COMMENTARY | The Toronto Blue Jays are in unfamiliar territory heading into the 2013 Major League Baseball season. The team hasn't made the playoffs in 20 years, but it went out and made splash after splash in the offseason in an effort to get to the Fall Classic and give its fans something to finally cheer about.
With the new-found hope and expectations surrounding this team this season, quite a few questions arise when it comes to the Blue Jays, and all of them piggyback off one another.
1.) Will the major trade acquisitions pay off?
The Blue Jays sent shock waves through the MLB landscape over the winter when they traded for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and R.A. Dickey, among others. The team wanted everyone to know they are serious about becoming a threat in the American League and taking over a seemingly down AL East.
In addition to pieces already in place, the Blue Jays are built for a serious championship run. The question is, can they manage to work together to get it done? I posted last week about what they need to do to avoid being a repeat of last year's Miami Marlins. It's something that will hang over this team until they prove otherwise by winning.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos has said all along that he wants to build a winner in Toronto and with the offseason moves he made, it looks like he's trying to keep his word.
Now it's just up to the players.
2.) Can the team handle the Melky Cabrera distraction? Which Melky Will They Get?
When the Blue Jays signed controversial outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16-million contract in November, it was met with a lot of skepticism.
The man is coming off a season where he was the focus of a major PED cover-up scheme after he had been suspended 50 games for high testosterone and missed the 2012 playoffs with the San Francisco Giants. He, and the team, has been asked about the situation countless times this spring, and it really shows no signs of stopping, especially if he doesn't perform.
If he doesn't play well, the team will have to deal with the talk of "he's nothing without the drugs." Then again, if he does play well, the argument from plenty will be, "He's back on the drugs." Needless to say, it's going to be a giant whirlwind of crud surrounding Cabrera and this team all season long. The team needs to be ready for that.
Also, just which Cabrera are the Blue Jays getting? Are they getting the one who was an All-Star last season, who was batting .346, and was the talk of the league before suspension? Or, are they getting the under-performing, mediocre Cabrera who has batted less than .300 in every season but two during his professional career?
3.) Can the rotation prove to be dominant?
Just read this pitching rotation aloud: R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Ricky Romero.
On paper, that has to be one of the scariest rotations in all of the American League, let alone Major League Baseball. However, as everyone knows, games aren't won on paper, otherwise the Los Angeles Angels would have won the World Series last season.
Despite the big names in the lineup, there are questions surrounding almost all of these players. But the biggest one involves the team's opening-day starter, R.A. Dickey.
Dickey won the NL Cy Young last season and won 20 games, so it's obvious that he should be the opening-day guy. But he is 38 years old and is basically a one-pitch pitcher. Sure, it's one of the hardest pitches to hit, the knuckleball, but if his performance starts to deter one bit this season, he could be taken to the wood chipper by every great bat in the AL.
Johnson would be a No. 1 on most teams. In Toronto, he's pegged to be the No. 4 pitcher. And though he had his worst professional season in 2012, he still finished with a 3.81 ERA, which is better than a lot of starting pitchers in the league. With being No. 4 in the rotation, one has to worry if it hurts Johnson's psyche a bit.
The man has never lost more than seven starts in a season, and he should provide a solid pitching performance every time he steps on the mound. However, if he is bothered by being the fourth guy, his play might suffer -- which could cause problems among the ranks.
Buehrle has been Mr. Consistency during his professional career. The man has made at least 30 starts every season since 2001. With a career ERA of 3.82, Buehrle could very well be the key piece to the Blue Jays pitching puzzle. Let's just hope that mentioning the fact he's started at least 30 games for the last 12 years didn't jinx him.
Michael Straw is a sportswriter who lives in Buffalo, NY and has been covering baseball, primarily at the Triple-A level, for two years. He began covering the Blue Jays in the fall of 2012, and has been published in multiple Western New York publications. For Blue Jays and other sports news follow Michael on Twitter @MikeStrawQCS.
- Sports & Recreation
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Mark Buehrle
- Melky Cabrera