Behind Enemy Lines: Heading north of the border with Bluebird Banter

Tom Szczerbowski

Tom Dakers, managing editor of Bluebird Banter, answered a few questions about the Toronto Blue Jays prior to tomorrow's series opener.

Expectations are sky-high for the Toronto Blue Jays this season, but Bluebird Banter editor Tom Dakers gave us a few level-headed answers to some questions we had about the revamped Blue Jays' roster.

1. As I write this, the Blue Jays are 1-3 with losses against the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox to start the year. Is there any concern amongst the Blue Jays’ fanbase yet, or are most people still optimistic about what the team is capable of?

Well, you know how fanbases are. You have 'fans' that think every loss means the season is over, trade everyone, fire the GM, coaches, scouts, peanut sellers. That type in Toronto are more noticeable because the big off-season brought a bunch of new fans to the team, who can't imagine that a team can start 2-4 and still finish over .500. Most real fans understand the game a little better.

2. Brandon Morrow looked excellent against the Indians on Wednesday, striking out eight hitters in six innings. Is it a stretch to say that he’s the best pitcher in your rotation, even with reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey in the fold?

Brandon Morrow is my favorite pitcher, so it is hard for me to be unbiased, but I really wouldn't be surprised if any of R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow or Josh Johnson turns out to be our best pitcher this season. Johnson had terrific spring training stats (for whatever that's worth), and, though he didn't have a great first start of the season, there were moments when you saw the pitcher that had a 2.30 ERA in 2010.

In his two starts we saw both extremes of the R.A. Dickey knuckleball. The first start, it was dancing around all over the place (but generally out of the strike zone and away from catcher J.P. Arencibia's glove). The second start, it didn't seem to flutter at all, and a knuckleball that doesn't knuckle is something that gets hit hard.

Morrow looked like he had, finally, put it all together last year. Then an oblique injury put him out for two months. He's has amazing stuff. The trouble, until recently, was keeping that stuff in the strike zone.

3. Other than Jose Reyes (because he seems like the obvious answer to me), which former Miami Marlin are you most excited about having on the Blue Jays’ roster this season?

Likely Josh Johnson. There is a good chance he'll be a terrific pitcher for us, everyone like strikeouts. But I think Emilio Bonifacio is going to surprise people. He's likely even faster than Reyes. His defense is the question. Last week, in one inning he made two game saving plays. The next day he made 3 errors, pretty much costing us the game. He has a lot of range at second base, but he has a scattershot arm.

4. On the same token, do the Jays’ free-spending ways this offseason have you concerned about the team’s financial situation a few years down the road?

Well, there are two answers to that.

1. No. The Jays have, likely, the richest ownership in baseball. They are owned by Rogers Communications, who are the biggest cell phone providers in the country, as well as running half a dozen sports cable channels and, well, I could continue to list their assets for days. Just understand they are a huge company, so whatever the player salaries get too, it will never be more than a rounding error on their books. Add in that they need a good team to fill hours of viewing time on their sports channels, they really shouldn't be worried about the team's finances.

2. Yes. Despite the billions Rogers makes every year, they seem almost bipolar in their management of the Blue Jays. Sometimes it is spend, spend, spend. Next they will fall back to 'the team has to make a profit' mode. You never know which way they are going to lean next. If they get a new CEO that hates sports, they could be in sell off mode at any moment.

5. Which AL East team would you say is the biggest threat to the Blue Jays’ chances at winning the division this year, and why?

Hmmmm...all of them? Some writers have suggested all 5 teams could end up tied with 85 wins each. Personally, I think the Yankees have gotten too old to contend. I don't think the Red Sox are deep enough to make it through a 162 game season at the top of the division, and the Rays seem short a bit of offense.

I think the Orioles are the team we have to worry about the most. Last season, they were lucky for the first half, putting up a record in 1-run games that was hard to believe. But the last two months of the season, they went 38-20 and those games weren't just lucky, 1-run games. I think they have put together a really good team.

Thanks again to Tom for answering our questions! We gave them the low-down on the Tigers, so be sure to check Bluebird Banter later on for our responses.

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