Why I’m Rooting for Toronto

All I’ve written is a title, and already I need to clarify something. I’m not really rooting for the Blue Jays. If the season came down to the Jays vs. the Sox, there would be no question in my mind. 19 times in the next year, these teams will meet, and I’ll be pulling for the Boston squad every time. At the same time, however, recent Blue Jay moves have given the last Canadian team some hope, and I for one would like to see that hope turn into something.
For those of you who don’t know, I spent the last year living in Toronto. While there, I saw plenty of Jays action, from frequent Skydome (excuse me, Rogers Centre) visits to nightly Sportsnet broadcasts and updates. I came to know the team pretty well, and to like what they were doing. It didn’t hurt that last year’s Jays club was – at least until Halladay went down, and for a while after – quietly a very good club; as late as July, the Jays were still leading the division in Pythagorean standings, primarily on the shoulders of their division-best pitching staff. While the offense didn’t have the pop of their three biggest division rivals, there were signs that it could develop; the Jays finished the season with 775 runs, good for 5th in the AL and 8th in all of Major League Baseball, a solid showing. More interesting was their 4th place AL rank in OBP, as compared to a 10th place ranking in SLG, suggesting that what the Jays needed to become an offensive force was a little dose of power.
Around midseason, after watching Jays ball for a little while, I prescribed the following for the club: a legit #2 starter, a bullpen ace, and a real power threat. What J.P. Riccardi had done to that point was assemble an excellent supporting cast built around ace Roy Halladay; what they needed was a few additional impact pieces. With Rogers Cable – the company that owns the Jays – pledging significant payroll boosts, it seemed possible that the Jays would be able to acquire those missing pieces. Not long after the offseason began, they did exactly that.
The acquisitions of B.J. Ryan, A.J. Burnett, Lyle Overbay, and Troy Glaus have turned the Blue Jays from an extreme dark horse to a legitimate contender. How legitimate? Well, that’s why the play the games, of course, but we can at least make a few observations. First, the Blue Jays were not as bad as their record last year, and were hit hard (16-31) by the one-run game bug. They finished with an 80-82 record, barely missing the .500 mark for the second straight year; however, they outscored their opponents by a total of 70 runs, and their Pythagorean Expected Record was around 89-73, a much more respectable mark that