Three Things From Week Twenty-Three

Week 23 of the 2012 season started terribly for the Blue Jays – which is to say, it started exactly the same way the previous four weeks have gone.  They were absolutely destroyed at home by the Orioles by a combined score of 16 – 0. 

But then, suddenly, the team displayed something that I didn’t expect to see from them again this year – heart.  They held on to defeat the O’s in the finale, then rolled into Fenway and swept the Red Sox, showing a little bit of everything in the process: speed, pitching, timely hitting, and defense. 

Toronto now holds a two game lead on the Red Sox in the battle for the AL East basement.  With 23 games remaining, it would be fantastic to see them hang on and bury Boston.

Here are three things from week 23:

Week 23: September 3  – September 9

Record: 4 – 2

1. The Kids Are Alright

It was quite a nasty introduction to the big leagues for Adeiny Hechavarria and Anthony Gose.  Hech was called up in early August and made his major league debut August 4th.  After his first 12 games, he was batting a woeful .156 with a .419 OPS.  Gose wasn’t much better, chiming in with a .183 average and .499 OPS at the end of August. 

But things have started to turn around for the two future franchise cornerstones.  Hechavarria has hit safely in 12 of his past 13 games, raising his season marks to a .237 AVG and .601 OPS.  Last week he made five starts, went 5 for 15 with 3 runs scored, 3 RBI, and 2 walks, for a .333 AVG and .812 OPS.  Gose found his way into five games last week, three as a starter.  In that limited playing time, he scorched the baseball: 6 for 12, 4 runs, 5 RBI, a triple, 4 stolen bases, .500 AVG, 1.417 OPS, and his first career home run.

Believe it or not, Gose has 14 stolen bases and has only started 26 games, coming in as a pinch runner in seven others.  If one was to project his SB numbers over a full season, you’d be looking at Toronto’s single season franchise record holder.

The learning curve is still pretty steep, and there’s a chance that neither of these two will be back in the bigs in 2013.  But it’s nice to see at least a glimpse of what we have in store for the future. 

2. Back In The Lineup

If you’ve been following the Jays over the past month, then you understand how big of a night Friday was.  After weeks of pencilling in Mike McCoy, Omar Vizquel, Jeff Mathis, and Yorvit Torrealba at third and catcher, Friday night the Blue Jays finally – FINALLY – welcomed back Brett Lawrie and J.P. Arencibia.

And the two didn’t miss a beat.

Lawrie smacked the third pitch he saw for a double and eventually scored.  Arencibia, after an 0 for 4 Friday night, went 1 for 3 with 2 runs scored on Saturday. 

But the impact was much more than their individual performances.  Just their presence in the lineup seemed to inspire the team.  Mired in one of the worst stretches in years, the Jays swept Boston in three straight.  Colby Rasmus had two hits, including a home run, on Friday, after weeks and weeks of terrible at-bats.  Anthony Gose, Hechavarria, Sierra, Rajai Davis – all appeared to have a little bit of extra swagger in their steps and confidence in their games.

Lawrie and Arencibia play with a certain amount of cockiness.  If that rubs off on their teammates, only good things can happen.

3. The Farrell Circus

It has to be nice to be John Farrell right about now.  Despite having a career record of 145-156, the sophomore manager is suddenly heavily in demand, as rumours about him returning to Boston are gaining steam by the day.

When these same rumours began last year, they were seen by many (myself included), as a feeler by the Red Sox, a “let’s throw this idea out there and see what happens” type of move.  When Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays squashed the possibility of JF heading back to Boston, it seemed like that was it, over and done.

But I don’t know.  For some reason, the Farrell to Boston v2.0 talks seem more real.  For one, they are popping up with more regularity and by more sources.  For another, the Red Sox are an absolute disaster, hellbent on blowing the team up and starting over.  Their current manager, Bobby Valentine, appears to be a dead duck, hapless, helpess, and hopeless.  It was painful watching him walk to the mound to make a pitching change on the weekend.  You can read it all over his face – he knows he’s gone.

So the question becomes: should Toronto let Farrell go?  It’s considered a cardinal sin to make a trade within your own division.  After all, there isn’t a worse feeling than having an ex-teammate beat you.  But John Farrell is a manager, not a player.  The players play the game.  It’s the players who stack up wins and losses.  There are many schools of thought out there about how much influence a manager has, and I tend to be on the minimal side, as in managers have minimal influence on a game’s outcome.  Sure they are responsible for in-game moves, but if the hitters all struggle in a game, it doesn’t matter what order you put them in, or where you position them on the field, you’re still going to lose.

I like John Farrell.  I think he takes a lot of criticism from idiot Jays fans about his use of the bullpen and other petty things that armchair managers think they can do better.  But if there is a chance that the Blue Jays can acquire a major league ready player from a division rival in exchange for him?  I’d be all for it – especially considering the managerial talent already on the team (Wakamatsu, Butterfield, Fasano, etc.). 

Either way, stay or go, Farrell is already becoming the most intriguing offseason move on AA”s list.

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