With the end of week 18 came the end of July, but the start of something brand new for the Blue Jays. It was a week dominated by off the field news, starting with a massive trade and ending with a massive celebration. The Blue Jay team that took to the field in April has been profoundly changed for the better, as has the space above the JumboTron, now complete with a number 12 hanging proudly.
But the off-field news shouldn’t dwarf the on-field accomplishments. Toronto went 4-2 last week to move to two games over the .500 mark. They took two of three from the red hot Texas Rangers, and proved just a little bit more to the rest of the league that they aren’t as far away as many might think.
They also moved to within a game and a half of third place Tampa Bay. With Toronto beginning a three game set with the Rays in Tampa on Tuesday, it’s not out of the question that we could soon be talking about the third place Jays.
Here are three things from week 18:
Week 18: July 25 – July 31
Record: 4 – 2
1. Changes A Plenty
Toronto took to the field on Tuesday and were shellacked by the Orioles. The next day everything changed.
In the blink of an eye, Zach Stewart, Jason Frasor, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, and Corey Patterson were gone. Brian Tallet and Trever Miller were back. Quasi-Canadian Mark Teahan and his overpriced contract had arrived to strengthen the bench. And big, bad, Colby Rasmus was our new CF.
Fans are understandably excited about Rasmus. He is young (turns 25 next week). He plays great defense. He can hit. He can run. And he is only getting better. Though he didn’t get off the quickest start with the team, his 2 for 4, 2 RBI game on Sunday gave us a glimpse of what he can do. Combined with Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Yunel Escobar, and Brett Lawrie, the Jays have a poweful offensive core to move forward with.
But that wasn’t it for changes last week. P.J. Walters, a pitcher acquired with Rasmus, arrived, pitched a scoreless inning, then was sent down to Vegas for Jessie Litsch. Brad Mills came up for a start on Saturday and pitched very well (7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 K). And Toronto was seemingly mentioned in trade talks with several big name players, including Ubaldo Jimenez and Wandy Rodriguez.
Though there is still an opportunity for the Jays to add a player or two before the August waiver deadline, the biggest change is still to come. Brett Lawrie is waiting patiently, and hopefully it won’t be long now…
2. Middle of the Order Blues
It’s not often when you can say that Jose Bautista is slumping. But last week was a tough one for J-Bau. He went hitless in three of the six games, and was held off base completely twice (though to be fair, getting hit in the head by a fastball had something to do with one of those). For the week he went just 4 for 19 with 2 R and 1 RBI. He also hasn’t hit a home run since July 9th in Cleveland, a span of 14 consecutive games without one.
Adam Lind finds himself in a funk as well, after a 2 for 20 week. While he did slug a HR on Tuesday, Lind also struck out five times, and managed only one single the rest of the week. His average has slipped to .279 and his OPS to .817 – the lowest it’s been since May 3rd.
Luckily for Toronto, two players have stepped up. Edwin Encarnacion, thought to be a potential trade target, destroyed Baltimore and Texas: 8 for 20, .400 AVG, 1.328 OPS, 2 HR and 4 RBI. His season OPS now sits at .758 – the highest it has been all season. Likewise, J.P. Arencibia has snapped back to life. With his back to the Mendoza line, the catcher has caught fire, hitting safely in all five games he played in last week, with 2 HR and 7 RBI. He now has slugged five home runs in his past eight games, looking much more like the Rookie of the Year candidate that 500 Level Fan made him out to be this season.
Now we just need all four of those guys clicking at the same time.
3. Toronto Immortality
Quite a pair of Sunday’s for Roberto Alomar. First he earned the biggest prize in baseball – induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. One week later he was honoured with the highest award in Toronto Blue Jays history. Number 12 will never be worn again.
On Sunday Alomar saw his jersey number rise to the rafters at Rogers Centre, becoming the first player in Blue Jays history to have his number retired. In front of a sellout crowd, his parents, and many of his former teammates, Robbie basked in a perfect day and reminded fans of the glory days of this franchise.
Now with #12 hanging in centre field, the glory days will never be far away.