That may sound like a grand statement and potential exaggeration, but think about it this way:
The American League East is incredibly winnable right now and the Blue Jays have as good a chance as any. They are one of the best offensive teams in the league, are pretty solid defensively and despite an inconsistent first half on the bump, they’re still just four games back as they kick off the second half with a three-game series with second-place Tampa Bay later today.
New York is leading the way, but feel like a team that could go south at any moment. Their bullpen, led by Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chasen Shreve, has been outstanding, but the rotation has been mediocre and there are a ton of injury-prone, older guys leading the charge at the dish. A couple injuries, a couple slumps and the Yankees could easily come back to the division.
Tampa Bay should fade. It’s amazing that they’re in the hunt right now, but they feel like a smoke and mirrors team that won’t be able to keep up their run of success from the first half down the stretch. If they do, one of these big market clubs will look to hire away Kevin Cash and Matthew Silverman in the offseason because there isn’t a ton of elite talent on that roster and they’re playing as well (maybe better) than Toronto and several other star-studded teams.
Baltimore can rake so they’ll probably continue to stick around, but they’re another team that has benefited from a great bullpen and timely hitting carrying them when their starters have struggled, while Boston is still Boston and could trade their way back into this race overnight, especially if they just start rolling out their best lineup 1-to-9 every night instead of forcing some of their high-priced talent into the field because they earn the most.
As much as all of those teams could make a run, they could all fall back as well and Toronto is in the same boat, which is why this feels like a make-and-break second half for this club. The Toronto fans are already conditioned to deal with the misery that comes with loving the Maple Leafs; they’re resigned themselves to understanding the playoffs are out of the question for right now and are all-in on the rebuild for now.
But the Blue Jays have been hovering just outside of the playoffs for a couple years now. They’ve made big moves to make the team better and hopefully bring them closer to ending their playoff drought, but it hasn’t worked out just yet and this feels like the last chance for that to happen.
Alex Anthopoulos probably doesn’t survive another season where this club misses the playoffs; he’s had several years to reshape this team and if they can’t get over the hump this year, “Double A” is destined to be the next ex-Blue Jays general manager.
Maybe that means his bosses will shoot down major win now deals that weaken the foundation in the future, just because they might not want a guy that could conceivably be leaving town to roll the dice and ship out a ton of young talent in exchange for veterans with big salaries only to come up short and get axed.
If that happens, however, they’ll lose the fans. That sounds doom and gloom, but think about it: this is the closest this squad has been in quite some time and if they don’t do something to try to take advantage of that, the fans will pull the chute.
I know I would.
You want to see your team take a shot – make a move that is designed to give them a better chance – rather than have them say, “We like what we have and we’re going to see how we do with these guys for the rest of this season.”
Through the first half, this group wasn’t good enough and barring a major reversal of results from some of the starters, they probably don’t get the job done with this collection of players.
With deals out there and Anthopoulos saying they’ve got the piece to make something happen, standing pat would be a slap in the face to loyal fans that have been patiently waiting for this team to get back to being contenders. They need to do something or else people are going to stop caring. Again.