The Yankees-Red Sox series the last three days at the Stadium was supposed to be a meaningful late-season series, but for the third straight year, the Yankees and Red Sox haven’t really played anything resembling a series of importance in August or September. Instead, the Blue Jays series this weekend is actually the more postseason-like series.
With the Yankees and Blue Jays meeting this weekend in the Bronx for the biggest series in three years at the Stadium, I did an email exchange with Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter to talk about the Blue Jays acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, if Blue Jays fans are worried about sacrificing their future, the mood in Toronto with the team winning and if Blue Jays fans want to win the division or are content with the wild card.
Keefe: The Blue Jays didn’t just tinker with their lineup at the trade deadline, they basically changed their entire roster and in the last week or so they have become a different team. When the Red Sox having just left town in what was another late-season letdown series between the rivals, it’s actually the Blue Jays series this weekend that will have a playoff feel.
The Blue Jays haven’t lost with Troy Tulowitzki in the starting lineup, going 8-0, and they have now gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and riding a five-game winning streak coming into the weekend.
Were you surprised by the Tulowitzki trade? I know I was.
Dakers: Yeah I was surprised, stunned, almost knocked off my feet.
We had Jose Reyes and he was perfectly acceptable as a shortstop. Sure, his range was limited and he was making more errors than you would like to see, but he’s making a ton of money and I figured that he was untradeable. And he could be very exciting on offense. I didn’t think of shortstop being a problem position, at least not in the way that starting pitching was.
But, if you get a chance to get a player like Troy Tulowitzki, you really have to take it. He is much much better on defense and also an improvement offensively. He gives us another power hitting right-handed batter. You can’t turn down another great player just because you already have others of the same type.
Keefe: I was hoping the Yankees would trade for David Price given instability of their rotation, but the Yankees held on to their top prospects and decided against adding a true ace and giving themselves the chance to sign him to a long-term deal before he would become a free agent this offseason. Instead, he went to the Blue Jays and is back in the AL East and I have to worry about him being the difference in a possible division title.
After years of having inadequate pitching to go with their incredible offense, the Blue Jays finally have an ace. Price allowed one earned run in eight innings with 11 strikeouts in his first start
Like the Tulowitzki trade, were you surprised by the trade for Price?
Akers: Yeah, surprised would be the right word. We needed another starting pitcher, but I expected, especially after the Tulo trade, it would be a lesser name. Maybe someone like Tyson Ross, from the Padres, or Jeff Samardzija, from the White Sox. Good pitchers, but not an Ace like Price.
I’m thrilled that was got Price. If we were to make it to a one-game playoff, we have a pitcher I’d trust for that game. If we were in a longer playoff, we have a game one starter.
Keefe: The Blue Jays gave up a lot to change their team for the stretch run this season and when it comes to Price, there’s a good chance they might only have him for two months.
Are you worried that the Blue Jays went over board with their moves to make a run at a possible division title or a wild card when it could mean destroying their future? Or was enough enough with missing the playoffs since 1993 and needing to get back to the postseason and makes any and all moves at all costs?
Dakers: Yeah, we gave up some good pitching. Jeff Hoffman and Daniel Norris could turn out to be very good pitchers. But then, how often do we have a good shot at making the playoffs. The only ‘rental’ players they picked up are Price and LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins is planning to retire at the end of the season. Price? Well he does seem to be enjoying being in Toronto. He said that the atmosphere, for his first start at Rogers Centre, was the best he’s ever seen in a regular season game. Maybe he can be convinced to stay?
Keefe: Here in New York with Mets fans there is a rejuvenated fan base that is now expecting to make the playoffs with their new-look roster.
What is the mood in Toronto? I have a feeling is similar to that among Mets fans since those are the two hottest teams in baseball right now.
Dakers: Yeah folks are pretty excited. Price’s first start was a sellout. TV ratings are way way up, right across Canada. The Jays said that the day the Price trade was announced the team sold 35,000 tickets and 29,000 the next days. And, on the weekend after the trade, the team sold 1,400 jerseys and t-shirts with either Price or Tulowitzki’s name on.
It has been a long time since the Jays were making this sort of news in August. People seem to be talking about the team everywhere you go. It really is kind of cool to think we could have playoff baseball in Toronto again, after all this time.
Keefe: When we talked in April, you thought the Blue Jays could win 89-90 games and contend. When we talked in May, you thought they would stay involved in the AL East race. Well, here we are on Aug. 7 and they are 4 1/2 games out of first in the division and 1 1/2 games up.
The good news for me is that the Yankees have a six-game lead in the loss column over the Blue Jays. And if the Yankees play just one game over .500 for the rest of the way and go 28-27, the Blue Jays would have to go 31-21 just to tie them. I’m scared of the Blue Jays, but I shouldn’t be that scared. The Yankees just need to win at least six of their remaining 13 games against the Blue Jays to keep them at bay.
Are you looking at the Blue Jays winning the division or are you content with the wild card?
Dakers: Oh wouldn’t give up on winning the division yet. The team has gone from being 8.5 back to 4.5 back in less than two weeks, so clearly there is a chance still. I wouldn’t start thinking that the wild card is the only possibility until a week or two into September.
The Jays have a great offense (kind of an understatement, they have scored 59 more runs than any other team in baseball) and the pitching seems to be coming around. Over the last month the team has a 2.94 ERA. The starting rotation and the bullpen are both looking much better. And adding Tulowitzki, at short, Ben Revere in left has shored up the defense at our two worst positions.
I don’t see why the team shouldn’t be able to put together two good months of baseball.