This season, the Toronto Blue Jays have pulled off two blockbuster deals and signed several players, bolstering their rotation with the likes of Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, and R.A. Dickey, while strengthening their lineup with stars like José Reyes and Melky Cabrera. Fans and media have called them the early favourites in the American League, and in Las Vegas, the have the highest odds to win the World Series. John Lin, a first-year linguistics student, opined that the team “flows with talent, and are ready to revitalize baseball in Toronto”. However, this writer isn’t buying into the hype yet. While this team is a good bet for the postseason, I believe this team will not win the World Series. Here are five reasons why.
The injury-prone stars
Through no fault of their own, many of the players on the Jays have problems staying healthy. José Reyes has missed more than 50 games per year from 2009 to 2011. Josh Johnson, acquired in the same deal, only managed to make 14 starts in the majors in 2008, and had even more trouble in 2011, appearing in only nine starts. The face of the team, José Bautista, missed 49 games in 2009 and 70 games in 2012. Playing in the ultra-competitive AL East, routinely missing three of their biggest stars will be felt even more strongly.
The lack of serviceable backup
This is related to the first reason. When your star goes down, someone has to take over for him. The Jays obviously lack high-quality replacements. Mike McCoy, with his lifetime batting average of .190, has gotten into 158 games with the Jays the past three seasons. While Emilio Bonifacio is an adequate hitter, the Jays lack the powerful bat off the bench that many playoff teams of 2012 had, so if Bautista or Encarnación go down, the flawed bats of Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus will be heavily relied on. On the pitching side, if Josh Johnson gets injured or Mark Buerhle shows more effects of aging, while there are serviceable arms in the minors, the team lacks an impact pitcher that has proven he can step up and fill the void.
The Jays are pegged as the top team in the AL East, but their status as the top AL team is highly doubtful. The Detroit Tigers have a formidable lineup with 2012 AL MVP winner Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Victor Martínez in the middle, and their rotation is anchored by the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP winner, Justin Verlander. The Los Angeles Angels have an intimidating lineup of their own, headlined by 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton, three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols, and phenom Mike Trout; their rotation features three-time All-Star Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and veteran Joe Blanton. The Jays just don’t have a middle-of-the-lineup combo or a rotation that can compete with them.
The unproven manager
After John Farrell forced his way out of Toronto, many fans hoped that the Jays would bring in a manager with considerable reputation, so it came as a huge surprise when John Gibbons was picked. Gibbons did not manage to reach .500 in his tenure with the Jays, but it was widely accepted that he had a talented team under him, including stars such as Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, and B.J. Ryan. He butted heads with his players on multiple occasions; incidents involving Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly were highly publicized. Hillenbrand admittedly had a poor reputation, but Ted Lilly has not had any controversial incidents since. One has to wonder whether the fault lies with Gibbons or the players he feuded with.
Almost none of the Blue Jays players have ever experienced the thrill of a pennant drive. The only players on the Jays’ roster with playoff experience are Mark Buerhle and Mark DeRosa. As Karl Go, a first-year history student noted, “There are a lot of expectations on them.” Can the huge expectations of a playoff-starved nation prove too big a burden for them? Only time will tell.