The Toronto Blue Jays are out of the playoffs. If not mathematically; spiritually, practically, and deservedly so. As a bunch, the team has not played well this season. Players have been injured, other have showed skills they’ve then lost, and others further have aged to a dangerous degree. Things have not gone as planned, nor have they gone as projected, but let’s look at the next month and pick what we’d need to see to at least say that it ended strong.
September is a weird month in baseball. Half the teams have sold everything and are running on fumes, others have a bullpen stocked with 15 men, just in case they burned their second LOOGY earlier in the game. It’s a weird mix of entertaining baseball – the games are important and you meet new players yet you see some of the worst, slowest baseball you’ll witness all season. September won’t feel very unusual to Jays fans this season; their team has been filled with AAA callups all season. When rosters expand, we’ll get to see some players that we’ve wanted to, and if things work out, we could be in a much better position for next season.
As mentioned by Andrew Munn last week, two of the players that the Jays are likely to call up are Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernandez, two outfielders with the ability to play center. If they come up and show the front office that they’re ready to take the next step, it frees them up to make moves with outfielders that are currently on the big club. All three of the outfielders the club has under contract for next season certainly have qualities that other teams are attracted to. Depending on the metric you look at, Kevin Pillar still grades out as an above average defender, Ezequiel Carrera has turned into a hitter, and ever since the first month of the season, Steve Pearce has mashed. Alford and Hernandez performing would allow the team to get creative in finding solutions to any number of issues coming up into next season.
Next would be a resurgence of some of the players they were counting on. Kendrys Morales has been an utter disappointment all season long. He has hit the ball very hard, right into the dirt. He has walked less than expected, and struck out much more. For him to turn around in the last month would be big for the fans’ perceptions of him. And if it could be done by making a real change, like adjusting his batted ball profile to play up his power, or making more contact like he has in the past, maybe that could give people some hope that he could return to form next year. If Kevin Pillar could show some of what he brought at the beginning of this season, that would certainly be a high note to end on as well. These are obvious ones, but they would warm my heart and be a sign that things might turn up for next season.
Next, it would be good for the fans, and for the team, if players returned strong from the DL. If Russell Martin, or Aaron Sanchez, or Devon Travis were to come back, that would be a bright spot that we could all look back on and hopefully remember the bright spot after a tough season. Hey, even a good report about Troy Tulowitzki’s recovery might make someone excited for the season to come.
I don’t think that a focus for the rest of season should be winning. I think that instead of playing the lineups that give us the best chance of winning, fans might like the chance to see the players that are fun to watch. The call-ups like Hernandez and Alford are fun, fast players. I always find it fun to sort out my thoughts about these players from tiny samples.
We all know what kind of season it has been. The best way to see the time out is with excitement. Two ALCS appearances in a row are an incredible accomplishment, and we should work to appreciate the baseball we have left.
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