Ricky Romero – leadership shown, all-star calibre, struggles with Red Sox
Kyle Drabek – demotion to Las Vegas, return to rotation a challenge
Brett Cecil – fastball up to 93 mph again, rotation mainstay rest of way
Jo Jo Reyes – unfocused, #5 spot in starting rotation, on the bubble
Jesse Litsch – rehab stint in Las Vegas, rotation spot in doubt
Brandon Morrow – shades of 2010, momentum, on verge of breakthrough
Carlos Villaneuva – exceeding expectations, #4 starter, trade bait
Sean Camp – Zen master of eliciting ground balls, hittable, 1 blown save
Jason Frasor – sure hand, candidate for closer role, 2 blown saves
John Rauch – hothead, very hittable, 7 saves in 9 tries
Mark Rzepczynski – reliable middle-relief, 3 blown saves, 3 extra base hits allowed
Casey Jannssen – placed on 15-day DL, retroactive to June 15
Octavio Dotel – improved effectiveness, innings eater
Frank Francisco – below average closer, 4 blown saves, unprofessional tendency
Luis Perez – helpful middle relief, unestablished rookie, 2 blown saves
Aaron Hill – too cautious, shell of 2009 self, Blue Jay end near
Adam Lind – dialed in, future batting champion, all-star production
Travis Snider – 3 doubles in MLB return, deserving outfield starter
Jason Nix – below Mendoza line, designated for assignment July 2
Jose Molina – above-average backup catcher, effective place holder
Corey Patterson – horrendous decision-making on base paths + outfield, liability
Jose Bautista – constant development, all-star, MVP candidate
J.P. Arencibia – good rookie production, sunken BA
Rajai Davis – lightning speed, awful slump, too many SO, second half producer
Edwin Encarnacion – natural DH, streaky, on the bubble
Yunel Escobar – all-star calibre statistics, improved power + work ethic
Juan Rivera – place holder role over, DFA July 3
John McDonald – above Mendoza line again, unsung Toronto hero
Mike McCoy – down + up again, good OBP, useful professional
Eric Thames – spark plug, confident, room for improvement in SO/BB ratio
Kyle Drabek – heart on sleeve, raging bull of emotion on the mound, wild
Brett Cecil – fastball down to 90 mph, 8 HRs allowed in 4 starts before demotion
Jo Jo Reyes – 26-game winless streak snapped, emotions in check, weak pick-off move
Jesse Litsch – fastball + compete-level return, rotation spot deserved when healthy
Brandon Morrow – slow start, potent arsenal, control a work in progress
Carlos Villaneuva – good stuff, reliable from bullpen, exceeding expectations as starter
Sean Camp – ground ball out master, outstanding April/ May, rocky June
Jason Frasor – painstakingly deliberate approach, sure hand, best season pace
John Rauch – shades of K-Gregg, less careful, Jays best closer not saying much
Mark Rzepczynski – odd man out, smooth transition to pen, control issues lately
Casey Jannssen – bullpen stud, return to 2007 form, confident presence
Octavio Dotel – ineffective, innings eater during big losses, oldest man in pen
Frank Francisco – power + unreliability, below average closer
Luis Perez – helpful middle relief, verdict still out, given small sample-size
Aaron Hill – stats split difference between 2009 and 2010 season, too cautious
Adam Lind – back in the saddle again, Indiana boy in perfect spot behind Bautista
Travis Snider – lack of confidence, swing kinks, walk to strikeout ratio improved
Jason Nix – clutch hitting in April, non-existent May, battling Mendoza line
Jose Molina –calm in eye of storm, excellent back-up catcher, hitting well
Corey Patterson – less than smart base running, seeing good pitches
Jose Bautista – BA + OBP + OPS off the charts, home run mastery
J.P. Arencibia – great rookie production, ability + rapport with pitchers improving
Rajai Davis – speed, nice addition, injury riddled, wait and see
Edwin Encarnacion – defensive liability, disappeared home run production
Yunel Escobar – great start overall, occasional odd no-throw decisions
Juan Rivera – horrendous start, rebounded offensively, first base fill-in admirable
John McDonald – decreased production, no fearful demeanour, usual infield brilliance
Mike McCoy – future John McDonald, reliable + energetic uber-utility man
CAMPECHE, Mexico – Across the street from El Estadio Nelson Barrera, where Fernando Valenzuela was thought to be discovered, from my bedroom in the Mexican family home I stay, through my laptop and the MLB online stream, it was a thing of beauty to watch the final home game of Cito Gaston and all the bells and whistles that came with it.
A speech from his old roommate Hank Aaron, glowing words from champion Blue Jays Paul Molitor, Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, along with a standing ovation from a packed “SkyDome” and a single tear from a grateful Gaston, conjured the collective joy last felt in 1993.
It was a thing of nostalgia to realize how his leadership of our dear ball club and his presence in our beloved city interconnected with so many great memories from childhood: like game 6 of the 1992 World Series when we leapt out of our seats and ran onto the field to celebrate via Jumbotron with our Jays in Atlanta. A friend had gotten overexcited as the gates opened earlier that night and disappeared in the crowd, charging up to the 500 level, never to be seen again.
It was a last call with Cito, the closing time on the last three seasons of ball games I attended or logged by TV in varying states of elation, frustration, and drunkeness . It was time for him to go, but as a hard man of steely nerve, he is a hard man not to respect, unless you get into the Bob McCowan v. Cito Gaston controversy of yesteryear.
In spite of the near incomprehensible fall from grace of both Adam Lind and Aaron Hill — see .305 and .286 BA. (2009) to .237 and .205 for Lind and Hill respectively, 2010 was the most exciting season of Blue Jays baseball since 1993. Motherload of slumps and all, Lind-Hill still managed to combine for49 dingers.
The team statistics speak for themselves in aesthetically pleasing fashion:
595 extra base hits (team record)
.454 slugging % (mlb leader)
257 team dingers (mlb leader)
54 Bautista dingers (mlb leader)
7 players with 20+ dingers
4 pitchers w/ 10+ wins
Had we maintained an above .500 W-L record through interleague play, as opposed to a dismal 9-17 mark, we would have fought for the wild in September. It was that close.
The bullpen often seemed shaky with a seeming inability to nail down saves i.e. preserving wins for our starters.
0/2= 0% Brian Tallet
0/2= 0% Scott Downs
2/4= 50% Sean Camp
4/8= 50% Jason Frasor
37/43= 86% Kevin Gregg
That’s 16 games the Jays led late in the game, almost all of which were lost. In an ideal baseball world, without an interleague meltdown, where our bullpen had been perfect, we would have amassed a dominant and best ever 100- 62 record, 1 win better than the 1985 squad with Tom Henke as closer. Not the most likely scenario since few teams have converted 100% of save opportunities.
What shocked me is that the Jays finished the season a respectable 5th place in MLB with 45 saves converted. But I would sooner tempt a 53-year-old Tom Henke out of retirement than endure the torture of another season of K-Gregg’s semi-calculated melodramatics: all those BB’s to go for the easiest possible outs.
Whoever next year’s closer, with three of our top four 2010 starters (Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil) returning a year wiser, and Kyle Drabek, Mark Rzepczynski, Jesse Litsch and Brad Mills battling for spots, with Dustin McGowan just maybe on the mend, a full season of opportunity for T-Snyde, Arencibia, and Escobar, a return to form by Lind and Hill, and anything near a repeat season from Bautista; the future looks bright. Then again, the future always shines bright for the Toronto Blue Jays. Every year, we are one year closer to the next time we win another World Series.