OK, OK, let’s do this! I was going to take some time today to write some thoughts (finally) on what happened in those last two games in Tampa, but I think Drew and I covered just about anything I’d have wanted to say quite well in the latest Birds All Day podcast, so let’s just get straight into catching up on all of what’s swirling around the Blue Jays as they get set to open the home portion of their schedule tonight against the Red Sox…
Marcus Stroman has “penned” an ode to Toronto — aka the 6ix — for the Players’ Tribune, talking about his 2015 season and his love for the city he plays in. A cynic would merely call it savvy, but it’s also kinda awesome. Yes, we’re a baseball town. (Interesting note: the previous piece at the Players’ Tribune is “by” Dan Norris, who “declares” that he’s more than just the man in the van.)
Stacey May Fowles has the cover story in this weeks NOW Magazine, writing about the start of the season and the end of an era of sports shame in Toronto, which, with apologies to the Raptors, has a whole hell of a lot to do with your Toronto Blue Jays.
Another of our contributors, John Lott, is killing it over at Vice Sports as well, as he tells of the already growing legend of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., talks to the incredible Josh Donaldson (who will obviously play tonight, right? Right??), and gets a tour of the Rogers Centre’s new dirt infield, which will debut tonight.
Donaldson, as well as Michael Saunders, should indeed play tonight, says John Gibbons, according to a piece from Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun. In that same piece Buffery quotes some players on the new dirt infield, including a slightly unenthused Chris Colabello, who says, “It’s just dirt.”
Speaking of dirt, Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail talks to Ryan Goins, who somewhat meticulously tested out the new surface on Thursday, about the dirt, which Goins seems to be totally fine with, but says shouldn’t made a big deal of: “Pretty much they put a dirt infield here for viewing purposes so it looks more like a baseball field,” he says. I can live with that!
Meanwhile, at BlueJays.com, the title on an Alykhan Ravjiani piece about the new surface refers to rave reviews and player excitement about it, though the biggest raves are really from Mark Shapiro, which… obviously.
Back to the Sun and Colabello for two pieces, one from Buffery, in which Bing Bong talks about how the improvements made by the rest of the division have made the Jays slight underdogs again this year, which is exactly how they like it. And then we have a second one, in which we learn (or at least those not on Instagram do) that Jose Bautista recently offered Colabello $15,000 to eat an eight pound plate of lobster mac and cheese. (Note to Sun headline writer: pretty sure “KD” isn’t a catch-all term for all mac and cheese.)
Elsewhere at the Sun, Ken Fidlin talks to Gavin Floyd about his mindset in relief (and Wednesday’s bullpen unravelling), looks at the excellent addition of Franklin Morales to the bullpen, and tells us that everyone believes in Tulo (which is a piece that was obviously written before Drew voiced his concerns in this week’s podcast!). Meanwhile, Bob Elliott reflects on an incredible fifty years on the job, and then looks specifically about the Blue Jays’ greatest ever inning — which is exactly the one you think it is, crazy as that sounds given this is a franchise that has twice won the World Series.
Back to bullpen stuff, as over at BP Toronto, Joshua Howsam spots the dark cloud among this week’s silver lining, noting that John Gibbons’ refusal to go to his best reliever (Roberto Osuna) in the highest leverage spot on Wednesday is a troubling trend that could hurt the Jays in the long run (even if Gibbons is hardly the only manager who operates that way — in fact, they pretty much all do).
Speaking of prospects, Mike Rosenbaum of MLB.com looks at where the Jays’ top 30 prospects will begin the season (some of whom, like Conner Greene, will be at lower levels than when they finished last season), while 2080 Baseball has a look at the top prospects in the AL East, with links to great scouting reports on each.
This week Baseball Prospectus released its list of the top 175 players in baseball under the age of 25, which… is definitely a list that uses height to measure heart *COUGH*. And elsewhere at BP, their 2016 organizational rankings are out, with the Blue Jays ranking 22nd, just ahead of the Royals and behind the Mets and Cardinals — a pretty remarkable placement for a club that traded away so many prospects last year (a huge credit to Alex Anthopoulos’s front office, as is the fact that they made all their moves and still have guys like Stroman, Sanchez, Pompey, Alford, Greene, etc.).
And speaking of Sanchez, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs dives into the data on Aaron’s first start, coming away impressed at the strides he appears to have legitimately taken (small sample caveats not withstanding) since we last saw him starting games. And that’s especially good, because… um… as August Fagerstrom points out, holy shit Noah Syndergaard is good. (Sorry.)
One more prospect thing, as Jays Prospects talks to last year’s first rounder, Jon Harris, about where he’s at as the season begins and what he’s working on.
Over in the land of the insufferable autoplay videos that is Sportsnet, Arden Zwelling gets us set for the the Stro Show, which will be on full display tonight for sure. Arden also tells us about Drew Storen’s transition from brawler to boxer, and why Ryan Goins went to sprinting school in the off-season. Meanwhile, Ross Atkins stops by the Jeff Blair Show, and the Tao of Stieb offers some fearless predictions for 2016.
Speaking of predictions, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com offers his for 2016, including going way out on a limb to say that he doesn’t think the Jays will re-sign either Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion. Bowden also looks at possible trade candidates — a list Jays fans might want to make a note of for later in the season, when they’re ready to load up at the deadline — and ranks both the pitching staffs and position players across MLB (the Jays’ pitchers rank just 20th, but their position player group is a clear first, he says).
Lastly, great stuff from over at the Toronto Star, as Brendan Kennedy talks to Jose Bautista’s personal trainer about the star’s workout regimen, and Richard Griffin gets us set for tonight’s home opener, which will surely — as always — be a raucous affair.