A Game of Ifs


I’m writing this late, and I’ve had a few pints of Guinness.  So this rant may make absolutely no sense, but in your head, everything makes sense after Guinness.  So here we go.  I will dissociate myself from the Toronto Blue Jays if any of the Dunedin Legion of Doom are traded this off-season.  And by dissociate, I mean limit myself to watching one hundred or less games in 2013 versus the hundred and twenty or more I forced myself to sit through this past season.  That should really hurt Rogers pocketbook.  And by the Dunedin Legion of Doom, I, of course, mean the trio formerly known as the Lansing Big Three plus Roberto Osuna who I feel will be skipped a level next season.  It’s my first effort at a nickname for the quartet, better ideas may come along in time.

Baseball is a game of variables.  Going into the 2012 season, the Blue Jays had a lot of them.  Question marks surrounded their pitching staff, catcher, first basemen, second basemen…..well, you get the picture.  Pretty much every position bar right field had a big ‘If’ in front of it.

If Brandon Morrow can stay healthy, Kyle Drabek makes the next step, Henderson Alvarez improves on his rookie season, and Dustin McGowan finally gets healthy we’ll have a pretty decent pitching staff.

If Brett Lawrie progresses as a third basemen and hitter, Colby Rasmus shows that 2010 was the real Colby Rasmus, J.P.

Sep 27, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie (13) is congratulated by center fielder Colby Rasmus (28) after his 2-run home run in the third inning against the New York Yankees at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Arencibia continues to hit for power while also figuring out that getting on base isn’t such a bad idea, and Travis Snider finally gets his chance and proves he’s a major league hitter and fielder we’ll have a young core of players ready to take Toronto to the next level.

Well, we all know what happened.  The pitching staff either regressed or were so riddled with injuries that the only recognizable face for a good chunk of the season was Ricky Romero who, at the start of the season, was probably the one pitcher without an ‘If’ in front of his name.  Going into next season, he now probably has the biggest one of all, considering how monumentally poor he was.

The position players I mentioned above all took a step backwards while also spending time on the DL.  Add in the fact that players who may not have had question marks going into the season either stunk, Yunel Escobar, or missed significant portions of the season, Jose Bautista.

So, because most of the Jays ‘Ifs’ ended up in the negative ledger, is that their fault?  External factors do have some bearing, whether it be in game management or fitness regimes, but really, I don’t think the Jays would have threatened any playoff spot if managed by Casey Stengel or Dr. James Andrews himself was the team physician.

As Nassim Taleb wrote, we were Fooled By Randomness.  Every team in baseball goes into a season with a huge bag of ‘Ifs’.  For some it broke right, the San Francisco Giants come to mind, for others it didn’t.  How could you predict the Jays could have suffered so many injuries and down years?

But, with the advent of the second wild card, some spiffy marketing, and nice new uniforms Jays fans came to have expectations.  When these were dashed (quite resoundingly I may add) the masses are now demanding action.  Even respected national columnists are coming out with articles with ‘Jays Need to Contend ASAP‘ in the title.  What I found most interesting about Brunt’s missive on the Jays lost season was the one line ‘but who were still not quite as on-the-verge as the most optimistic would have believed.’

And they weren’t.  I’m too lazy to go back and search for references, but before the second wild card came into being, most Jays columnists, commentators, bloggers, etc had pegged 2014 as when the team may start to push for playoff spaces.  This was when the work Alex Anthopolous had done to the farm system would bear fruit and these young players would be augmented with veteran talent, meaning the Jays would achieve their goal of contending for years.

People seem to have lost sight of that timeline, now there is this hysteria about contending next season.  And from what I’ve read, due to the lack of quality on the free agent market, most are resigned to one or more of the Dunedin Legion of Doom being used as trade chips in an inevitable bold move designed to land a front line starter or big hitting (insert position here).

This would be a mistake.  Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t shut myself off to the inherent randomness of minor league pitchers even getting to the majors, but I think there is a very good chance that at least two of the DLOD are in the Jays rotation by 2014 and a third by 2015.  All Jays fans, when they close their eyes, dream of a home grown rotation in the vein of Tampa Bay.  Why blow this vision up in an effort to paper over one or two cracks of many?

The Jays have far too many holes to fill to honestly think adding a piece or two this off-season is going to get the job done.  What they do have, is talent in the minor leagues.  At catcher, center field, middle-infield, and especially pitching they are loaded.  Give this talent one more year to mature.  Then lets see where we are.

Sure, pick up a reliable innings eater, preferably through free agency, trade some off-cuts if you can to get a veteran stop gap at first, second, left, etc.  But, AA, whatever you do.  Do not mess with the Dunedin Legion of Doom.

Now’s the time to be patient.  Let’s just hope Alex is allowed to be.