What does it mean to have Blue Swagger? You flourish in the heat of battle. You brandish skill that was sharpened through courage, mental toughness, and dedicated preparation. You strut with pride in victory as much as you burn with desire to overcome defeat. You bleed like every hard-working man and woman cheering for the Toronto Blue Jays; you bleed blue.
Every Monday, JaysJournal.com will feature a position player and pitcher who deserve recognition as being the top Blue Jays of that week. These players will be declared having that Blue Swagger that helped their baseball club be worthy of their loyal fans’ praise. Some choices will seem obvious. Some choices may seem crazy. That is the point. Have your say by commenting on the article, on our Facebook page, or by tweeting with the hashtag #BlueSwagger. The more responses, the more the topic will trend and more people can determine who really has that Blue Swagger going for the Blue Jays.
Best Position Player:
There are a couple candidates who have been swinging a hot bat lately, but none of them meant more to the other Jays’ bats than Jose Reyes, recently.
Aug 17, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) is greeted by shortstop Jose Reyes (7) after hitting two-run homer against the Chicago White Sox during the fifth inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
The leadoff position has been traditionally where your offence builds momentum. He is your speed, your catalyst, your guarantee on base to be knocked in for a run. In the last few seasons, the media has promoted the 3-spot and cleanup hitters heavily, giving them the bulk of the attention. However, you can’t hit a lot of RBIs, even with home runs, if nobody is on base to cash.
With as much power as Jose Reyes possesses, he generated a great deal of attention when he was traded from the Miami Marlins to Toronto, last season. People were pretty critical of his performance as a Blue Jay up to this point, expecting him to put up huge numbers and propel Toronto into the playoffs. Even with a few injuries, Reyes has performed well; however, he may have found his role this past week.
In the past ten games, Reyes batted .362 on 17 hits, scored 9 runs, 4 RBIs, 2 stolen bases, and 2 walks. The closest Blue Jay to that production was Melky Cabrera, with a .325 batting average. Reyes does not have as many RBIs as Cabrera (8), but he was the man Melky often hit home. Reyes also struck out only 7 times in 47 at-bats. He saw the ball well and found a way to get on base.
Hall-of-Famer, and former Blue Jay, Rickey Henderson was a tyrant in the leadoff spot. He dictated the pace of the game. He scratched and clawed, by power or by strategy, to get on base because he knew how much havoc he could cause, which intimidated the opposing battery. The pitcher and catcher would fear him getting into scoring position at any point and would commit mistakes because of it. Reyes, or any MLB leadoff man for that matter, is a far cry from Henderson, but there is much promise in his recent actions.
Reyes hit a good average and on-base percentage these last two seasons, but what was more important was his outpouring of emotions this week. After getting on base, instead of the dancing and hand gestures to the dugout, Reyes simply looked at his teammates, especially the ones standing on-deck, and would thunderclap his hands, screaming his desire for the team to hit him home. That’s a man who cares about winning. That’s a man who incites his team to victory and intimidates the opposition. With Reyes’ speed, any base can be a scoring position and he made sure everyone, including the other team, knew it.
The man from Santiago, Dominican Republic could use more stolen base attempts to further these recent events to become the most dominant leadoff man in recent memory for the Blue Jays. That being said, Reyes had a great week and shows no signs of slowing down. If the Blue Jays want to win more games, they need to have timely hitting after getting players on base. Reyes did both.
With many of the Blue Jays pitchers having a roller coaster of a season, it is fitting to say that the best pitcher last week was moved down to Buffalo to make room for another young pitcher’s opportunity.
Chad Jenkins was sent to Buffalo to allow the Blue Jays to call up Kyle Drabek. Both pitchers are young and have the potential to be members of Toronto’s starting rotation in the future. In Jenkins’ case, the timing of his new assignment was interesting.
Aug 10, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Chad Jenkins (64) throws a pitch during the eighteenth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
On August 10th, against the Detroit Tigers in the marathon game that lasted nineteen innings, Stephen Chadwick Jenkins of Chattanooga, Tennessee was called on to hold the fort for the Blue Jays. He pitched six full extra innings without giving up a run. He struck out four batters to help the cause. If this were the first six innings, we would have been saying Jenkins made an amazing start for the Blue Jays, picking up the win against a tough Tigers batting lineup.
His next game was against the Chicago White Sox. Coming once again from the bullpen, Jenkins pitched 2.2 innings, giving up 5 hits, 1 earned run, and 1 walk, while striking out 3 batters.
The 6’4” righty pitcher did what his team asked of him: keep the Blue Jays in the game until their bats come back. The two Aarons, Loup and Sanchez, also have done a great job in that respect in the past week, but nothing like what Jenkins did in the Detroit game.
As a reliever, your job is to get out of innings as quickly and as safely as possible, without worrying about what happened before you took the mound. That can be hard, especially with the added pressure of the game being on the line at any moment. Six extra innings means Jenkins was throwing each pitch with the knowledge that he could possibly break the hearts of Jays fans who stayed to watch for hours only to witness the loss. With each inning, each batter, each pitch, the tension grew more and more, making other cities tune into what was happening. There’s a baseball game lasting 19 innings? I gotta find out who won that one! With every moment that goes by in the game, you know it moves closer and closer to a bigger historic memory in baseball lore. Imagine being 26 years old, trying to make your career as a pitcher, achieving your dream and at any moment your next pitch could become the nightmare you dreaded, giving up a hit that defeats your team and dashes the hopes of fans who once cheered for you.
Chad Jenkins did his job and won that game, when many of the Blue Jays’ starting rotation have not sniffed a win in over a week. Jenkins may have been sent down to the minors, but that’s the reality of baseball. There can only be so many players on the roster. Youth is a luxury for the club, not the player. The veterans have to stay up while the young pitchers can be moved to have a chance to look at other young talent. Jenkins will not be forgotten, as his performance last week sealed his destiny. He has talent and has shown that he can deliver when it matters the most.
Jose Reyes and Chad Jenkins had that Blue Swagger last week. What do you think? Were they your picks as the best Blue Jays for the week? Anyone have another name that they would call forth as having a ‘swagger’ to it? Bring all thoughts to the forefront by commenting on this article, on the Facebook page, or tweet to @JaysJournal and @BrookerHaas with the hashtag #BlueSwagger and we will keep the discussion going.
Remember: you only have real swagger if you bleed blue!