Not even GM knows if Jays are for real

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:09 AM ET

Seventy games down, 92 to go and nobody really knows what to make of this Blue Jays team.

Are they in? Are they out? Is it a tease? Is it for real?

Not even the big kahuna, Alex Anthopoulos, is prepared to make a call. Like the rest of us, he’s just sitting back, taking it all in, trying to get a feel for how all the parts fit together, reserving judgment.

“It changes so fast,” said Anthopoulos, referring to the ebb and flow of a 162-game season. “Knock on wood, now we play the Cardinals and if you don’t play well, do you turn back?

“That’s why I make such an effort, and I’ve done a better job at it each successive year, just to stay even keel about it. It’s easier to do when you’ve played well. I try not to make too much of anything, one way or the other. It’s too long a season and things change. You might lose five in a row and think you’re in the middle of a downslide and then things pick right back up and some other teams in front of you slide.”

To this point, the Jays have never trailed the AL East Division lead by more than seven games and currently sit 5.5 games behind the Yankees and 4.5 behind the Rays in the wild-card standings.

“You can get hot at any time and get right back in it,” Anthopoulos said. “Once you get into August and September, you start to run out of racetrack and it becomes hard to make it up. Right now, we have a lot of games left.”

Between now and the all-star break, the Jays face a difficult schedule, Five of their six opponents over that stretch of 19 games are either division leaders or close contenders. After the break, the Toronto front office will have three more weeks before the non-waiver trade deadline to gauge where it stands. Anthopoulos is committed to a long term building plan and will not sacrifice that plan for a risky, long-shot attempt to make the playoffs. But if the opportunity to improve the roster presents itself and it doesn’t jeopardize player development, you can be sure he’ll be looking hard.

“There are certain areas where we are committed long term to some position players but there are always areas to upgrade,” he said. “You can look statistically at some guys around the league and compare them to what some of our guys are doing and see what we could do. Things would have to line up. We’d have to be close at that time and I hope that we are. It’s still another five weeks away from that point.

“You look at the (Texas) Rangers who have won seven games (now eight) in a row (to jump into first place in the AL West, with a 3.5 game lead). They’re now 13 games over .500 and that’s how quickly it can go one way or the other.”

A key component in all this will be a careful evaluation, not only of the available players at the deadline, but of the quality of the Blue Jays current lineup. From one month to the next, even one week to the next, there can be wild fluctuations in performance.

“Two years ago we went into Boston in September five games out and we played a doubleheader on a Saturday with (Roy) Halladay and (A.J.) Burnett,” Anthopoulos said. “What if we had won those games? Instead you lose them and all of a sudden it changes.

“It’s tenuous. That’s why evaluating our own players and really knowing what we can expect of them over six months, is so important.”

As much as this season is about laying a foundation for the future, there is the very real possibility that this franchise might not be any closer to a playoff spot than they are right now, for several years to come.

Do you make a qualified stab at the brass ring now? Or sell the farm to accumulate more futures? Five weeks and counting.

ken.fidlin@sunmedia.ca


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