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Behind Enemy Lines: Talking past, present, and future with Bluebird Banter

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Tom Dakers from Bluebird Banter stopped by to give us the lowdown on the Blue Jays.

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Toronto Blue Jays Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Back in the 1980s, the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays were true rivals. I’m not sure if there were any on-field antics to back this up — the Tigers had a big fight with the White Sox back in the day, but the Google machine isn’t turning up any tussles with Toronto — but the fans certainly had their back and forths. Detroit’s come-from-behind victory to take the 1987 AL East division title was icing on the cake, at least from our side.

Unfortunately, those days are behind us. It’s still fun for everyone when the Tigers and Jays get together, and we here at the SB Nations like to lean into that as much as possible. Canada’s recent invasion to Comerica Park only adds fuel to the fire.

To get ready for the upcoming series, we got in touch with Tom Dakers, managing editor of Bluebird Banter, SB Nation’s excellent Blue Jays community. He was kind enough to answer our questions about Vlad Guerrero the Jays. We’ll be sure to share our answers to their questions later on as well.

BYB: Let’s just get right to it. Why hasn’t Vladimir Guerrero Jr. been called up yet? Do you agree with this decision?

TD: Why? Service time of course.

Jays management will give you all sorts of excuses, but the answer is service time. His defense at third base wouldn’t be great but he’d hit better than anyone on our roster. The Jays, back in the good old days, liked to bring up prospects to DH in their rookie season. I remember former manager Cito Gaston saying that he liked young players to get to their feet wet in the majors in a gentle way. But, if you want him to play third, Josh Donaldson (when he’s healthy) has been getting 2-3 games a week at DH. He and Vlad could share the DH and third base duties. I mean, Russell Martin has made 4 starts at third. Vlad would have to better than a .150 hitter. And Son of Impaler could work with the best coaches in the system to improve his defense (if our best coaches aren’t with the major league team we are doing something wrong).

People pretend that players can’t develop in the majors, but most of ‘development’ happens between games. A third baseman may only get 2-3 plays in a game.

I guess management should consider future earnings, but it’s a sad thing for fans. We want to see Vlad. We want to see the best possible Blue Jays team on the field. That team would include Vlad Jr.

The AL East is a two-team race as expected, but the Blue Jays were one team many (myself included) thought could compete for a playoff spot? Instead, they are well below .500. What has gone wrong so far for Toronto, and can it be fixed?

What’s gone wrong? How long have you got? Almost everything has gone wrong.

The starting rotation, which we all thought was going to be a strength of the team, has been a disappointment. J.A. Happ has been the only one of the original starting five who hasn’t been a disappointment. Marcus Stroman, our Ace from last year, was terrible and has been put on the DL with Crappy Arm Disease. Unfortunately, they didn’t quarantine him quickly enough and the disease spread to the other starters.

The offense has been anemic. Other the past 2 weeks, the team batting average was .205. Our DH, Kendrys Morales, has been, until, hitting about what you would expect the pitchers to hit. Russell Martin and Devon Travis are hitting well under .200.

The defense has been roughly as good as the starting pitching and offense.

Oh, and our closer was arrested for domestic assault.

Really almost everything has gone wrong. But it will get better, right? It almost has to.

The Blue Jays had a busy offseason, acquiring a number of players to chase that aforementioned playoff spot. Which new Jay(s) is/are your favorite so far, and which one(s) has disappointed?

Yangervis Solarte has been one of the few Jays to put up decent numbers with the bat. And he is fun to watch dance. And team signed a handful of veteran relievers, with the idea of throwing them all against the wall and hoping that some would stick. Well, Tyler Clippard, John Axford and Seunghwan Oh all stuck. Clippard and Axford have had some troubles lately, but they have been pitching so much they were sure to have a slump as some point. Oh has just been getting better and better.

Disappointment? Randal Grichuk was hitting .106/.208/.227 before going on the DL with a knee strain. I expected him to get us 25-30 home runs, it isn’t going to happen.

Josh Donaldson is a free agent after this season, and is well off his usual pace with just a .757 OPS this season. Will the Blue Jays re-sign him this offseason?

That’s a good question. He’s hurt both his trade value and his value on the free agent market by having a poor start to the season.

He came out of spring training with a ‘dead arm’ and should have gone on the DL instead of going north with the team. He couldn’t throw the ball across the infield and he couldn’t make hard contact with the bat. Two weeks into the season, they finally put him on the DL.

He’s been somewhat better since returning, but he’s still not hitting like Josh Donaldson. And he’s not fielding well either. He’s missed the last couple of games with a ‘tight calf muscle’. I’m not sure if the plan is for him to play in this series or if another trip to the DL is in his future.

Josh plays baseball with a kind of football mentality, but as he ages, he seems to have constant nagging injuries, so I don’t see anyone paying him the amount of money he thought he’d be getting.

I don’t know where Josh will end up next year. If I was going to sign him, I’d plan on moving him across the infield to first base. I’m sure he has some good years ahead with the bat, if he can stay relatively injury free.

Aaron Sanchez has had an up-and-down career so far, but from an outside perspective, it seemed like his 2017 struggles were due to injuries. He has been healthy this year, but the numbers aren’t there. What’s up with him?

If I knew I’d be pitching coach.

But... there seems to be a couple of things going on. Aaron gets a ton of movement on all his pitches, but this year he’s having a hard time figuring out how to keep all that movement in the strike zone. He’s given up 5.2 walks per nine innings. And he’s not getting enough strikeouts, he’s not keeping his pitches close enough to the zone to get batters to chase.

And, when he was good, his pitches would drop to the bottom of the strike zone and get pounded into the ground. Now, when his pitches do stay over the plate, they finish too high in the zone. He’s a ground ball pitcher who isn’t getting ground balls.

I think he’ll figure things out, he’s too talented not to, but it is frustrating to watch someone that talented continuously come out of games before the 6th inning.

Tigers fans are hoping to repeat history and trade Francisco Liriano for their own Teoscar Hernandez this July. How are you enjoying your Teoscar so far? What can we expect from him this weekend?

He started the season so hot we really thought we had our next power hitter. He’s cooled off some of late, it seems like pitches have found a way to pitch to him and now he must show if he can adjust the them. He has looked a little better of late, he crushed a home run Wednesday.

Teoscar is going to have to hit, because his defense in the outfield is disappointing. He takes bad routes to balls and sometimes shows a lack of hustle. He runs well enough and his arm is strong enough that I expect him to be better. But, he’s 25 now, and if he hasn’t figured out how to play the outfield by now, maybe he can’t be taught.

Once again, thanks to Tom and the rest of the Bluebird Banter staff for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to check out Bluebird Banter for the very best Blue Jays news coverage and analysis all season long!