The Toronto Blue Jays, 2014: Riding with the Wind

Last season we borrowed from the images painted by glam rocker David Bowie in his classic, ‘Space Oddity.’  Major Tom’s tragic mission strangely anticipated the Jays’ own on-field tragedy.  High hopes led to disappointment in a flurry of injuries and poor performances.

Will this season be any different or will it be more of the same, results-wise?  Jimi Hendrix saw beauty at the Monterey Pop Festival.  He wanted to take that beauty and put it to music, so he thought of the experience and personified it in the form of a woman.  “Little Wing” was the result.  If you’re unfamiliar with Monterey Pop, Jimi Hendrix, or ‘Little Wing’, open another window in your browser, do some reading/listening, and come on back.  If you’re not interested, then this isn’t the blog for you.

The lyric ‘riding with the wind’ evokes an image of Jimi’s ‘woman’ soaring free, no longer earth-bound.  Riding against the wind is difficult, wastes precious energy, and often forces a traveller to seek shelter.  ‘Riding with the wind’ captures an elemental force of nature that can’t be controlled, just harnessed.   It’s about time for the Jays to harness the wind and loose the surly bonds of gravity.

The off season has been as quiet for AL Eastbound bloggers as it has been for the Toronto Blue Jays.  This blogger has had a tumultuous winter, but is ready and rarin’ to go for the 2014 season.  Can the same be said about the Jays?  TOR traded Brad Lincoln for Erik Kratz, signed catcher Dioner Navarro, cut ties with JP Arencibia, and they may be on the verge of signing Ervin Santana to a 1-year deal.  In other words the Jays, fresh from a 74-88 season, have inflicted a nauseatingly-inactive (passive?) off season on their fans.

They needed pitching, a catcher, a real 2B, and perhaps another OF.  They got Navarro and Kratz, and then complained about giving Navarro too much money over too many years.  Welcome to Toronto, Dioner.  Wait, wait, wait…after a tough season, we don’t need to start this one by complaining.

One thing we can say categorically about the Jays is that they are deeper, roster- and organization-wise, than they have been in years.  This is a good thing.  If Morrow goes down for a few starts I’d rather replace him with Esmil Rogers or Todd Redmond (or Sanchez or Stroman…drool, drool, drool) than Chien-ming Wang, Aaron Laffey, Ramon Ortiz, or, heaven forbid, Brian Tallet.

Also, a healthy RA and Melky and Rasmus and Bats and Reyes and Edwin are better than an unhealthy group with the same names.  Josh Johnson was bewilderingly bad as well as injured, so expectations coming into 2014 were murky.  Drew Hutchison is strong and healthy, and JA Happ, Kyle Drabek, and Dustin McGowan are all talented, somewhat healthy, and competing for roster spots.  Melky doesn’t have a tumour on his spine any longer, meaning LF might not be such an adventure.

That leaves second base.  Last year the carousel included, but was not limited to, Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, Munenori Kawasaki and Ryan Goins.  Goins was the cleanest of the dirty shirts, ‘tho Mune gave us a lot of smiles while he filled in for Jose Reyes.  He performed passably at 2B.

The Jays plan to go with Goins at 2B (read, ‘it’s his job to lose’).  Ryan Goins is a shortstop, 25 years old, and doesn’t hit very well.  He’s their secret weapon at 2B, because the others proved they couldn’t handle it last season.  Several rumours (Brandon Phillips, Stephen Drew, Gordon Beckham, Darwin Barney, Nick Franklin, Dustin Ackley, etc.), have surfaced at one point or another only to disappear just as quickly.  It’s always come back to Goins.

Ryan Goins probably isn’t as good defensively as he showed in his 2013 cameo; let’s hope his offense is better than he showed in his 2013 cameo.  He’s one in a long line of good-field-no-hit middle infielders, of which the Jays have had a few.  Even in their heyday in the early ‘90s, they were going to run Manuel Lee or Dick Schofield out there and try to win a title.  Other teams have done the same sort of thing, some very successfully.  One key to success is the quality of the defense.  If it can offset significant shortcomings at the plate, then there’s a chance that he can contribute positively.  Other players in this mold include Ozzie Smith (maybe the best of this type), Bert Campaneris, Omar Vizquel, Larry Bowa, Mark Belanger, Bill Mazeroski, and from way, way back, Marty Marion.  Another key is the strength of the team’s overall offense.  If it can compensate for one black hole in the line-up, the chances of success are greater.

One thing that can be said about the 2014 season: it’s a book that is yet to be written.  The promise of so many pristine blank pages is alluring and exciting.  It’s part of what keeps us coming back for more, no?  Play ball!

Wes Kepstro





2 Responses to “The Toronto Blue Jays, 2014: Riding with the Wind”

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