There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played and a lot that can happen: good, bad or ugly.
But with it now the halfway point of August (note: ugh), you can start to see the finish line. The home squad could take any one of three routes. They could go on another hot streak, win some big games against opponents they’re chasing and possibly even catch Baltimore in the division. They could continue to have spurts here and there, maybe make the second wildcard but likely limp to the finish line and just miss out. Or, they could fall apart, drift further back in the race and leave everyone upset and give the trolls plenty to feast on.
Of course, it could be something in between any of those, but that’s the basic gist of it all.
So what would each scenario mean?
By far the easiest. If the return of Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind (and possibly others?) can help spur a winning streak the Blue Jays could definitely catch the Orioles. With six games still to play between the two teams, not six against the weak Red Sox, three against the weak Cubs and a handful of games against important rivals, a hot streak could see the Jays move up quickly.
Even if they don’t manage to unseat Baltimore, if it came down to that final weekend of the season this season would have to be considered a success. And it would make resigning Melky more realistic, and set things up nicely for next year. In July, I wrote about the young pitching core that’s starting to develop. And that’s only starting to look brighter.Though they’ve both had bumps in the road, Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison have shown a lot. Aaron Sanchez has been great out of the bullpen, and Daniel Norris continues to turn heads.
Throw in some guys in the lower minors – Osuna, Hoffman, Reid-Foley, Tirado, even Smoral (no really!) – who could move quickly next year. The two old fellas will return next year as well, both of whom will likely do what we’ve come to expect, and that’s pretty good.
That just leaves the offence and bullpen. The latter can swing quickly, as we clearly saw this year, and the former, in case you hadn’t noticed, is pretty good. A strong end to the season could convince front office/ownership to pony up the dollars and plug a few holes, leaving the team in really good shape next year.
To me, this is kind of the scariest. And I saw that because it leaves a lot of room for ownership, who don’t really have a damned clue about how to run a sports team, to decide the future of the team. They could realize how close the team is and give the ok for Anthopolous to fill out the roster as he needs to. They could hold firm with the budget, which would leave AA in a stick, but manageable spot. Or they could cut back. And with the team having experienced, for the most part, good health this year, what can you possibly think of this team if it fuddles its way to an 84-win season?
Because, even if ownership gives the go-ahead for the front office to spend more money, it won’t be much. It’d probably be enough to resign Melky and get a second baseman. Is that enough, along with any internal improvements, to become a playoff team next year? Especially when the division is expected to be much stronger? It’s a scary proposition that we could have another middling season, which would likely result in fairly major overhauls.
If the team falls apart during the remaining six weeks, I think it’s pretty clear you’ll see some kind of re-tooling. It’s hard to envision what that means, but there are a lot of really attractive pieces on the big league roster, and if AA could turn those into some near-Big League ready bats he could have a formidable team in a short period of time.
Of course, he could maybe convince ownership that they stayed in it this long, and if he had some reinforcements he could have kept the team in it longer.
Whatever happens it’s going to be an interesting six weeks.