The Mockingbird

Cheep, Cheep

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I was sent this article titled “Division isn’t for the Birds” from someone in the Boston area and decided to do the classy thing and forget about it. But after a sweep? Ah, let’s go…

I know this sort of thing is just a reaction to all the bubbly local articles about how the Jays that ignore the two elephants in the room or the 13 or so games they need to pick up from last year, but geez…there aren’t even any arguments here, it’s just pure scorn at the idea that another team might have put together a decent squad that has a chance against the big bucks.

Such annual hope for these Canadian birds has become a sort of measuring stick among preseason prognosticators. Once again, there are those who think Toronto can beat out the Yankees and the Red Sox this season for the American League East crown.

“Once again”? Really? Did anyone actually give the Blue Jays a fighting chance last year? Sure we were puffing out our chests after finally making it out of third place, but the team’s third starter was Gustavo Chacin. Find me a power ranking or a season preview that gave the Jays an outside shot at the playoffs. Even these blue-tinted glasses weren’t seeing a bright future until the pitching rotation went out and got amazing last season.

It doesn’t take an MD to predict that the Blue Jays — who host the Sox for the first of three games tonight — staying healthy the entire year is like Mario Batali going all of 2008 without a slice of pizza. In the realm of universal combinations of possibility and chance, sure. But not bloody likely. This, mind you, is a team that boasts DL perennials Scott Rolen (already injured) A.J. Burnett, and B.J. Ryan (already injured). Relief pitcher Casey Janssen is gone for the season. Well, that’s a heck of a start. Pennant, here we come.

Ok, I get it. Rolen and Burnett are injury inevitabilities (*cough* Drew *cough*). But B.J. Ryan is a “DL perennial” after having been on it for the first time in his career?! Anyway, the idea isn’t that everyone needs to stay healthy the whole year. The Jays know how many innings they’re likely to get from Burnett. The real issue is guys like Wells and Overbay rebounding off absolutely crippled seasons- and they have no injury history at all. Heck, Rolen can be on the DL for 50 games this year and the team will break even compared to Glaus.

Nevertheless, when it came to swaying from the norm this preseason, it became somewhat fashionable to pick the Jays to win the East, a prediction that has been coming from some minds for the better part of four or five years now

Look, nobody in Toronto is that fashionable. Heck, MacLeod had us coming in 4th behind the @#$@# Rays. I don’t know where you’re coming up with this raging optimism because the most daring local prediction is that they might squeak into the wildcard…We know the score, and no article writer worth his salt is going to lay a heavy wager against a decade and a half of history.

To reward its believers, Toronto came up with second-place finish in 2006, and even that took a monumental injury-related collapse by the Red Sox. I think the Jays even raised a banner to commemorate the accomplishment.

Wow. Could you be any more smarmy about that? No, the Jays did not raise a banner for coming out on top in 2006. In fact, both players and fans said repeatedly that it was a hollow victory. But hey, how do you like a massive stream of injuries down the stretch, eh? They kind of suck, eh? Kind of take the steam out of a team not that different from one that won the World Series, eh? Eh? Eh?

The Globe’s Nick Cafardo thinks it’s based on a “law of averages.” The Herald’s Tony Massarotti seems to think it’s because Clay Buchholz is Jaret Wright redux. The Toronto Star’s Richard Griffith likes the team’s depth at every position. But then again, he likes their depth at every position every year. In fact, even before he wrote his latest ode to the Jays, The Onion predicted he would do so days earlier:

Oh, that’s who is in love with the Jays- Boston papers! The other one is Richard Griffin (errr…Griffith?). Nuff said. Nobody in this country really listens to him, and deep down he hates the Jays…if you actually read that article it’s not very high on them, “depth” or no.

Bronze medal darlings of Major League Baseball, the Blue Jays aren’t even a bridesmaid in the AL East, rather they are in baseball purgatory, not good enough to go any further, yet just decent enough not to have to worry about the cellar. They’re a typically Canadian “nice” group of players, highlighted by a fairly deep, if vastly overrated, pitching staff.

What the hell? Do you actually think that these players are Canadians, or what am I missing here? Instead of actually saying anything about the team, you just refer to a terrible stereotype about the country that they play in? That as much sense as me calling all the Boston players “ignorant, arrogant assholes who don’t bother researching their articles”. Nice that!

For the number of times we read last month about what a deep starting staff the Jays have, we must have missed the moment big stars Shawn Marcum and Dustin McGowan transformed them into the 1995 Atlanta Braves. Roy Halladay is an annual candidate for the Cy Young, but Burnett has proven little else except that he’d be a killer No. 4 starter for any team.

Well, now that’s true. A 3.85 ERA and a 1.24 ERA in his time with the Jays would make for an absolutely killer No. 4 starter for any team. THT says on average it would also be pretty darn good for a No. 2, but that’s neither here nor there.

As for the Jays 3-4 being “big stars” like the “1995 Atlanta Braves”, I like that little trick where you build them way up and then point out how ridiculous that is. But, uhhh…they’re pretty good. Really. Ask anyone but J.D. Drew about Marcum. You didn’t get to see McGowan, but ask Johnny Damon, or Buster Olney, or any scout in the world for a downright orgasmic scouting report. Heck, do anything but just heap on scorn on a bunch of excellent young pitchers for no reason.

Seriously. This is a big difference. I don’t think that throwing a no-hitter guarantees you an amazing big-league career (at least any time soon: see Halladay’s growing pains after his almost no-no), but I am perfectly willing to admit that guys like Buchholz and Hughes have the stuff to be stars even if they aren’t yet. Would anyone in Toronto ever take down Chamberlain’s abilities because NY is treating him like the Messiah? Jesus, just tip your cap and mumble something about an interesting season shaping up if you don’t have anything useful to pass along.

Dave Perkins of the Toronto Star writes, “Kids aside, would you trade Toronto’s top three starters — Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and McGowan — for the first three of either New York (let’s say Chien-Ming Wang, Pettitte and Hughes) or Boston (Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Lester)? Not me.”

I assume that Dave is one of very few without his hand raised.

Ok…I’m ready for some actual facts or observations here…no? Anything at all but condescension? In terms of anything but contract (since we haven’t locked up Burnett for the next 5 years like the big payrolls), this is not such a ridiculous suggestion. Just look at their numbers from last year. Halladay is right up there with Beckett, Burnett is way better than Dice-K or Pettitte when he’s healthy, and McGowan is another Rookie stud. It would make for a pretty good article, really- but let’s just dismiss it instead because everyone knows Boston is the best.

In fact, look at the heart of that Blue Jays order and tell me which one of the Red Sox (Ortiz-Ramirez-Mike Lowell), Yankees (Bobby Abreu-Alex Rodriguez-Hideki Matsui), or Rays (Carl Crawford-Carlos Pena-B.J. Upton) you would trade it with. The answer is none.

I assume that Wilbur is one of the very few without his hand raised. (Ok, I have nothing to add to that but some sketchy bounceback projections- but man, I think I understand now…it does feel good to do that).

Yet when digging for reasons why somebody other than the Red Sox or Yankees will win the AL East for the first time since 1997, it seems trendy to question the unsure prospects of kids like Buchholz and Ian Kennedy, while tabbing Jesse Litsch as the can’t-miss kid.

Ok, now you’re really painting a straw man to knock him down. The can’t-miss kid?! Litsch wasn’t even supposed to make the rotation. How trendy can he be? “Passable 5th starter” is the best that anyone in the world has (somewhat optimistically) touted him.

Ryan, Rolen, Janssen… It’s only April 3 and they’re already on strike one.

Don’t worry Toronto. It will be a respectable third place. Beware those Rays though.

Thanks for the totally uninformative article, Eric. Great series, and good luck to your team leapfrogging the Rays next week. Somehow I think these birds will be OK.

Written by halejon

April 6, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Posted in Seriousness

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