Here are six things Jays fans should be coming to terms with before the Jays head to New York.
1) The Jays don’t need Marcus Stroman to win. They haven’t needed him all season and they don’t need him to stay competitive now. That’s not to say a healthy Marcus Stroman can’t be an upgrade over some present options, but just because Stroman is healthy doesn’t mean he’s ready.
2) Stroman being healthy means that he’s 100% physically capable of pitching in the big leagues—in theory. But you and I both know that just because you’re fresh for something doesn’t mean you’re ready to be your best at it.
No, I’m not splitting hairs. I’m being realistic. The human body needs time to find its routine. Simply because Stroman is healthy doesn’t mean he’s in the kind of groove that other pitchers, the ones who’ve spent all season in the grind, are. He’s fresh, but he’s also green—at least for this season. And asking him to come back and face the Yankees, green, with a potential division title on the line, is a lot to ask. A lot, because…
3) If Stroman comes back and pitches in this coming Yankees series and blows the Jays’ lead, then what? I’ll tell you: All that positive energy he’s been channeling through his Twitter feed; All that “best I’ve ever felt” stuff; they’ll be the rope he gets hung on. I like Stroman, and I’m wiling to bet that you do to, but if he lobbies for a glorious return and flat lines in a crucial game, the fan base will spit him out like sour milk. With great hype comes great expecations, and there is no need for either right now because the Jays already have big game pitchers, like…
4) Mark Buherle. I’m serious. Remember back in 2013 when the Jays needed guys who could pitch in big games and they pointed to Buehrle? What’s changed?
Buehrle’s velocity, you say? Well, he wasn’t throwing very hard when the Jays got him and he’s not throwing very hard now. Hell, he was throwing slower against Detroit than he was against Boston, and got better results! Maybe he should be allowed to pitch tired instead of the Jays front office over thinking what it means for a guy who has made a living off pitching tired to actually be tired.
As Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star pointed out, Buehrle is a big game pitcher, and the fact that Stroman is coming back and Buehrle had a bad game doesn’t suddenly make him any less of a big game pitcher or Stroman any more of one. I’d prefer Price to take the hill over either, but, for my money, in a one game play-off, if I had to choose between Stroman, untestested, with zero big league innings this season, and Buehrle at the tail end of yet another solid 200 inning campaign, I pick Buehrle.
The only thing that even remotely has me squeamish about pitching Buehrle against the Yankees is his track record in that stadium. However, regardless of who you or I pick, the most important thing is…
5) Whether or not the Jays’ offense shows up. The Jays’ pitching staff has been great since the All-Star break, but lets not kid ourselves. The pitching staff is NOT the reason they Jays are out in first place. It’s the 200 plus runs the Jays have scored in 38 games. I’m not saying the Jays haven’t benefited from some awesome pitching performances, but they straight up mash the baseball. They are a living example of how the best defense really is a good offense. Sounds like a heretical statement since we all know, in baseball, defense wins ball games… but, in the case of the Jays, obliterating opposing pitching staff’s wins ball games.
If the Jays line up shows up and hits like it has been—and we have every reason to believe they will—Stroman can wet the bed and it won’t matter. Buherle can get roughed up and it will be a footnote. They can both pitch in the same game and it will still fall forgettably under some headline grabbing narrative about home runs and “powering past the Yankees, Blah, blah, blah…Josh Donaldson for MVP!!!!!!!”
6) And, speaking of narratives, holy crap has anyone taken a minute to investigage the hypocrisy that is hating on Troy Tulowitzki and loving on Russell Martin?
Every other day for the last two weeks I’ve been answering questions aimed at figuring out just what is wrong with Troy Tulowitzki. I keep saying, “Nothing. He’s adjusting. He’s still a great player, his defense is peerless, he’s a solid leader, and the team has crushed it since his arrival. The bat will return!”
What do fans say to that? “I don’t want to hear about his leadership ability and how the team is doing, that’s just a happy, convenient narrative you can’t quantify you damned media snake oil salesman. The team was good before Tulo showed up. They got gooder when Price came! Tulo is a big, fat disappointment to my suddenly refined baseball pallet.”
Okay. Fine. But if we can’t quantify narratives, and leadership doesn’t count, why haven’t we crucified Russell Martin for letting everyone down lately? And don’t tell me it’s because he’s the leader of the pitching staff and his synergistic impact keeps the rhythm of the universe in check… If it can’t save one, it can’t save the other.
Martin is hitting .218 since the break, Tulo is hitting .225. Before you compare which one is justifiably being bitched about, just remember that they both are leaders who have a big impact on the field without their bats. My recommendation: just enjoy that fact that it’s working. The team is the best it has been in decades, and whether every individual player is meeting your expectations or not, you can’t argue that, collectively, they’re exceeding them.
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