The Toronto Blue Jays are an anomaly in the world of sports. Despite having missed the MLB playoffs for nearly 20 years, and currently owning the third worst batting average in the American League the Blue Jays are three games above 500 at 17 and 14 and are only two and a half games out of first place in the AL East.
On paper, this is one of the youngest teams in baseball, as the rotation alone has an average age of 24.8 years old. Still, the Blue Jays are finding ways to make their fans proud, even if it isn’t coming up on the stats sheets.
In theory, the atrocious batting average, the recent bullpen struggles, and the fact the back end of the rotation has three guys 22 years old or younger, suggests the Blue Jays should own one of the worst records in baseball. However, since being promoted to general manager after the 2009 season, Alex Anthopoulos has positioned the Blue Jays to be one of the best teams in baseball.
His first move was to trade long time franchise pitcher Roy Halladay, for Kyle Drabek, a pitcher with potential to be an ace, Travis D’Arnaud a catcher with franchise expectations, and what would turn out to be Anthony Gose, a future base stealing king. After trading Halladay, Anthopoulos upgraded the rotation, by trading for and converting Brandon Morrow into a dominant starting pitcher, and following it up by dealing for franchise third baseman Brett Lawrie.
While some may argue the team is still a long way away from making the playoffs, the moves the man known as “AA” by the fans has done, have others believing this current group is Toronto’s best chance to end a 19 year drought.
As we watch our beloved Toronto Blue Jays finish up game 31 of the 2012 season, fans, analysts and diehards alike can best compare this current group, to the Oakland Athletics of the American League West division. Often a distant third to the powerhouses known as Texas and Los Angeles, the Oakland Athletics are employing a lineup full of prospects and players acquired in trades.
While it is still early in the season, the Blue Jays much like the Athletics, require that literally every player on the major league roster play above their potential to even have a chance at qualifying for the playoffs. However, as the batting average for each team indicates, that is much easier said then done over the span of a 162 game schedule.
In other words, the early season success of both teams (Oakland is 16 and 14) is something fans of both clubs have become accustomed too.
How many times have Blue Jay fans seen this story before, where the team finds success only to crumble in the early part of June and unofficially be eliminated by the trade deadline? This year, things feel different, as regardless of their young roster, the Blue Jays are tied with the Yankees for the second wild card in the American League.
What’s more? The Blue Jays are only two and a half games back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the East lead. To put this latter point into perspective, consider that a season ago around this time, the Blue Jays had already begun their fall to fourth place, thanks to a shaky bullpen and less then stellar team batting average.
With the 2012 team already playing better then the 2011 team, should we overlook the poor batting average, considering the results on the field? Yes Adam Lind and Jose Bautista are struggling, but if the Blue Jays are still two and a half games back of the division lead by the trade deadline, they can improve the offense.
As a fan of the Blue Jays for 19 years, I would personally be thrilled, if the Jays make a few trades by the deadline that put them in a position to qualify for the playoffs this year. Something the team literally hasn’t done since they last won the World Series in 1993.