By: Adam Pasternak
First off, screw you Caleb Humphrey’s! You liar! Your glove was definitely not where you said it was! Unfortunately though, you can’t entirely blame the infamous fan for what took place last night. The Toronto Blue Jays lost game 6 to the now two-time AL pennant winners Kansas City Royals. It was a game full of excitement, stress and in the end, sadness. Like most Jays games this postseason, it came right down to the wire. It’s understandable that most people’s first thoughts on the game would be that the Jays had runners on third and second with no out…how did they not score? My answer would be, what about the other 10 runners the Jays left on base last night (Toronto was 0-12 with RISP last night)? Runners in scoring position was the story of the series, in my opinion. Throughout the series, the Jays had many opportunities to score runners and they could not cash anyone in. Apart from game 5 and the home-runs, when it mattered most the Jays could not advance runners and could not get them home, especially last night.
David Price, other then his two obvious mistakes, was great. I don’t care what anyone says, I would want this guy pitching with the season on the line anytime. He’s a proven, Cy-Young award winning pitcher in this league and is going to sign a historic contract this offseason, whether it is with the Jays or another MLB contender only time will tell. How can you blame a pitcher when his team couldn’t give him any run support? I’m sure Mr. Price is feeling very mixed emotions right now. I wouldn’t blame him if he was frustrated and disappointed that his offence couldn’t pull through for him because quite frankly, that is what happened. No team deserves to win stranding that many baserunners. The Blue Jays powerful offence couldn’t do what they do best and they lost.
Big time sports games always have a way of being unique and memorable. For example, the Superbowl Blackout in New Orleans a few years back, and last night it was the rain delay. The Jays had momentum entering the bottom of the eighth, having just tied it on Joey Bats’ second home-run of the night and the Jays looked primed to make a comeback, but the weather had other ideas. Just as the top half of the eighth ended, the rain started pouring and the game was delayed for an hour. Personally, sitting at home just waiting and waiting for the game to come back on drained me. I can only imagine what it did to the players. They had all this momentum and energy and the rain washed it all away. A young Roberto Osuna came in and got knocked around and it looked like the Royals were in his head. This was the very moment where for the first time in my life, I agreed with Harold Reynolds. Reynolds brought up a great point during the top of the 9th inning in game 3. The jays were up by a lot, but they decided to put the rookie closer Osuna in anyway. He got knocked around a little bit and as Harold pointed out, it gave the Royals another chance to see him. See, the more a team sees a pitcher, the more they get a better feel for him. It was unnecessary for him to pitch that night and it came back to haunt us. The whole thing about closers in the playoffs is that you don’t really get to see them all that much and it makes them almost like a secret weapon. Gibbon’s gave the Royals a good look at Osuna in game 3 and they had a plan of attack for him that ultimately worked. To his credit, Osuna did a solid job of getting out of trouble and it definitely could have ended up a whole lot worse. He kept the team in it and allowed them to have a chance to tie or even win the game, but you have to wonder why Gibby wouldn’t use the rested Mark Lowe to at least start the eighth like he has all year. Ned Yost outsmarted John Gibbon’s this series. Wade Davis had not been used since game 2 on Saturday and the Jays couldn’t crack him. Gibbon’s is a great guy and a solid manager, but I really have to question his judgement late in games this series.
There’s nothing you can do to change the past, but the Jays can make a few improvements and additions and make sure that this time next year they are on the other side of things. The first obvious improvement to be made is their pitching, both starting and relieving. First looking at the bullpen, the Jays have some weapons in Osuna and Sanchez and Brett Cecil (who was definitely missed in the ALCS), but as the Royal’s proved, that is not enough. The Jays need a trust worthy lefty to compliment Cecil and in order to finally allow the them to get rid of the unpredictable and inconsistent Aaron Loup. As well, it would be beneficial for the Blue Birds to look to sign a veteran arm to have in the pen. A guy who can teach the young guys like LaTroy Hawkins, but can actually contribute quality innings to the team. A guy who comes to mind is pending free agent Tommy Hunter. He’s played in the division before with the Orioles and had success. He’s a hard thrower and if the Jays ever want to explore other ideas with Osuna (he was drafted as a starter) they would have a man with closing experience. Obviously, Hunter is not he best reliever in the league by any means but he is a guy that would fit in well with the rest of the current young talent the Jays have. Another idea is moving Drew Hutchison into the bullpen next season.
The next area to talk about is the rotation. The first and hopefully most obvious move to be made is to resign ace and leader, David Price. Give him whatever he wants; money, popcorn, batting practice once a week…whatever he wants. He needs to be back in Toronto next season. After Price, there’s young stud Marcus Stroman. He’s a lock for that number two spot if Price returns. Coming off a successful return from a devastating ACL tear back in the spring, the StroShow looked like he’d been there before. He feeds of the pressure and the doubts of his critics. He was born to play in the postseason. From there, the rotation is up in the air. Marco Estrada was great this season but he is a free agent this summer and there are no doubts in my mind that many other teams are going to be lining up for his services. It looks like the team father Mark Buehrle is destined for retirement and to great quality time with his pet pit bull. Will Aaron Sanchez get a chance to return back to the rotation? Will R.A Dickey be able to give more quality innings? It’s going to be interesting to see what the Jays front office does, whether its in free agency or trade. The December winter-meetings are one of my favourite times of the year, and there’s no doubt it will be entertaining again this offseason.
There are a lot of moves and deals to be made this offseason which leads me to my next topic of discussion, Alex Anthopoulos. My candidate for GM of the year is actually without a contract for next season. You’d have to think that new President Mark Shapiro would be smart enough to keep him on board…right? Anthopoulos has turned the Jays around and brought them back to the postseason for the first time in over 20 years. He single handily changed the attitude and atmosphere surrounding the Jays. They are a team filled with superstars and defensive studs who all have one common goal and that is to win a World Series. If you think back to just 3-4 years ago, if anyone would have told me that in 2015 the Jays would have a shot at the title, let alone a postseason birth, I would have laughed in their face. The Jays were a joke, and looked down upon by the rest of the American based teams. This season accomplished more then just breaking franchise records or making it back to the playoffs, this years team has put the Jays back on the map. The Jays are now a force to be reckoned with going down the road. With the core players all set to return next season, for the first time in two seasons they won’t need to have an adjustment period and take time to build chemistry. With returning players, they can just continue where they left of this season, which is really what the KC Royals did this year.
And so to conclude, I guess what I’m really trying to say is keep your head up Jays fans. While it would have been nice to win last night, just winning one round and proving to the 29 other ball teams that the Jays belong is a good consolation.
What are your thoughts and reflections on this past season? What do you think the Jays need to do to get the job done next year? Comment below!