The Jays begin a four game set in Baltimore later this afternoon with game one an old school twi-night doubleheader (making up for the rainout of August 26th), and as much as I’d hope we’ve all stopped having anything resembling faith in the Jays’ ability to win in any given outing, seeing as even they seem to have checked out weeks ago– they were .500 at the All-Star Break, and have been nineteen games below in the second half– this series certainly does present a wicked opportunity for our boys in blue to deliciously set back Baltimore’s little, impossibly ridiculous dream.
OK, so maybe it’s a little fucking shameful to be rooting so openly and vigorously against a team and a fan base that closely mirrors our own– and, therefore, for the status quo to essentially be maintained, and the Yankees to hold strong in the division– but that’s part of what, for me at least, makes the seething I feel unstoppable. I mean, O’s fans have experienced AL East frustration on par with what we have over the last decade– probably worse– and what they’re doing now is precisely what JP Ricciardi was always talking when he tried to soothe our jangled nerves by insisting that the clubs he put together really could be contenders, just as long as everything broke right.
That magical year where the hitters do their jobs, every dicey starting pitching option thrown against the wall seems to stick, and a solid bullpen has itself a staggering run like the 2005 White Sox or ’08 Rays? It’s happening right now. And it’s happening in fucking Baltimore.
Now the Jays have four chances to– unlikely an outcome as it may be, given their recent state– to put a dent in Baltimore’s hopes. At the very least, this makes the next for games eminently watchable, which is more than I can say for whatever fucking around out here they’ve been doing for the last few weeks.
And, as much as it will never stop hurting to watch the Yankees cruise into the playoffs every damn year, in an odd way it’s comforting to at least we know that, with their resources, the deck is stacked so heavily in their favour that nobody is going to draw any pseudo-meaningful conclusions from it. The Orioles’ success, however, elicits insanity like this, from a recent Richard Griffin piece for the Toronto Star:
“Baseball is a copycat industry and the O’s are a good role model for Anthopoulos.”
Ugh. Now, I would never suggest that there couldn’t possibly things about Baltimore’s success to be examined or followed, but it’s preposterous to suggest that they’re some kind of revolutionary unit who recognized that everybody was getting it wrong by not having a strong bullpen, a decent lineup, a deep well of mediocre starters, and an oil tanker full of shit eating luck.
And it’s not like Anthopoulos hasn’t already begun to follow at least one of these ideas. He’s improved the bullpen on the fly over the course of this season, admitting that it was less a priority in the past, and largely a mechanism to produce value outside of the field of play, in the form of trade chips and supplemental round draft picks.
It sounds as though he’s more willing than in the past to follow another path somewhat “blazed” by the O’s, though not for any reason to do with them, I suspect.
“Instead of stockpiling veteran arms to pitch at Triple-A in case of injury to the youngsters, as he did unsuccessfully this season,” Griffin writes, “he will stockpile young arms at the Triple-A level (now Buffalo) in case of injuries to the veteran talent he plans to reach out for as free agents and in trade this coming off-season. It’s a huge difference.”
It’s a huge difference, I submit, made possible by the fact that the club has got the fuck out of Las Vegas, where they’ve been reluctant to send their best pitching prospects– demonstrated by the fact that we saw Brett Cecil intentionally avoid it when he chose to go to New Hampshire this spring, following his demotion. And I think it’s no small coincidence that, in his talk with the media, Anthopoulos suggests going back to the model of the 2007 season, when Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, and Jesse Litsch buoyed the rotation after the veteran “help” they brought in– Tomo Ohka, Victor Zambrano, John Thomson– failed spectacularly.
That season would be the second last that the Jays had their Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse.
In just the past two years we’ve seen Henderson Alvarez, Drew Hutchison, Joel Carreno, Aaron Loup, Sam Dyson and Evan Crawford make the jump past Vegas in order to make their big league debuts straight out of New Hampshire. Kyle Drabek did so in September of 2010, as well.
The fear of the desert– the thin, dry, hot air that keeps pitches from breaking as much, allows balls to fly harder off the bat, and creates a tough field to play defensively– forcing impressionable young pitchers to change what had worked for them in a more neutral environment surely played into the decision last winter to give big league opportunities to guys like McGowan, Litsch, Drabek, Alvarez, Cecil and Hutchison, rather than to bring in a collection of middling starters that would have forced some of those young arms to Vegas. The fact that they’d now be sent to Buffalo, I think, opens the door to the much needed change in approach that Anthopoulos talks about– not, as Griffin may be implying, anything to do with Baltimore.
We’ll see a rather intriguingly improbable product of Baltimore’s savvy this afternoon in Steve Johnson. The 24-year-old former Dodgers 13th rounder is in his eighth season as a pro, his first in the Majors, and is sitting on a 1.91 ERA in ten appearances, including two starts– one of which came August 25th against the Jays, where he tossed seven strikeouts in six innings, giving up just two earned runs in a win that marked Brandon Morrow’s return and Jose Bautista’s final at-bat of the season for the Jays.
I mean… fuck everything.
Romero goes later tonight. Would be a nice night for good Ricky to make an appearance. Dial that change back a touch!