Fading Jays Look to Play Spoiler Down the Stretch

Fading Jays Look to Play Spoiler Down the Stretch The Toronto Blue Jays aren't going to the postseason this year. But that won't stop them from preventing others from reaching October as well. Even though the Jays are looking forward to 2010, they have the chance to derail the postseason dreams of other teams in the AL before this season ends.

Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter joined us to answer a few questions about the Blue Jays, as they host the Red Sox for the final team this season.

NESN.com: It’s only a matter of time until the Roy Halladay trade talks pick up again as the offseason approaches. Do you think Doc will be a Blue Jay at all in 2010?

Tom Dakers: I’ve found trying to outguess GM J.P. Riccardi to be an impossible task. Right now, just when it looked like they were shedding salary, there are reports our payroll budget could be going up to $110 million next year. That said, I think that if they get a big offer they’d likely take it. The good thing about taking offers this offseason is that there may be more teams involved which could drive the price up and there would be time to allow the teams interested in Doc to talk to him about signing an extension.

NESN.com: Was the departure of Alex Rios a good or bad thing for the Jays and their fans?

Tom Dakers: Rios is a very talented player but his biggest talent is driving fans crazy with his careless play. Sometimes, it seems like his head just isn’t in the game. That said, giving talent away for nothing just seems wrong. His contract isn’t that bad and he does have the range to be a good center fielder. I get the feeling Cito Gaston just got tired of him and found him unteachable.

NESN.com: Who has been the more valuable position player this season for the Jays: Aaron Hill or Adam Lind?

Tom Dakers: I think Aaron Hill’s defense gives him the edge. Hill ought to be the comeback player of the year in the AL, after missing most of last year with a concussion. He’s been terrific, leading all second basemen with 28 homers so far this year. I’d like him to take a few more walks, maybe chase less pitches out of the strike zone, but that’s nitpicking. Marco Scutaro should also be in the discussion for Jays MVP. When you play terrific defense at shortstop and get on base at a .390 clip as a leadoff hitter, there isn’t much to complain about and his slugging average is .448 so he is showing some power.

NESN.com: Who has been the biggest surprise (good or bad) for the Blue Jays this season?

Tom Dakers: Ricky Romero. He is a player that was the punch line for J.P. haters, getting drafted just before Troy Tulowitzki in the first round of the 2005 draft. Romero wasn’t expected to make the rotation at the start of spring training and his first couple of spring appearances didn’t do much to change that opinion. But pitching coach Brad Arnsberg worked with him and he made the rotation. Since then he’s been great. 10-5 with a 3.70 ERA and both of those numbers would be better if he hadn’t missed time with a strained oblique muscle. Going from a draft bust to a Rookie of the Year candidate in a few months, he’s easily our biggest surprise.

The other big surprise is that Kevin Millar is still with the team. They keep telling us what a great guy he is in the locker room and he better be, because between the lines he can’t hit and he can’t field.  Unfortunately for him, there isn’t much more to the game than that, at least on the field.

NESN.com: With what seems like a plethora of arms for next season, how do you think the Jays rotation will look in 2010?

Tom Dakers: What a difference a few months make, going into spring training this year it was hard to figure how we were going to piece together a rotation. Next year some good arms are going to be on the outside looking in. I think the rotation will look something like Roy Halladay (unless traded, in which case I’d imagine someone we got in the trade would be heading the rotation), Ricky Romero, Shawn Marcum (who looks to be recovered from Tommy John surgery last year), Brett Cecil and Marc Rzepczynski  (or Scrabble as we have been calling him, for his 40-point name) likely would make up the rotation.

Scott Richmond, Jesse Litsch and Zach Stewart (picked up in the Scott Rolen trade) are also strong candidates for the rotation and would be in there if any of the others falter.

NESN.com: What are the keys for the Blue Jays to winning the series against the Red Sox?

Tom Dakers: The bats. Our offense has gone into hibernation the last couple of weeks. It’s not that we haven’t been getting hits, but they have been all singles of late, and it is hard to piece together enough singles for a big inning. We do have enough players with power, they just haven’t been showing it lately, though recent call up Randy Ruiz hit homers in his first two games, both against the Yankees. Just for that he’ll be a favorite of mine for a long time.

Thanks again to Tom Dakers for sharing his insight on the Blue Jays. Don’t forget to check out his blog, Bluebird Banter.

Stay tuned Friday for a series preview of the New York Yankees, as the rivalry returns to Fenway for the final time in 2009.

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