It happens every year. A team (or teams) makes a few offseason acquisitions, and it immediately becomes a World Series favorite. This year, the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers made the biggest splashes. The Dodgers have been a respectable team the past few years, and it is not hard to see them being able to land a post-season spot this up-upcoming year. The Toronto Blue Jays, however, are another matter entirely.
It seems people have already forgotten the Toronto Blue Jays finished last year with a 73-89 record. Nor do people apparently remember that three teams in their division, the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, all finished with at least 90 wins in 2012. But some people point to the signing of free agents as the reason championships are won. They cite, some by actually using their memories, that the 2009 New York Yankees went out and got CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnet and then took home the World Series trophy.
There are two problems with this: 1) these three players delivered average performances during that series and 2) this success is an exception, rather than a rule. The Yankees spent the most money in baseball between 2001 and 2008 and did not come away with a single championship. In fact, the San Francisco Giants, winners of two of the last three World Series, and the St. Loius Cardinals, who won it all in 2011, were not among the top five highest-spending teams those years.
To give the Toronto Blue Jays some credit, they did gain some high-quality players. But they are not playoff worthy this year. Along with the studs like R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson, if he can remain healthy, are the duds like Jose Reyes. Reyes is already losing his speed, which is problematic for a team reliant on home runs. The Toronto Blue Jays will not be able to win the division this year based on solo shots. But it is the only choice left for them.
Only three Toronto Blue Jays players had at least a .280 average last year. Edwin Encarnacion hit exactly that number, while Jose Reyes hit .287. The last of these exalted three was Melky Cabrera, who was given a 50-game suspension last year for doping. And if Cabrera’s .346 average from last year is taken away, there were only two other seasons where he batted .280 or above. He had exactly a .280 average in 2006 and a .305 average in 2011.
Toronto fans have a lot to look forward to this year. But questions still remain for even the best of the Toronto Blue Jays, such as is R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball Cy Young worthy this year? The American League East last faced Red Sox knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield on a regular basis in 2011. And if the five earned runs the Yankees scored off Dickey in their one meeting last year are any indication, some AL East batsmen still like crushing the knuckleball.