Mark Shapiro is a solid hiring for the Blue Jays long term

(Courtesy of Jason Miller/AP)

(Courtesy of Jason Miller/AP)

TORONTO- The search is over as the Toronto Blue Jays named Mark Shapiro as the club’s newest president. Shapiro will be the next successor to Paul Beeston, who will retire after the 2015 season.

Shapiro is a solid hiring for the Blue Jays going forward.

The 48-year old spent his entire career with the Cleveland Indians since 1992. Started off as player development director and became the general manager in 2001. He was named Executive of the Year by Sporting News in 2002 and 2007. He helped reshape the Indians to win the AL Central Division Championship in 2007. He then became the Indians’ president in 2010 while his assistant Chris Antonetti took over as GM.

Ownership Rogers Communications began the search for Beeston’s replacement since last offseason. Calls were made for Chicago White Sox’s Kenny Williams and Baltimore Orioles’ Dan Duquette, but fell apart due to a high asking price for compensation. They also contacted Dave Dombrowski before taking the offer from the Boston Red Sox.

Shapiro’s track record makes him a solid candidate to be the Blue Jays’ go-to-guy. Now that he has enter the long term equation for the Blue Jays, decisions will have to be made.

The first responsibility will be deciding the fate of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, whose contract expires at the end of the year. Early this season, there were some speculation about Anthopoulos’ job security. However, thanks to his aggressive approach at the trade deadline, he is most likely to remain as GM for the Blue Jays going forward. Shapiro and Anthopoulos have a great working relationship. Over the last several years, Anthopoulos has occasionally mentioned that Shapiro is someone to talk about the business aspect of the game and seek advice.

On the baseball side, the Blue Jays will have to face some questions involving their core of players. That includes the attempt to resign pending free agent Price and figuring out on whether to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to contract extensions, both have club options for 2016.

On the business side, Shapiro will also have the say in making executive decisions in baseball operations. He was a significant part of the renovation of Progressive Field. With the Toronto Argonauts moving to BMO field next year, Shapiro can reshape the club’s strategy to get rid of the artificial turf and install grass at the Rogers Centre, a project that Beeston started several years ago. It’s still have a long way to go and a lot of groundwork need to be in place. But it seem likely that natural grass will come to the Rogers Centre in 2018.

Being Beeston’s next successor will not be an easy task. However, he is what the Blue Jays needed. Shapiro possesses an appealing blend of business and baseball experience. Going to the Blue Jays will gives him the chance to operate in a bigger market with a higher payroll and more flexibility.

Roberto Osuna the Most Valuable Rookie

(Courtesy of MLB.com)

(Courtesy of MLB.com)

TORONTO- Entering the 2015 season, the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen was a huge concern, especially at the closer role. Then came Roberto Osuna, a 20-year old righthanded reliever who is having an impressive rookie season in franchise history. Osuna has been dominating opposing hitters all season long and has been the most consistent reliever out of the bullpen.

According to Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi, Osuna is considered to be the “most valuable rookie in the American League.”

After an impressive spring training performance, Osuna became the youngest player to made the big leagues for the Blue Jays.

But making it to the big league roster wasn’t easy for young pitching phenom, who overcame many obstacles throughout his life. Osuna signed with the Blue Jays as an international amateur free agent in 2011 as a starter. Osuna was consider as one of the top prospect in the Blue Jays’ farm system entering the 2013 season. However, he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament and underwent Tommy John Surgery on May 9, 2013. After spending a year recovering, Osuna made his return on July 8, 2014 for High-A Dunedin Blue Jays and played the Arizona Fall League.

Since the start of this season, Osuna has been the most consistent reliever for the Blue Jays. On June 22, he took over the 9th inning role after fellow teammates Miguel Castro and Brett Cecil failed to close out games.

This season, Osuna pitched in 56.2 innings with a 1.91 ERA and 63 strikeouts during his rookie season for the Blue Jays. He saved 15 out of 16 save opportunities. Since taking over as a closer, he posted a 1.46 ERA with 28 strikeouts.

It is rare that a reliever would make the case for Rookie of the Year. Neftali Feliz was the last reliever in to win the award in 2010 as a member of the Texas Rangers. But Osuna has an intriguing case. Although Minnesota Twins’ Miguel Sano and Houston Astros’ Carlos Correra may be the frontrunners for AL Rookie of the Year, Osuna has been the most valuable player for the Blue Jays’ bullpen.

Osuna may be a darkhorse for the AL Rookie of the Year, but he shown more than just talent. He demonstrated a great skill of perseverance, discipline and passion. It’s so rare to see a 20-year old to make an early impression in the big leagues, especially when he never pitch a single game in Double-A or Triple-A.

Osuna influence everybody that anyone can overcome obstacle in life and must fight a good battle to achieve their goals. Osuna has done that by fulfilling his dream to become a professional baseball player.

Blue Jays demonstrate the importance of clubhouse chemistry

(Courtesy of The Province)

(Courtesy of The Province)

TORONTO- In baseball, many experts measure sabremetrics and player statistics to evaluate those who in World Series Contention vs. those who are not. However, one important factor that can’t be measured and won’t show up on stat sheets is clubhouse chemistry. The recent success of the Toronto Blue Jays demonstrates the importance of such chemistry both on and off the field.

Sure professional sport teams can be stacked with all-star caliber players. And sure athletes can sign massive contracts. But building a contending team requires solid clubhouse chemistry. Clubhouse culture can rise a team to extraordinary altitudes without having the biggest payroll or most talent. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos addressed this issue by building a team using character over talent.

Since this past offseason, the Blue Jays realized the importance of bringing high character players to their game. These players are game changers who care more about winning instead of individualism. For instance, Russell Martin has the ability to receive pitches, consequently, shutting down the running game and catching players on the mound. However, technical talent is not Martin’s only skill as he is also revered in the baseball community for great leadership by both players and coaches. Similarly, Donaldson is having a career year during his first full season with the Blue Jays but its his leadership which has made a tremendous impact on the teams’ morale. He has set a great example for other players hustling on the base pats and sacrificing his body to make the difficult plays. Donaldson’s impact with his bat and glove makes him a legitimate candidate for AL MVP

Furthermore, Anthopoulos acquired even more character talent through the acquisitions of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price prior to the non-wavier trade deadline. Tulowitzki took his intelligence on the field making crucial plays to help his team win – plays that Jose Reyes wouldn’t make. Price is not only the ace for the Blue Jays, he also another high character guy who influences all young pitchers. Lets not forget about LaTroy Hawkins, who also influences the bullpen as well.

All of these additions influence the team’s confidence and complement well with cornerstone players like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Buehrle. Since the trade deadline, the team are 20-4.

The Blue Jays’ chemistry is undeniable. Anthopolous definitely made a smart move in choosing to build team character over tangible statistics. The Jays are proving its not about building a team with the most talented players, it’s about bringing players with high character to help win ball games. Or perhaps character is a measure of talent, and often high stats and top salaries sideline what it really means to be a quality player.

The Blue Jays haven’t made the playoffs since Joe Carter hit a walk-off homerun to win the 1993 World Series. When the Blue Jays clinch the playoffs for the first time in 22 years, people should admire the importance of team chemistry and what it has meant for the Blue Jays in recent games. They are winning as a team. A team is a family and chemistry is the foundation for any family to achieve success.

Race for AL MVP: Mike Trout vs. Josh Donaldson

(Courtesy of Sportsnet.ca)

(Courtesy of Sportsnet.ca)

TORONTO- The race for the American League Most Valuable Player Award is on as Toronto Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson matches up against L.A. Angels’ Mike Trout  for a three-game series.

Both Donaldson and Trout are two highly favoured candidates for MVP and both deserve to win such an honour. But there can be only one winner for this race.

Trout is currently leading among AL players in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 6.7, just slightly ahead of Donaldson’s 6.6 heading into this weekend series.  WAR is a sabermetric baseball statistic used to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic, calculated by Fangraphs. As you can see by both WAR totals for Trout and Donaldson, both players prove to be very valuable for their respective teams.

Trout was the unanimous pick as AL MVP last year and led the Halos to win the AL West division. On the other hand, Donaldson finished eighth with the Oakland Athletics.

Naming an MVP is not an easy task, since other factors are at play. Some people view an MVP as the best player on a playoff team, while others believe that it is simply the best player period, regardless of how their team fares.

If you look based on numbers:

For Donaldson:

  • Games played: 119
  • Batting average: .293
  • Runs scored: 89
  • Home runs: 33
  • Runs batted in: 91
  • Stolen bases: Four
  • Extra-base hits: 63
  • On-base percentage: .362
  • Slugging percentage: .570
  • On-base-plus slugging percentage: .932
  • Fielding percentage: .957

For Trout:

  • Games played: 117
  • Batting average: .295
  • Runs scored: 79
  • Home runs: 33
  • Runs batted in: 71
  • Extra-base hits: 57
  • Stolen bases: 10
  • On-base percentage: .392
  • Slugging percentage: .585
  • On-base-plus slugging percentage: .976
  • Fielding percentage: 1.000

Donaldson has been productive during his first season with the Blue Jays. Leading the league in runs batted in, runs scored and extra base hits. The Blue Jays hold the first wild card spot, ahead of the Angels by 3 games.

On the other hand, Trout proves to be a better around player with a higher on base percentage and presents more speed than Donaldson. The Angels are currently holding the second wild card spot, half a game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles. By season’s end, the AL MVP award might be determined based on which player helped his team to secure a playoff spot.

Overall, the AL MVP race will be highly debated amongst baseball lovers. But in the end, this campaign will feature a two-men battle between Trout and Donaldson. Both deserve the title, but there can be only one most valuable player.

Blue Jays won 11 straight games again

(Courtesy of Aaron Vincent Elkaim/CP)

(Courtesy of Aaron Vincent Elkaim/CP)

TORONTO- The Toronto Blue Jays are the hottest team in baseball. After matching their season-high with an 11-game winning streak for the 2nd time this season, they’ve shown that they are the most dangerous team in the MLB.

The Blue Jays continue their impressive run with a 4-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics this past Thursday afternoon. They became the first team since the 1954 Cleveland Indians to pull off two 11-game winning streaks in one season. Two weeks ago, the Blue Jays were one game under .500 and were 8 games behind the Yankees in the AL East. Now they are 12 games over .500 and leading their division.

Since acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and David Price prior to the MLB trade deadline two weeks ago, the Blue Jays have been the talk of baseball. Many people are asking, “what is going on with the Blue Jays?” Throughout their winning streak, they have executed well in every aspects of the game.

The Blue Jays’ offence continues to score a lot of runs. During their 11-game winning streak, they outscored the opposition, 59-22 and averaged 5.36 runs per game. Yes they continue to hit the long balls, but where they have really improved is in manufacturing runs. Now we see the team hitting with runners in scoring position and receiving contributions from everybody on their roster. Josh Donaldson has been productive all season, hitting .293/.408/.707 with five homers and 10 RBI during the 11-game winning span. He proves to be a legitimate candidate for AL MVP candidate.

Their starting pitching was dominant since the all-star break. They have surrendered three runs or fewer in 17 consecutive starts and posted a 2.37 ERA, which is 2nd most in the majors. While R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada continue to be solid in the rotation, the Jays also got a major boost by acquiring Price before the trade deadline. Drew Hutchison came off from one of his best outing last Tuesday, pitching 7 strong innings, and, only giving up 2 runs against the A’s.

During the first half of the season, the Blue Jays’ bullpen was worn out and struggled to close out ball games. That wasn’t the case during their winning streak. The Blue Jays’ new bullpen hasn’t allowed an earned run in the past 25 innings. New acquisitions Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins provide veteran leadership, while Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna prove themselves to be effective late innings relievers.

Heading to last offseason, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos emphasized on improving the team’s overall defense. They improve that dramatically with the additions of Tulowitzki and Ben Revere, which have been significant upgrades at the shortstop and left field. The team has also transformed into an outstanding defensive unit that complements a much-improved pitching staff.

It is quite an impressive run for Canada’s only baseball team in the MLB and many Blue Jays fans love it. The fan base has been waiting for their team to be successful. Since the Tulowitzki trade, over 300,000 tickets were sold (this weekend series vs. the Yankees are sold out) and the TV ratings went up dramatically, averaging 1.19 million viewers since the trade deadline. The atmosphere at the Rogers Centre is unbelievable, reminding fans of the glory days back when the Blue Jays won two World Series Championships back-to-back in 1992 and 1993. The players feel great, ownership is quite pleased and the fans have their optimism and enthusiasm after dealing many past years of mediocrity.

The Blue Jays have definitely chosen the right time to win meaningful games. Sure we can’t expect them winning all of remaining games, however we can be optimistic and they need to carry this momentum for the remainder of the season. It’s a good feeling for Blue Jays nation and it’s going to get even better if they end their 22-year playoff drought this season.

Could Marcus Stroman return for the Blue Jays in September?

Courtesy of Toronto Star

Courtesy of Toronto Star

TORONTO- The Toronto Blue Jays, who are streaking right now, could get a major boost in their rotation next month. Earlier this week, the team announced that right-hander Marcus Stroman has been cleared to begin throwing.

The 24-year old tore his ACL in his left knee after taking part in some intense bunting drills during spring training. Many believed that Stroman would miss the entire season recovering from this devastating injury. Tenaciously, Stroman vowed to return in September and decided to finish his degree at Duke University. Earlier this week, Stroman stunned Dr. Andrews with his recovery and began throwing off the mound last Tuesday.

Stroman’s return is an encouraging sign for both Stroman and the Blue Jays, but should they rush him back this quickly?

The average recovery time of ACL injuries for professional athletes approximates 8 months to a year. We’re talking about Stroman coming back after 6 months, which is an unusually quick recovery period. While many professional athletes recover well from this common injury, it is uncertain if they can maintain the same production. For instance, Texas Rangers’ Yovani Gallardo was the only MLB pitcher to recover from ACL surgery after 6 months during the 2008 season.

Although there is no timetable for Stroman’s return, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was impressed after watching a video of Stroman’s throwing session and said that his young pitcher could begin his rehab assignment later this month.

While Blue Jays stated that Stroman’s long-term health remains the top priority, they’re going stretch him out as a starter. The team is hoping that Stroman can throw 70 to 80 pitches without a setback. With the rosters expanding in September, Stroman’s potential return creates a lot of options. He could be a starter or reliever.

Last season, Stroman was a significant arm of the rotation after going 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 26 appearances (20 starts). He was considered to be a front-of-the-rotation type of starter before he went down with the injury. The Blue Jays’ rotation currently features David Price, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada, Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison. After that, they don’t have the depth in the minor league system to rely on if any injuries were to occur.

Stroman could provide that boost in the Blue Jays pitching staff, but there are risks involved. It’s a tough call for the Blue Jays to handle. But knowing Stroman’s determination, he is pretty optimistic about making an impact for his team trying to end their 22-year playoff drought.

Blue Jays sending a strong message after sweeping the Yankees

(Courtesy of The Province)

(Courtesy of The Province)

TORONTO- Without a doubt the Toronto Blue Jays are the hottest team in MLB right now coming off a weekend high where the team achieved the unthinkable by sweeping the Yankees for the first time since 2003. This is a remarkable feat considering a week ago we could call the team mediocre at best with the Blue Jays one game under .500. Now they are holding the 1st wild card spot and only trialing the Yankees by 1.5 games for the AL East division lead. Winning eight straight games and eleven of their last twelve games, the Blue Jays are sending a strong message with a three-game series sweep over the AL East division leader.

Entering the Bronx this past-weekend, both teams led the league in runs scored and everybody was expecting an offensive explosion. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the case and instead we witnessed the Jays out-pitch, outslug and out-defend the Yankees. The Blue Jays’ pitching staff led by R.A. Dickey, David Price and Marco Estrada, only allowed the Yankees to score one run.

The Blue Jays continue to score a lot of runs, led by Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista, who both achieved two solo home runs this past weekend. Another recent high for the Jays was Justin Smoak’s first career grand slam this past Saturday, which was also the team’s first grand slam ever at the old and new Yankee Stadium.

This incredible display is shaking a lot of heads, making everybody wonder, “what is going on with the Blue Jays?”

Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos may have something to do with the team’s recent performance. Since he over hauled his roster prior to the non-waiver trade deadline we have witnessed the team execute surprisingly well in every aspect of the game. The Blue Jays’ pitching staff posted the MLB’s best 2nd best ERA with 2.37 since the All Star break, only trailing the St. Louis Cardinals. We’ve also noticed they have been hitting, scoring runs and improving their overall defense.

Getting Price, Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, Mark Lowe and Ben Revere seems to be paying off for the team who are in a desperate attempt to end their 22-year playoff drought. Not to mention that they added veteran infielder Cliff Pennington over the weekend. Their newest acquisitions have been making an impact both on and off the field: Tulowitzki proves to be a better overall shortstop than Jose Reyes. Price is the ace that the Blue Jays needed. Hawkins and Lowe improved their bullpen. And Revere is a huge upgrade in left field providing both speed and athleticism. The Blue Jays are a perfect 10-0 with Tulowitzki in the starting lineup. It is obvious that Anthopoulos managed to transform this team from being one of the most mediocre to one of the best.

With 49 games remaining, the Blue Jays are nine games over .500, a season best for the team. But there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. The Blue Jays will be hosting the Yankees next weekend and will match up for 10 more games. One series sweep does not make the Blue Jays the new favourite to overtake the AL East division so they are going to have to carry this momentum for the rest of the season.

Despite this, the Blue Jays are in a nice groove right now. It’s no fluke that they’re playing their best baseball right now and, if they continue to score runs and pitch well, then maybe this year might be the year that they can play October baseball.

 

 

Is Dave Dombrowski the next Blue Jays President & CEO?

(Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

(Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

TORONTO- Dave Dombrowski is the most coveted free agent available as an MLB executive. Last Monday, the Detroit Tigers released Dombrowski’s contract as general manager and president of baseball operations. His contract was due to expire after this season, but Tigers’ owner Mike Ilitch felt the need to make some changes within the front office, naming Al Aliva as the Tigers’ newest general manager.

This season, the Tigers are below .500 and will likely miss the postseason, a reoccurrence since 2010. Last week before the MLB non-waiver trade deadline, Dombrowski made some major trades by shipping away David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays, Yoenis Cespedes to the New York Mets and Joakim Soria to the Pittsburgh Pirates. These moves might have been a pre-calculated venture for Dombrowski.

The timing of Dombrowski’s departure was sudden but will be interesting going forward. He has been one of baseball’s most compelling and successful executives for almost two decades. In addition, he has a great track record with management, player development and building playoff contending teams. Now that Dombrowski is on the market, could he be the next President and CEO for the Blue Jays?

Dombrowski’s track record makes him a solid candidate. He has ties to Canada, starting off in player development with the Montreal Expos before taking over as GM in 1988. He helped the Florida Marlins win the World Series in 1997. In 2001, the Blue Jays interviewed Dombrowski for the GM role but he declined in favour of the Tigers in 2002. He has spent the last 13 seasons with the Tigers’ organization and since then has achieved 6 playoffs appearances, four AL Central titles, and a World Series championship.

The Blue Jays were looking for someone take over for Paul Beeston, who will retire after the this season. Over the last winter, the Blue Jays were heavily recruiting Baltimore Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette to be their next successor, but things fell apart.

However, the Blue Jays won’t be the only team in pursuit for Dombrowski. The Boston Red Sox need a new president and CEO to replace Larry Lucchino. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim need a new GM to replace Jerry Dipoto. There could be more job openings available once the season is over. Dombrowski earned $3 million a season with the Tigers, according to Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi and he will definitely be looking for a high profile job with higher salary and full control of management.

If the Blue Jays are able to land the former Tigers GM, some other forces could take place. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos could get a contract extension since Dombrowski has a good working relationship with him. It is also quite possible that Dombrowski could strip away a 5-year contract policy to resign David Price.

Dombrowski is not going to be out of a job for long. No matter what, whoever attains him will get one of the most intelligent and coveted executives in all of baseball.

Blue Jays Clear Winner of MLB Trade Deadline

(Courtesy of Fox Sports)

(Courtesy of Fox Sports)

TORONTO- Let’s say it, the Toronto Blue Jays clearly won the MLB non-waiver trade deadline. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos made the biggest splash and addressed all of the major needs to improve the ball club. But let’s be honest, nobody predicted that Anthopoulos would make this many moves in such a short period of time.

The significance of these deals is stunning given the fact that Anthopoulos didn’t do anything during last season’s trade deadline. But he made sure that he wouldn’t do the same this season.

The Blue Jays got the best shortstop in Troy Tulowitzki, an ace in David Price, two quality bullpen arms in LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe, and a speedy outfielder in Ben Revere. That’s five impact players in the last five days. The Blue Jays changed 20 percent of their roster to make a big push of the playoffs.

After spending years of drafting and developing young arms, the Blue Jays were able to use most of them in trades. They gave up Jose Reyes, Felix Doubront and 11 minor league pitchers. Yes they depleted their farm system, but there are still plenty of valuable pieces left for the future like Dalton Pompey, Jon Harris, Anthony Alford and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Plus they manage to keep their young arms like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna.

Looking at other teams in the AL East, the New York Yankees stood pat at the deadline and failed to address their starting rotation. The Baltimore Orioles didn’t do much other than acquiring Gerardo Parra and Junior Lake to help in the outfield. The Tampa Bay Rays traded reliever Kevin Jepsen and outfielder David DeJesus for prospects. While the Boston Red Sox traded Shane Victorino for infielder Josh Rutledge. The AL East division is probably the weakest division this season. The Blue Jays are in position for that 2nd wild card spot, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them catching the Yankees for the division lead.

Anthopolous may have save his job with these moves, but he is still under evaluation. Paul Beeston is in his final year as president and CEO for the Blue Jays and Rogers ownership will be looking for the next successor. Anthopoulos’ fate depends on whether or not if the Blue Jays make the playoffs.

Anthopoulos done a great job addressing their necessary needs. Now it is up to the players to get the job done. All it matters now is whether or not these moves will pay off. Their quest to end their 22-year playoff drought begins now.