2:00 AM Eastern
Wouldn’t you know it? At the point in time where it is most rational to be incredibly pessimistic about the 2008 season, Blue Jayically, the Jays go out and play as well as they have at any point in the season.
Dustin McGowan has a tear in his rotator cuff and is probably out for most of the rest of the year, at least? Big deal, let’s come back from four runs down for the first time all season and win, and get our first walk-off in the process.
Vernon Wells has a Grade 2 hamstring strain and is going to miss a month again? No problemo – how about overcoming a three-run deficit for only the third time all season and walking it off again, but this time with a hit?
The Blue Jays have reached the point where it will take a miracle for them to make the playoffs, and here they are winning three straight one-run games, scoring 22 runs in the bargain, and sweeping the Baltimore Orioles down into a 4th-place tie in the division. And how about this – they’ve picked up 3 1/2 games on the Tampa Bay Rays in the last four days!
Things are looking up, except for the fact that McGowan and Wells are going to be gone for a while, which means things aren’t looking up at all.
Now, if the Jays hit like they should, they can overcome the loss of Wells. Rios, Rolen, Overbay, Lind, Stairs and the surging Joe Inglett have more than enough in them to pick up the slack. For the most part, though, they haven’t done it all year, so to ask them to get back to a little bit better than where they should be after not having done it for a long while is a lot to ask.
Even if they do, will the offense generated be enough to support a pitching staff that has Jesse Litsch as the number three guy? Very doubtful. And if Marcum’s return is stalled and A.J. Burnett gets traded, then Litsch becomes the number two for a while, with a merry band of lefties (John Parrish, David Purcey and Brian Tallet) behind him.
How amazing would it be if the Blue Jays crawled back into the race on the backs of guys like Lind and Inglett, Parrish and Purcey – people who weren’t even supposed to be here this year? As I said, we have reached the “need a miracle” stage, but stranger things have happened.
Just to clarify the McGowan thing, by the way, I had an e-mail conversation with the great Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus tonight, and we discussed the whole rotator cuff tear thing. The Jays are saying that it’s the same tear that was on an MRI of McGowan’s shoulder last season. Carroll said that doesn’t account for the body’s capacity to heal, and that over the course of a year a small tear would likely have healed on its own, which means that McGowan has torn it again, and that likely means he’ll keep tearing it over and over again until they can get it fixed. That fix might not require surgery, but almost certainly requires McGowan being shut down for the season. If he does need surgery, we’ll see McGowan again around the all-star break in 2009. We’ll find out more during this year’s break – McGowan is scheduled to see Dr. Timothy Kremchek on Monday.
As I mentioned on The JaysTalk, a bunch of us media types spent dinnertime trying to figure out who the Jays would call up to replace Vernon, and the Jays settled on Kevin Mench, who would have been my last choice. I know, I was happy when they brought him in the first time, because he was a legit lefty-masher and they needed one, but that was in May, with still well over 100 games left in the season, and with things very different in Blue Jay land. Mench came, he saw, and, well, he didn’t really do much – hitting .210/.282/.290 and even worse, “mashing” lefties to the tune of .214/.286/.262 in (granted) 42 at-bats. He’s still looking for his first major-league home run of the season. He did go deep in Syracuse, though, hitting .283/.313/.391 in 13 games down there to “earn” the call back.
I hoped that the Jays would call up either Matt Watson or Travis Snider to fill in for Wells, taking the position they’re in and the point of the season at which they find themselves into account. Watson was the Syracuse Chiefs player of the month for June, having hit .375/.494/.594 . For the season, the 29 year-old is hitting .307/.414/.449.
Snider we all know about. After a slow start in AA, he hit eight homers in May, then hit .313/.371/.469 in June. He has seriously fallen off the table through the Fisher Cats’ first 11 games of July, though, going just .238/.233/.429, still with two doubles and two homers.
What better chance to get one of these guys some big-league experience? It certainly would be more exciting to watch than trotting Brad Wilkerson out there every day in right field. As good as Wilkerson was pre-2005, he hasn’t been close to the same since, and given the opportunity for regular playing time during Wells’ last injury, he didn’t produce (though he did seem to be in the middle of a lot of stuff). Cito Gaston recognized early that he wasn’t going to have much use for Wilkerson.
Look, this is a team that is more than likely going nowhere this season, with 70 games left, a 9-game deficit in the wild card race and with Marcum, McGowan, Accardo, Hill and Wells all on the shelf for extended periods of time. Why not take a look at one of the kids? Yes, you’d be starting Snider’s clock early, but he still wouldn’t be arbitration-eligible until after the 2011 season (assuming he hits well enough to stick), nor would he be eligible for free agency until after 2014. What’s to be lost by giving him a look?
Instead, they go the safe route and call up Mench, who will DH against lefties instead of David Eckstein and we all get to watch Brad Wilkerson play right every day. I think I’d rather have Richie Sexson for that.
The only saving grace to this move is that maybe they re-tool over the all-star break. If Mench is just here for three days, then during the break they trade Eckstein and Burnett, find out McGowan is gone for the year and then bring up one of the kids, fine by me, but I doubt that’ll happen.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk:
Before I go, I have to mention how great it was to see Lyle Overbay come through tonight. Two hits, and then when he came up with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 9th down by a run, he jumped on George Sherrill’s first pitch and smacked it to deep enough centre field to get the tying run home. That’s the same George Sherrill against whom lefties have hit .143/.260/.238 this year. Then another lefty, Adam Lind, picks up the game-winning hit! No love for Overbay on the post-game though, which is pretty unfair since I think that about 80% of you fully expected him to hit into a double play in that situation and I believe I would have heard from every single one of you if he had.
Comments are encouraged, as always, and I’ll try my best to get them up sooner. One change, though – I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to respond to those comments that take shots at me for being an “apologist” for the Jays or for J.P. Ricciardi. I’m most assuredly not, what I am is fair. So many commenters and some media members take whatever opportunity they can to be negative, regardless of the situation, and it’s really wearing on me. It’s just not worth it for me to respond to those types of comments, it makes me too angry.