Friday, December 17, 2010
We can't officially close the book on 2010 for another few weeks but it feels like this week pretty much ends this chapter of Blue Jays history. The departure of Lyle Overbay and the Kevin Gregg indicate something pretty significant, something a lot of Jays fans don't want to admit: the re-building process is not over, it is only beginning.
Alex Anthopoulos and his crew of chili dog-stained retches set up 2010 as a place-holder year. Most of his moves worked out just as planned: bring in a veteran who can deliver draft picks or a decent piece in trade. Transition the veterans out with longer term solutions moving in. An unexpected 85 win season later and too many people seem to believe the Jays are close. They are not close, they are far.
The roster as constructed for Opening Day 2010 wasn't designed to win or compete for a playoff spot. As it appears, the 2011 roster is less so. Most of the pieces are now in place for 2012 and beyond and with that comes growing pains.
While the Orioles seem to make moves based solely on winning 82 games and celebrating their first winning season in a generation (LOLroche), the Jays have a plan. That plan has little to do with winning in 2011. And that's okay. But the Jays are looking to stay (payroll) lean while letting their kids go and play.
Leaving the bullpen to its own devices, running Adam Lind and E5(E3?) out there every day at first. Getting younger and more versatile while avoiding the many pitfalls of multi-year deals for players who won't help the team when it matters (i.e. ever).
Giving rope to young players on option-heavy deals is a nimble bit of business, too. If Lind or Hill sputter again, now there are viable internal options waiting to take their place.
Truthfully, the team isn't much worse than the one that stood poised to lose 90 on April 1st. The team certainly isn't better, but that's okay. The team is moving in the right direction. Depending on how the impending Jose Bautista Decision plays out, the Opening Day team in 2011 figures to resemble the lineup for years to come.
I like the look of the team. I like that, in my mind at least, they're going to let them run out there and play. The braintrust doesn't seem like it is employing a "sink or swim" attitude, more like "grow or die." Evolve or get left behind. The 2011 Blue Jays look an awful lot like a team which will put its players in the best position to succeed, now and forevermore.
That doesn't mean they're going to win 85 games in 2011. Or 65 games or 95 games. It is about positioning. Is the team positioned to win in 2012? It certainly will be. 2011 looks like the year in which the front office figures out what tweaks are required for The Push. What they need to do in order to Take a Shot.
Can you wait? Can you take another year of rebuilding? So long as what we see on the field looks like a cohesive attempt to compete — really, seriously compete, not just play well to no end — than I feel fine. Let them play, let us hope.
Image courtesy of Dumbo NYC