TORONTO, Ont. – It has become a familiar end-of-season routine for the Toronto Blue Jays. Mediocre record. Some cause for optimism. Another fourth-place finish.
However, there appears to be something different about the 2011 edition of the team. Fuelled by franchise player Jose Bautista and an exciting young core, there is an energy in the clubhouse and among baseball fans in a city starved for a contender.
“We have a bunch of guys that really have nothing to lose and just want to go out there and win,” outfielder Eric Thames said. “This fanbase deserves it, this city deserves it, this country deserves it.”
“That’s what we’re out here every day working hard for and hopefully next year we’ll come a lot closer to that ring, if not win the ring.”
That might be a tad optimistic given that the Blue Jays are a .500 club saddled with teams like New York, Boston and Tampa Bay in the stacked American League East.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos has stocked the farm system and young players like ace Ricky Romero, catcher J.P. Arencibia and Canadian third baseman Brett Lawrie appear to be the real deal. Whether the holes in the team’s roster can be filled for next year is the big question heading into the off-season.
“I think we’ve got a ton of talent here that’s very young and definitely the future is bright,” Jays reliever Casey Janssen said. “I think the young guys are still learning, they’ve got a lot to learn but the ability is there.”
“The more reps they get either on the field or at-bats behind the plate or pitchers get innings, it’s just going to help us move forward for the future.”
There were some success stories for the Jays and a few failures too.
One of the biggest disappointments was Brett Cecil, who led the team with 15 wins last season but spent a chunk of the season at triple-A Las Vegas.
Fellow pitcher Kyle Drabek — the key player coming back in the Roy Halladay deal — looked lost at times on the mound. Travis Snider was given a shot in the outfield but didn’t take advantage.
The Jays’ bullpen was mediocre at best and the closer position was a weak point for most of the season. Anthopoulos will likely shed some light on his off-season plans when he holds a season-ending media availability after Toronto closes out its campaign in Chicago on Wednesday night.
Farrell predicts the 34-year-old GM will be a busy man.
“Every area is going to be looked at,” Farrell said. “The one great thing about Alex is there’s no stone left unturned. Whether that’s domestically, internationally, free agents, trades, everything will be explored.”
“I’m looking forward to what I think is going to be a very active off-season.”