I admit I expected to get some kind of message about "Winter is Coming" from out neighbors to the north, but I got something even better. We spoke with Bluebird Banter's manager Tom Dakers and one of the first questions he asked was if I and everyone at TCB was okay after the flooding. What a nice guy, right? That said we talked more about the Blue Jays and the Canada in general.
1. How happy are you with the Josh Donaldson trade?
Thrilled beyond belief. I don't know where the team would be without him. By fWAR he is the second best player in baseball, behind just Bryce Harper.
I liked Brett Lawrie. He's Canadian, has massive amounts of potential, and a he'd make a spectacular, Red Bull infused, highlight reel type play a day. Unfortunately, he also has a swing that has so many tics and twitches and moving parts that finding his timing is a fulltime battle. And, he goes full out all the time, which seems like an admirable trait (and would be if he was playing football), but with baseball being an everyday sport, that full out, run through walls thing, makes him very injury prone. I don't think he'll ever be the player that Donaldson is.
2. The Blue Jays are similar to the Astros in a way. Powerful offenses with less than stellar rotations. Do you think the Jays can stay pat on their pitching; if not, how do you see them making changes?
Over the last couple of weeks, the starting rotation seems to have righted itself. The starters are going deeper into games, we even had 4 complete games over the past 2 weeks. The starters going deep covers up the mess that is the bullpen.
I expect they will try to add a couple of good arms to the pen. I'll admit, I've been expecting this since the end of last season, when GM Alex Anthopoulos laid the blame for last year's disappointing season on the bullpen, promised to make improvements and then did almost nothing, other than sign a couple of dozen minor league free agents with the hope that some of them would work out. Beyond that I'm not expecting much. Maybe we'll find a taker for a slightly dented Dioner Navarro.
3. What are your expectations for the AL East after a few months? Do the Jays have a chance to win the
For that last 20 years, the AL East has been the wrong division to be in, if you are a team that can't do better than 5 games above .500. This year, if any team gets 5 games over .500, they will run away with the division. In any other division, the Blue Jays 25-30 record would leave them buried, but in the AL East we are only 4.5 games out of first.
The hope is that the team catches up with their division leading Pythagorean Record. We have to hope that they reverse their 3-12 record in 1 run games. The team slowly seems to be getting healthy. Up until now it has seemed that if the pitching was good, we didn't hit and if the hitting was good, we couldn't pitch. If both parts come together, they could go on a bit of a run. Or I hope they could.
4. Who is your favorite hockey team?
I live in Calgary, Alberta, so it's the Flames, who made the playoffs for the first time in years this season. After several years of trying to win with an aging roster, and playing boring hockey, they went full on rebuild and changed to a much younger, much more exciting team.
5. How do the Jays fit the sports world in Canada, big deal? Second banana to hockey? Does all of
Canada support the Jays?
Everything is second to hockey in Canada. It is the national sport. We all played hockey (when I say things like that there is always someone that says ‘I never played', people that say that aren't really Canadians).
The Jays have done a great job of turning themselves into a Canada's team. For the past few years they have been doing winter, cross country, tours, taking a handful of players to cities from coast to coast. They generate crowds wherever they go. There are always Blue Jays fans at every ballpark they visit. When they are in Seattle, the crowds are almost 50/50 Jays fans from the west coast. In Minnesota, they draw thousands of Jays fans from the prairie provinces. The team's TV broadcasts get good ratings right across the country. If they ever get decent, they might draw almost hockey numbers.
6. Do you want to see the Expos return?
Yes. Hugely want it. The Expos were the team that introduced me to baseball, I'll always have a place for them in my heart. I was in Montreal for the 2 preseason games that the Jays and the Red played in Olympic Stadium. It was great fun, with over 96,000 at the two games. I think it would help the Blue Jays to have another Canadian team to compete with for the hearts of Canadian baseball fans.
Montreal would need a new ballpark, somewhere downtown. The ‘Big O' is too far away from everything, and is old and ugly. Getting a place for a ballpark and funding for it is the first step. When I was in Montreal, there was a baseball talk with Jonah Keri, (who wore Up Up and Away a terrific book about the Expos) and he said there would be MLB baseball back in Montreal in 5 to 8 years. I think he is little optimistic, but I'd be surprised if there isn't a team there in 15 years. After all the work that Bud Selig and his pet guinea pig Jeff Loria went through to kill off baseball there, it would be so satisfying to see it return.