the Tigers for the final AL wildcard spot).

 

While this would not come close to deciding the division, this is a golden opportunity for the Jays to essentially knock the O’s out of the race.  The pitching matchups on paper are all in heavy favour of the Jays, with Estrada, Happ and Sanchez opposing Milley, Jimenez and Gallardo.

 

But that’s what paper says.  Of course you need to factor in that Marco Estrada hasn’t been the same guy in his last three starts.  Is it his back?  Is it the six man rotation?  I doubt it’s the man who has been catching him, but I would guess that’ll change now that Dioneer Navarro is back and he was of course Estrada’s catcher last season.

 

You also need to factor in Yovani Gallardo’s success vs the Jays last season.  If you look at the Jays who have faced him 10 or more times, it’s either all or nothing.  Bautista and Martin are awful against him, while Donaldson, Encarnacion and Tulowitzki all are hitting over .350 against him.  The Gallardo we have seen this season isn’t the Gallardo from years past.  He’s been awful.  So the good money would be on the Jays knocking him around, but history does have a way of repeating itself.

 

The Twins series was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Jays.  The lineup is now finally healthy both literally and figuratively.  Bautista being back, Pillar being back, Travis being back, Donaldson is obviously looking right again, it’s all coming together for the Jays at just the right time.

 

But this has been a Jekyll and Hyde team of late.  Beating up the Twins staff is one thing, but against the Angels they were awful (by the Jays standards).  We all know about the extremely high strikeout numbers of late.  Yet the next night they’ll get back to crushing the ball.  It is possible that a lot of this has been due to the injury problems they’ve had of late, we’ll see.

 

This isn’t at all like last year.  Last year, from July 28th on it was just an incredible ride for Jays fans right up until game 6 of the ALCS.  This year, it is looking like a dog fight.  The O’s are in it and can pull into a tie with the Jays.  The Red Sox are even closer.  The Jays get both teams six more times starting tonight.  Boston and Baltimore still play each other seven more times.

 

Buckle up Jays fans.  That plea of “let’s just be in it come September” that you cried for years is here.  They have a lead, but it isn’t by much, and they haven’t been able to pull away.  Enjoy.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Today’s Shopping List


Mark+Shapiro+Ross+Atkins+OzPd-IBfzi-mA disappointing end to what looked like would be a sweep of the Orioles going into the 7th inning in yesterday’s game  But the Jays took two of three against the team they’re chasing and left little doubt about the fact that they’re among the elite team in the American League this season and are serious contenders heading into today and the non waiver trade deadline.  So now the question is what will they do?

 

Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have already made a couple of moves acquiring outfielder Melvin Upton and right handed reliever Joaquin Benoit.  But I firmly believe more is coming today.  I have no doubt we won’t see anything major, they don’t have the need, nor the farm system to pull something like that off.  The Tulowitzki injury, even if a stint on the DL is required, shouldn’t impact anything.  Barney is capable of stepping in for him, and Ryan Goins will be back from Buffalo soon.  What we could see is three or even four minor-middle of the road moves that they need to put them over the top.

 

So with that being said, let’s take a look at what could be done today.

 

Jose Bautista to 1B/DH

This seems to be something the organization is very interesting in getting done by 2PM MST today.  An upgrade defensively in right field is needed as Bautista is among the worst fielding RF’s in the game.  And while the lineup is as good as any in baseball there is still room for improvement.  Another solid, left handed bat would give this lineup great balance and make life miserable for any starter who faces them.

Possibilities:

Josh Reddick – News broke yesterday, FINALLY, that the Jays have talked to the A’s about Reddick.  Former gold glove winner, lefty bat (.296 BA, .368 OBP), he would be a great fit.

Jay Bruce – I still think they’re in on Bruce, but they clearly have competition on him.  He is going to be more expensive than Reddick.  Better bat and a reasonable option for next season.

 

Left handed reliever

To me this is the number one need for this ball club.  It is unbelievable to me that after witnessing the great need for another quality lefty in the pen in last year’s playoffs that Shapiro didn’t make it a major priority in the offseason.  I still believe Cecil can help lock things down, but if they’re able to use him in a similar role to how they used Loup last season and upgrade on Cecil, that pen would be in damn good shape.

Possibilities:

Will Smith – I think he’s the guy, assuming they are hard after a high end LH reliever and that they can reach a deal with the Brewers.

Sean Dolittle – He comes with big risk as he is injured, expected back in mid August.  But, he’s a top end LH reliever who could come relatively cheap.

 

Starting pitcher

Now this is what most believe they’re hard after in an attempt to replace Aaron Sanchez.  Jayson Stark of ESPN had a great piece on the Sanchez situation on Friday that I retweeted which had a lot of interesting tidbits including the average velocity for Sanchez this season that barely changed month to month.  Every month, 95 MPH.  And I really don’t get why you put him back in the pen.  To me, you shut him down in late August or early September and bring him back for the playoffs…should they make it there without their best pitcher and Cy Young candidate…anyway, at the moment, the bigger concern has to be Marco Estrada’s durability.  It’s a legit concern now whether or not his back will hold up for the remainder of the season.  So they definitely need to get a guy, but it won’t be anyone high profile.

Possibilities:

Jeremy Hellickson – He’s had a real solid season for the Phillies and having played in Tampa previously he’s very familiar with the division.

Rich Hill – The A’s lefty was appearing to be the top pitcher available at the deadline.  Ironically prior to facing the Jays a few weeks back he was scratched and hasn’t pitched since.  The price for him will have dropped dramatically because of the risk involved.  I do wonder if there is potential for a very large deal with the A’s because Reddick, Doolittle and Hill would shore up the Jays if Doolittle and Hill can comeback and could be affordable for Shapiro and Atkins.

C.C. Sabathia – He is a shot fighter…but he has a connection to Shapiro and he would cost nothing.  He hasn’t been that bad this season, but the durability is a concern.  If he’s healthy though, he’s worth adding.

 

Right handed reliever

I’m not so sure this is a need anymore, but I still would be interested in some insurance.  It’s an extremely small sample size, however thus far Joaquin Benoit has looked real good.  If he can return to form, they have a real good arm in the pen.  And Jason Grilli as emerged as a pretty good setup man.  Still, as the Royals showed last season, you just can’t have enough good arms in the pen.  And this really is the only weak area of the ball club.

Possibilities:

Brandon Kintzler – The Twins reliever has been lights out this season with a 2.14 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 33 2/3 innings.

Joe Smith – He’s not having a good season for the Angels, but he has a pretty good track record as a reliable setup man.  The cost on him as an impending free agent would likely be easy to swallow.

 

 

Backup catcher

I’m perhaps more certain of this move being done than any other, but it may not be done until August 31st.  The reason for that it will be a move that no team will care to block, and in September the team can then carry three catchers once it shifts to a 40 man roster.  That way R.A. Dickey can still have Josh Thole catch his games, and come October I highly doubt Dickey will be on the playoff roster with the way he’s pitched this season.

Possibilities:

Dioneer Navarro – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Navarro makes the most sense to me.  The White Sox aren’t starting him, he’s a free agent, he knows the team, he’s worked with most of the pitching staff (and had a great chemistry last season with Marco Estrada), and Gibbons eemed to be a big fan of him.  I know Shapiro and Atkins weren’t the guys who had him, but it wouldn’t be a big deal so I could simply see it being a case of Gibbons asking them to bring him back.  The cost would be miniscule at best.

 

This hasn’t been and won’t be like last year’s trade deadline for Jays fans.  There was no way it could be, but there was no need for that kind of action this time around.  Look for the team to plug some of these small holes and be ecstatic should they do it.  And even if they don’t, they can still maneuver.  They’re in a tremendous spot.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Thinking You’re Good vs Knowing You’re Good

tulobluejayslaydownRemember the offseason?  Remember when we were all in panic mode because David Price was gone?  Remember how gross we all thought the J.A. Happ contract was?  Remember how most of us were so pumped that the Jays nearly acquired Jay Bruce and all they were going to have to give up was Michael Saunders who was useless?  Damn, we are smart.

 

Around this time of year I tend to write my first Jays piece of the season.  I don’t THINK it’s because the NHL and NBA have essentially shut it down (though Dwayne Wade leaving Miami definitely doesn’t keep things quiet in the NBA!) but I tend to always write my first piece this time of year.  In 2013 it was about how I wasn’t a believer in the team despite an 11 game win streak (this club loves their 11 game win streaks don’t they).  In 2014 it was about how this time around I actually was a believer as they rattled off 9 in a row (at the time), 13 of 15, and 18 of 23.  Of course, that was really wrong as they pretty much died a slow death from that point on in the season.  Then finally last year I didn’t write about their 11 game winning streak.  I didn’t want to jinx it like I figured I had the two previous seasons.

 

This time around, I’m nowhere near worried about being a jinx, this team is a serious contender.

 

Obviously last fall is a big contributor to this line of thinking, but you still didn’t know for sure entering the season whether or not the Jays swagger would carry over to this season.  Perhaps without that legit ace on the pitching staff they would have their doubts?  But they haven’t skipped a beat.  And yes, they’ve had their up’s and down’s this season, but the body language has never changed.  This team knows they’re among the best and baseball, and if things aren’t going well, they snap out of it.

 

The most encouraging sign to me relates to what they just did.  They swept the Royals.  Over the weekend, they split with the Indians although Friday’s game was pretty literally won just as much by umpire Vic Carapazza as it was by the Tribe.  Point is, they’ve really risen to the occasion against the top teams this season.  Since the start of May, they’re 20-13 vs the Red Sox, Orioles, Rangers, Dodgers, Giants, Indians and Royals.  Pretty solid.  In the past, that’s where this team folded.  They’d always beat up on the weak and shrink against the top teams.

 

Another great sign is that they’re getting by more so with pitching than hitting, at least for the majority of the first half.  Aaron Sanchez, lights out (more on him coming up).  Marco Estrada, an ace and frankly I’m shocked that last season has carried over.  J.A. Happ, a tremendous signing by Mark Shapiro (I believe he was signed prior to Ross Atkins being named GM in case you’re wondering).  R.A. Dickey, having his typical season where he starts awful and by June is giving you far more good outings than bad.  Finally, Marcus Stroman.  Is the slump now over?  Last night he was sensational.  It’s only one start, but he definitely looks to be back on track.  There were signs in his previous outing that he was coming out of it, and those good signs carried over.  I wouldn’t declare him to be out of the woods just yet, but chances are good that the worst of his 2016 is over.

 

As for the Aaron Sanchez situation, I think this club would be insane to sit him down.  This is in win now mode for the next 2-3 seasons.  If he is showing signs of tiring down the stretch, then I do understand sitting him down.  But right now he has a shot at the AL Cy Young.  Are you seriously going to sit down a potential Cy Young winner in September?!  I’m really stunned we haven’t seen more of Drew Hutchinson spot starting for Sanchez.  But then again, maybe the organization is asking what I’ve been asking, and that is what proof is there that innings limits help a pitchers long term health?  And regardless of that, why is it innings limits that we’re looking at and not number of pitches thrown?  These two things really baffle me.  It’s as though someone in baseball just decided one day that 160 innings was the limit for a young arm and everyone just rolled with it.  How did that help Brandon Morrow?  Remember, the Jays shut him down in 2011 during his best season, and it did absolutely nothing to help further his career.

 

This club isn’t perfect, but going into the All-Star break and subsequently the trade deadline, they are VERY well positioned.  Could Shapiro and Atkins add another starter?  Yes I could definitely see that, but I doubt it’s anything more than a number 3 or 4 guy.  Someone who is more so insurance down the stretch and perhaps plays the role I suspected Hutchinson would play more this season and spot start a guy like Sanchez.

 

Another add I could see would be Dioner Navarro returning should the White Sox fall a little further out of things.  He was a perfect backup catcher for the team last season and had great chemistry specifically with Marco Estrada.  The White Sox are a cusp team at the moment, so it’s tough to say at this point if they’ll want to be sellers or not.  Whether it’s Navarro or not, the team could definitely use another catcher to help Russell Martin down the stretch.  Josh Thole simply can’t do the job.

 

Finally, the pen.  This will be the main focus of management from now until July 31st.  I’m of the opinion that two arms are needed, and one of those has to be a left hander.  The big name that I’m really hoping they’re hard after is Andrew Miller.  If the Yankees are in fact willing to move him, the Jays have to be pushing hard to get him.  I’ve heard some suggest the Yanks won’t move him in division, but I believe that’s BS.  The Yankees could care less about the Jays push for this season and next.  They’re about to be in a full on rebuild.  When the positions were flipped in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, the Jays and Yankees did a lot of deals together.

 

Miller would just set the Jays pen up perfectly.  They’d still need a right handed middle reliever too as I mentioned (along the same lines as Mark Lowe was last season), but Miller would move into that 8th inning role that Storen was expected to shine in, and it would allow them to use Brett Cecil in more of a specialist role where he would shine, it just sets the whole pen up a heck of a lot better than it currently is.  Of course he wouldn’t be cheap, but the Jays system is still ok even after Alex Anthopoulos took the bazooka to it last year near this time.  And again, this team’s window is open and you must take advantage of that.

 

Will this happen?  I don’t know, because I don’t have any feel for Shapiro and Atkins and what they’ll do at the trade deadline running a contending team that has money.  Very different situation than what was presented at most deadlines for the Cleveland Indians.

 

But they’re in a tremendous situation when you consider the only hole on this ball club is the bullpen, and the closer role is solidified so it won’t take a lot to shore things up.  In 2013, 14 or 15 being only half a game up in the wildcard race and 2.5 back of 1st in the AL East would be an insane uphill climb.  This season, as long as they shore up the bullpen and stay healthy, I have very few doubts this team is winning the AL East again, and is a serious threat to win the World Series.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups 

 

2016 MLB Season Preview/Prognostications

NSD107_BBA_Yankees_Blue_Jays_20140404I won’t be spending much time talking about other teams this time around.  Some years I’ve done an in-depth season preview, I’m never doing that again.  Took about a month to do.  I believe last year I did a more streamlined season preview, that was cool.  But this is Canada.  Pretty sure I don’t get many American readers (and if you are one, let me know!)  So with that being said, let’s focus on the Jays.

 

The Troy Tulowitzki trade is one I won’t forget.  I’m in bed on a Tuesday night I believe (it was either Monday or Tuesday, and the date is shady because it was made on a different day in Toronto than it was here or in Denver).  Anyway, I was laying in bed and had been texting with my buddy about what moves the Jays would make and I remember about 10 minutes before the news breaking I said “I don’t think they’ll end up doing much of anything”.  Boom, Tulo and it completely changed everything.  From that point on the Jays have been a top team in the majors.

 

Had Ryan Goins caught a blooper in game 2 of the ALCS, who knows how things would have unfolded.  But he didn’t, and the Jays were gone in 6.  All of a sudden days later the GM was gone, wasn’t long before the staff ace whom everyone knew was likely out the door but the reality of it sunk in.  And the new management seemed as though they could care less about getting this club over the hump.

 

I was one of those people who wasn’t real jacked about the job Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins had done this offseason.  But then I was just thinking about it one day.  The staff is 7 guys deep, the bullpen is at least as solid as it was to end last season, and the lineup remains intact.  They didn’t do that much this offseason, but they didn’t have to do much this offseason.  This was a club that tore apart the American League in the 2nd half of last season.

 

Now the way Aaron Sanchez has emerged has definitely helped.  It isn’t just the Jays staff and the Canadian media who are excited about the guy.  Jayson Stark, Jon Heyman, Ken Rosenthal, J.P. Morosi, there are A LOT of people who think he could make the jump.  Not from reliever to starter, but to a frontline starter.  If he can, the decision to let David Price walk sure looks a hell of a lot better.  And let’s not forget that they likely can’t have Sanchez in the rotation unless Shaprio/Atkins do the Ben Revere for Drew Storen trade to shore up the bullpen.  I still believe it’ll need an addition or two, but definitely looks solid going into the season.

 

I have my reservations about Marco Estrada.  He proved last season that he has a ton of balls and a ton of heart.  This hockey mad country LOVES a guy like that.  Everyone does, but up here more than anywhere else.  But was it a one off?  A career year?  This time last year the thought of having to use him in the rotation was terrifying.

 

I’m also not much of an R.A. Dickey fan, but people forget how strong he was from June on last season.  We tend to just remembering the outing against the Royals in game 4, but prior to that the guy had been extremely solid.  Regular season, I got little problem with him.  He’ll eat a ton of innings and when he’s on he’s lights out.

 

I don’t expect J.A. Happ to do what he did in the 2nd half last season.  If he does, wow the Jays got a steal!  If he doesn’t and reverts back to what he was, that’s a horrific signing.

 

But while I can pick apart the staff all day, the biggest part is the littlest guy.  If Marcus Stroman can take 1 more step and officially become the ace of the this ball club, everything else falls into place.  He doesn’t have to be a Cy Young candidate, but he does have to take another step.

 

He has one of the best defensive squads in MLB playing behind him to help him out.  It is amazing how Tulowitzki transformed this club, and it wasn’t with his stick.  Going from the unpredictability of Jose Reyes to the gold glove calibre fielding of Tulo just made a world of difference for this club.  All of a sudden you look around the diamond and you see gold glove candidates everywhere.

 

Then that lineup…

 

What else can I say about it?  The x factor is Kevin Pillar.  We’ll see how he does in the leadoff role.  I have my doubts honestly.  His OBP was .314 last season.  A great leadoff man needs to have that up around.  When Derek Jeter was leading off his OBP was always up over .350 and that is where I like a leadoff man’s to be.  Ben Revere was at .354, so those are big shoes to fill.  Even if Pillar can get it up to .335 I would take that as a win.

 

You can’t expect THAT again from Josh Donaldson.  I would say a reasonable expectation is still 33 HR’s, 100 RBI, .290 AVG, .350 OBP.  He exceeds those numbers, AWESOME.  He doesn’t, he’s still elite.

 

As for the other big bats, I’m expecting monster years from Bautista and Encarnacion as most are since it’s their walk year.  Tulo has everyone thinking big after an outstanding spring as well.  The only hole offensively is maybe Ryan Goins.  I had said for a year or more that if he just hit .250 he was a perfect 2B for this team, and that’s what he did last season.  But should he fall back to being a .200 hitter, Devon Travis will be back at some point.  Some of you may have forgot that type of season Travis was having before being injured.

 

Now maybe you’ve read this and thought “he’s just a Jays fan boy, they suck”.  Fair enough.  Don’t take my word for it then.  Check out what ESPN’s Jayson Stark has to say about them.

 

http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/page/seasonpreview_wsbluejays/why-toronto-blue-jays-win-world-series

 

As you’ll see below, I don’t have them to win the World Series, or even get there.  But they could.  I believe 3 holes that might need addressing as they approach the trade deadline are the leadoff spot, a 2nd left handed reliever (NOT Aaron Loup), and last but not least a top of the rotation starter.

 

This team is a real contender.  It’s nice to enter a season knowing that rather than hoping that.

 

AL East

1. Toronto Blue Jays – I don’t want to pick them, mainly because I don’t want to jinx them.  But I can’t make a rationale case for anyone but them.

*2. Boston Red Sox – On paper they are ahead of the Jays, but after burning me for two straight seasons I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little gun shy.

3. Tampa Bay Rays – The bottom 3 in this division can go in any order.  I like Tampa’s staff better than the Yanks or O’s, and they have the highest ceiling of the 3.

4. NY Yankees – Don’t THINK the Yanks can repeat last year, but I didn’t think last year was possible.

5. Baltimore Orioles – The lineup is REAL good, the D is REAL good, the pitching is pretty scary bad.

 

AL Central

1. Kansas City Royals – They’re the champs and I see zero reason to go away from this pick.  Also, this division is pretty bad after them.

2. Detroit Tigers – There is just no way THIS team is as bad as they were last season.  Verlander will bounce back, and I’m a big Zimmermann fan.

3. Cleveland Indians – I keep thinking about how they gave the Jays fits last season when the two played.  Need some bats to emerge, pitching staff is great.  They are always the baseball experts darlings.

4. Minnesota Twins – I don’t think there will be a big difference between 2nd and 4th in the division, but someone has to be 4th.

5. Chicago White Sox – No Drake LaRoche this season will hurt.  But seriously, they have some great talent.  But where they’re weak, they’re REALLY weak.

 

AL West

1. Texas Rangers – Feels like everyone loves the Stros, and I get that.  But the Rangers won the division, and the Rangers have a ton of great young talent too.

*2. Houston Astros – Everyone’s favourite for the division, you have to expect a few guys to come back down to earth this season though.

3. Oakland A’s – This is a bit of an upset pick and I even had the A’s to win the division for a while!  I just think you can’t ever count this team out.

4. LA Angels – They feel like such a mess to me, yet on paper they still look formidable.  But with me liking the A’s to get back in the mix, someone has to fall.

5. Seattle Mariners – Weren’t they everyone’s World Series pick last year?  If not to win it, at least to get there.  Mariners fans have been teased enough the last 15 years.

*AL Wildcard Winners

 

AL Cy Young – Chris Archer.  I’ve been a massive fan of his since day 1.  Picked him for ROY a few seasons ago.  He takes the next step this season.

AL MVP – Jose Bautista.  Can’t you see this happening?  This guy already plays with a massive chip on his shoulder, and now we have the contract situation on top of that, and the more pissed he is the better he plays.

 

Wildcard Game

Astros vs Red Sox – Like hell I’ll know who the hotter team will be.  I’ll guess Houston.

ALDS

Blue Jays vs Astros – I guess I got the Jays finishing 1st this time around.  The Astros being a year older…they’ll be too tough to handle.

Royals vs Rangers – No way I’m picking against the Royals.

ALCS

Royals vs Astros – No way I’m picking against the Royals.

 

NL East

1. Washington Nationals – Too much talent not to pick them to at least win the division, plus Dusty Baker is a great manager….until he burns through the staff.

2. NY Mets – Amazing starting staff, and they still have Zack Wheeler waiting in the wings.  I didn’t pick them for a wildcard spot, but without a doubt they’ll be in it for the division and wildcard.

3. Miami Marlins – A lot of talent on this roster, but it’s a shit show of an organization so they’re a tough team to figure out.

4. Atlanta Braves – They’re no better than the Phillies, but I just trust the Braves to compete more than I do the Phillies.

5. Philadelphia Phillies – It’s still going to be a LONG climb back for the Phillies.  They just held on a few years too long and are in the process of paying for it now.

 

NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals – The Cubby’s are the darlings coming into this season.  The Cards haven’t been quiet about feeling disrespected by this.

*2. Chicago Cubs – On paper, they’re a powerhouse.  I still am not in love with this starting pitching, I have trouble imagining Jake Arietta can do it again.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates – Man I feel bad for the Pirates being in this division.  They are so well run, such a good team, stuck in the toughest division in baseball.

4. Milwaukee Brewers – The Brew crew and the Reds are nowhere close to the top 3 in this division.  Tough to say anything nice about either.

5. Cincinnati Reds – The tear down isn’t yet complete with this squad.  I feel bad for their fans, all been downhill since being up 2-0 coming home against San Fran in 2012.

 

NL West

1. LA Dodgers – For all the upgrades the Giants have made, even with the loss of Grienke, this is still a regular season juggernaut.

*2. San Francisco Giants – This is it.  It’s an even year.  Giants always win in an even year and with Cueto and Samardzija they’re looking to ensure that.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks – All of a sudden they have a real good top of the rotation!  Solid team, but I believe it’ll be another year or 2 before they overtake the division.

4. San Diego Padres – All the moves they made last offseason that gave Padres fans hope…there is zero hope this season.

5. Colorado Rockies – It’s a pretty major rebuild as they head into their 1st full season since 2006 without Troy Tulowitzki.

*NL Wildcard Winners

 

NL Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw.  Say what you will about his postseason track record, he’s the best in the game today.

NL MVP – Bryce Harper.  I picked him for the last few years and finally got it right, so I’m doubling down!

 

Wildcard Game

Giants vs Cubs – The Cubs are REALLY talented, but somebody has to go home and I’m not picking against the Giants.

NLDS

Nationals vs Giants – Nats are REALLY talented, but somebody has to go home and I’m not picking against the Giants (notice the theme?)

Cardinals vs Dodgers – The Dodgers just aren’t going to get over the hump, at least not this season.

NLCS

Cardinals vs Giants – Yeah, I’m still not picking against the Giants

 

World Series

Kansas City Royals vs San Francisco Giants – I know it’s a lot of repeating here.  It’s the same 4 as last year in the ALDS, and that’s not likely and if it does happen it’s not exciting.  In the NL it’s the same 4 in the NLDS as 2 years ago and if that happens it’s not exciting.  The good news is that it is nearly impossible to predict how the MLB season will go and I’m never close on these.  I do feel real good about this World Series pick though.  These 2 organizations have built perfect postseason teams, and I fully expect to see the rematch of the 2014 classic between these 2, but this time, the Royals come out on top and go back to back.

 

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Flip Off

irPitchers and catchers have reported!  Spring training is basically now underway and we are now under 6 weeks away from final 4 weekend, MLB season getting underway, followed by the Stanley Cup playoffs, followed by the NBA playoffs, followed by the NFL draft.  I always debate which is better, October or April?  Both win, but the fact that snow is melting rather than snow is coming makes April the winner in my mind.

 

So, Jose Bautista spouted off…doubt you heard anything about that yesterday.

 

I completely understand his side of this story.  He hasn’t been paid what he’s been worth through this entire contract.  The Jays took a chance on him that his 2010 season wasn’t a fluke and the organization has been greatly rewarded for doing that.  He’s been worthy of 22 million a year and he’s only been making 14 million a year this entire time.  So he feels as if the organization owes him something.  But they don’t.  And to this point, I’m not a Mark Shapiro or a Ross Atkins fan.  But this isn’t their fault that Bautista didn’t bet on himself in 2011, it’s his.

 

And that’s what this boils down to for him.  He thinks “they owe me”.  They don’t owe him shit.  You didn’t bet on yourself in 2011, deal with it, or walk to a team that will give you that.

 

I also find it laughable that he grandstands the way he did.  “It’s not a negotiation”  Really?  Then why are you negotiating in the press?  I’m sure it was just a coincidence too that he wore a t-shirt that said “Home is Toronto”.  I’m sure that just happens to be his typical first day in Dunedin apparel.

 

If you aren’t a moron, it’s pretty clear what he’s trying to do here.  He’s looking to hold the organization hostage.  He thinks if he looks like the victim here that the fans, who already don’t like the new regime, will help force the organization’s hand here and they’ll cave to Bautista’s demands.

 

If I was running the team, this would piss me off and I would call his bluff.  I wouldn’t accept his terms which sound like it’s in the neighbourhood of 20×5.  No thanks.  You’re 36 when that starts, this ball club as good as it was last season has holes all over, not a chance.  If he wants to talk about a 2 or 3 year deal, I would listen.  Not 5, unless he only wants 10-15 million a year, which he doesn’t.

 

The downside for the organization is that if they are in the hunt come the trade deadline, they aren’t going to be able to trade him unless Bautista is so frustrated with the lack of a deal that he ok’s a trade.  Because the Jays can’t trade him without his permission, he has 10 and 5 rights (10 years in MLB, 5 with the same team for those who don’t know what that is).  I don’t think you can worry about that if you’re the Jays.  They can still qualify him next offseason and ensure they still get a 1st round pick for him, so it isn’t as if they would lose him for nothing.  If the season is a write off by the deadline and they don’t plan on doing a deal, you would think he would agree to move on.

 

Most importantly in all of this, is this guy just put himself ahead of the team by taking this all public.  No team in any sport needs a distraction, and he just became one.  And it amazes me that the initial reaction from some of the stuff coming out of Toronto that I heard and read, none of it was taking Bautista to task for this.  Of course for them, they’re tickled pink about a story to tell, so they love him for making their jobs easier.  You know how the media is objective and all…

 

But don’t be fooled by any of this.  Bautista knows EXACTLY what he’s doing here, and while it’s easy for me to say no to that from my living room without any negative fan and media backlash, Mark Shaprio doesn’t strike me as a guy who cares much about that either.  You can’t as a GM (or in his case a president) in any sport.  You have to do what’s best for your team, not what the fans and media want.  What’s best for a team that has a budget (a very large budget, but still a budget) isn’t paying what will highly likely be a declining player 20+ million a year.

 

Now, maybe Bautista is still mashing at 40 and this is a huge mistake.  It’s possible.  But it’s not probable.  Move on.  Short term pain for long term gain.  This lineup will still be high end without him, and that money can be used to really bolster both the staff and the bullpen.  None of the reasons for keeping this guy have anything to do with actual baseball.  It’s all “fan backlash, media backlash, etc.”  If he doesn’t want to negotiate and puts himself ahead of the team like he did yesterday, let him walk.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups