Sunday, June 10, 2012
Gaps and the First Sixty
There are days when I watch the Toronto Blue Jays and find it difficult to see where the gaps are. When I watch a game where Brandon Morrow absolutely dominates a division-leading team, while the starting left-fielder with the career .381 slugging percentage ices the win with a two-run home run and the forgotten-prospect first baseman (playing DH) goes 3-for-4, I'm sorely tempted to think: hey, maybe this can work. Maybe we can go with what we got.
I still know that the gaps are there, though; don't get me wrong. I know that what I'm seeing is just a decent day here and there from the guys who are filling in where there doesn't seem to be a "long-term solution" on the roster. But how significant are the gaps, really? Or, to look at it another way, how much different are the gaps on this team from those on the teams with which they must contend in the American League East?
There aren't any perfect teams, anywhere. After today, the Tampa Bay Rays will continue to lead the AL East, and they routinely field a more-or-less underwhelming offensive lineup, including your Sean Rodriguezeses and Will Rhymeseses. The Rays, of course, can pitch like crazy, and it makes them competitive in pretty much every game they play. But the notion that it takes an All-Star at every position to win in the East isn't necessarily borne out by the teams that actually do win in the East.
In don't see much value in dwelling on the easily identifiable spots in which the Jays could stand to improve . There may or may not be off-the-shelf solutions to those woes, either internally (a healthy Travis Snider call-up; a return to some semblance of a power stroke from Brett Lawrie), or externally (a trade for a more established, productive bat at first base; or a middle of the rotation starting pitcher to take the pressure off the young trio of Alvarez, Drabek and Hutchison). If the Jays managed to acquire Matt Garza or Justin Morneau, for instance, I'd be pretty happy. I'd probably over-analyze what they gave up to make those deals and fret for the future, but I'd be fired up for their first games with the team.
Even without those kinds of additions, though, the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays already feel like a better team than we've seen here for several years, and it's made for some seriously compelling baseball even in the early part of the season -- which isn't really so early anymore. We're a full sixty games in, and despite the doom and gloom from Mike Wilner's callers after dropping a game or two, the Jays haven't been under .500 for a second yet. The most they've found themselves out of first place in the division is five games. The broadcast team in today's whalloping of the Atlanta Braves pointed out today that going into Game 60 in 2011, the Jays had the same 30-29 record, and for once I was compelled to agree with Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler as they expressed some degree of surprise at that fact -- that this felt like a much better team.
Yes, I'd like for them to have five more wins right now. I could probably go back in the schedule and find where the team might have found them, but that way lies madness and despair. Can they find those five extra wins and more in the next 60 games? I don't know, but I'm hopeful, because this is -- like every team -- a team with strengths and flaws; but it has more of the former than the latter. I'll remain optimistic that the next 60 games will lead to an extciting final 42.