A New Face In Baseball? Kim Ng
Blue Jays 2008 Season Review
The Jays had a mediocre season this year. At the beginning of the year there was a lot of optimism for this team to finally make the post season for the first time since Joe hit that beauty off of Barry Melrose look-a-like Mitch Williams. Part of the reason this team did not make the playoffs was because the team was simply not as good as the Jays fans hyped them up to be. Scott Rolen was looked at to deliver production, but he had been injured 3 of the 4 years before this one with a shoulder problem, something that bothered him again this year. Vernon Wells had a productive year, but was injured for two months of the season. Aaron Hill had a great 2007 season, but missed pretty much all of this year with a concussion. Frank Thomas did what the Big Hurt does, he struggled in the first part of the season and that gave J.P enough of a scapegoat to release him in order to not pay that option year. Lyle Overbay struggled coming back from his hand injury last season and Alex Rios only remembered how to hit a home run in the second half of the season.
In all there were some positives from this year, with the most promising aspect of their team, the pitching staff. The Jays bullpen had a lot of surprises in Brian Tallet, Jesse Carlson and Brandon League and Scott Downs solidified himself as one of the best set-up man in the game. With Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo coming back from injury next year, our bullpen should once again be the Jays forte. The starting rotation, as of right now, is looking less significant as they were this year. Shawn Marcum will be out for the season with Tommy John surgery. AJ Burnett will not be back unless the Jays significantly increase their reported 4 yr/ $52 million offer. With the Yankees involved in the pursuit of Burnett, it will take a minimum of 4yrs/$60 million to get him to stay. Dustin Mcgowan won’t be ready for the start of the season and even if he is, he is coming back from injury. That leaves “Doc” Halladay, Jesse Litsch and David Purcey. I like Litsch, but I do remember a guy named Gustavo Chacin having a season like Litsch had, and now Chacin is toiling around in single A.
Internally look for Casey Janssen and prospect Brett Cecil to seriously challenge for the number five spot in the rotation. Cecil, a Maryland grad, has been converted from a closer in University to a starter in his pro career. Another guy to look for is Ricky Romero. Considered a bust so far, it looks like he may have turned the corner with a strong second half down in the minors. Looking forward here is what the Jays daunting tasks of this off season looks like.
Pitching - Clearly they will need to get one starting pitcher on the open market. AJ Burnett would be ideal, but it’s going to be extremely difficult to sign him. If he isn’t the option the Jays should look at Canadian boy Ryan Dempster, Derek Lowe, Brad Penny as options after Burnett. One of the starting spots will need to be handled internally and like I said look for Janssen, Cecil, Romero, John Parrish and Scott Richmond to all have a shot. In the bullpen, leave it as it is, it’s working well, even with shaky B.J Ryan in the 9th.
Defensively – The Jays are one of the top defensive teams in the majors and don’t need an upgrade defensively. What they do need to do is keep the influx of infielders we have. Marco Scutoro is the definition of super sub. He can play pretty much anywhere and he holds a good bat. Joe Inglett proved himself this year, and with the uncertainty of Hill, he should definitely be kept, he’s also versatile in that he can play the middle infield and the corner outfield positions. The Prime Minister of Defence John Macdonald should also be around. He became a favourite of Cito Gaston once he became Manager, and should be looked upon as a super sub for defense or even a starter at short. Short doesn’t have to be a position of good hitting as long as we have the best defence at short and the other positions are doing what their supposed to be doing hitting wise.
Offense – Now you would think that the Jays would have been a playoff team having some of the best pitching and best defence in all of baseball, but the offense was abysmal and changes need to be made. A look at the positives, Adam Lind and Travis Snyder both had great second halves to the season and look at seeing both of them with the club for years to come. The offense wasn’t great in 2007 and we were hoping to improve and have a bounce back 2008 season. Needless to say, the improvements never came. I don’t think the option is to hope for bounce back season again, but that might be the only option. One option Jays should consider is Manny Ramirez. This would completely change the dynamic of this team. With Manny in the line-up, it gives the pitching staff more room to “screw up”. The possible downfalls for acquiring Ramirez are first, the price tag, and second the “Manny Being Manny” sideshow that will accompany him wherever he goes. Another thing to consider is he is represented by Scott Boras and with his numbers since landing in LA his price tag has skyrocketed.
Another name that has come up a lot has been Jason Giambi. I am not a fan of this move but if the price is right (he’s already being paid a 4 million dollar buy out from the Yanks) then I think it is something to consider. The Jays need far more power from their corner infielders, and until that happens, they have no chance of making the playoffs. Either they hope Rolen, coming off more shoulder problems, will remain healthy and produce or Overbay getting back to his 2006 numbers. The Jays should take immediate action and look into possibly trading to improve with what should be power hitting positions.
Overall, this team will be considered a playoff “threat”, no matter what year it is. They will not be favoured to make the playoffs with the Yankees, Red Sox and the Rays new and improved youth movement. What they will need to do to remain competitive and surprise teams is to have a healthy team for the entire year and improve on their hitting. We do not have the depth that the Red Sox and Yankees have and if guys like Aaron Hill, Alex Rios, Vernon Wells or Roy Halladay get injured for an extended period of time, you can count the season over. I look for the jays to be competitive next year, but depending on what happens this off season, we will see if they are competitive or contenders.