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Blue Jays Q&A with Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter

With the Blue Jays in town facing the Minnesota Twins, I got a little more information about what out friends to the north are up to these days.

Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins
RIP Jose Bautista, the Blue Jay.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Blue Jays are in town this week to take on the Twins, and you know what that means: a whooolllllleeeeeee lot of fans driving down from Canada and turning it into Rogers Centre 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Tom Dakers from SB Nations’ Blue Jays site, Bluebird Banter, was kind enough to answer some questions about the team from the north. I also answered some question about the Twins for him, which you can check out here.

Q: How are Blue Jays fans feeling about their team this year?

A: Last year, at the end of April, the Jays were 8-17, so you can safely say we are far happier this year than last (though we were happier before losing four in row coming into Sunday’s game). I mean, no one is planning a parade or anything and Toronto fans are, at best, ready to write off any of their sports teams anytime they a trailing in any game, no matter how early it is. Heck I was told the season was over half way through the opening game loss to the Yankees.

Attendance is down this year. Last year, the team was terrible and this off-season wasn’t anything that would excite the casual fan (or the not so casual fan). But, the team is much more fun to watch this year. The offense, at least to this point, has been much better than last year. The games are more exciting. We have some young players who are a little more athletic than the guys they have replaced.

Things aren’t perfect. Our starting pitchers aren’t pitching deep into games, and the guy we thought would be our Ace, Marcus Stroman has been terrible. The bullpen has been over worked and is missing that long guy who can go 3 innings and buy some rest for the pen.

Q: How are the Blue Jays feeling about their division going forward (this is where you say terrible things about the Yankees and make a lot of friends)?

A: Does Twinkie Town have language rules?

Yeah it is kind of depressing that, unless suddenly God decides to take an interest in baseball, the Red Sox and Yankees will be at the top of the division all season long. I think we ought to be allowed to change divisions with the Tigers or someone for a couple of years, just to let us feel like there is a chance.

Playing each of them 19 times, a year is less than fun. Playing in that stupid Yankee Stadium where a popup to right field far to often becomes a home run is….well you guys know.

Q: Jose Bautista used to just slaughter the Twins at Target Field. How do the Blue Jays fans feel about him not being on the team anymore?

A: I miss him. He joined the team just a few days after I started writing on the site. I’m sure I’ve written more words about him than I have about anyone.

When he came to the team, we were a mediocre team, that didn’t really have an identity. We were boring (except on days when Roy Halladay started). The lineup was filled with a bunch of guys who most Jays fans wouldn’t have been able to pick out of a police lineup.

Bautista changed that.

He became the face of the team. He was the guy that fans on other teams hated. He was intense (which isn’t an intense enough word to describe him). I mean Halladay was intense too, but he was a quiet intense. Bautista wasn’t quiet.

The last couple of years he wasn’t the player he once was. His bat slowed, his defense was terrible (this year it is so nice not to dread every fly ball headed to right field). I am so glad he didn’t get a Chris Davis type contract two or three years ago. He’s always going to be a favorite of mine, but I wouldn’t want to watch his skills continue to erode.

Q: What is going right for the Blue Jays this year?

A: We are getting timely hitting (most nights). The new guys are playing well. Or at least most of them are. Curtis Granderson was an underwhelming off season signing, but he’s been great. Teoscar Hernandez has replaced the power lost with Bautista. Yangervis Solarte has been better than advertised.

And the bullpen has been terrific (if overworked). Last year it took manager John Gibbons until mid-season to figure out how to use the pitchers in his bullpen. This year, it has all fallen into place right off the start.

Starters Aaron Sanchez (who missed almost all last year with blister problems) and J.A. Happ have been excellent.

And manager John Gibbons has had the golden touch. If he brings in a pinch hitter, he gets the hit. If he calls for a hit and run, the ball goes directly to the spot the field leaves to cover second. He’s been either very lucky or very good.

Q: I’m a huge Vlad Guerrero fan. What can you tell me about Vlad Jr. and I will sit here and just let it seep into my soul?

A: He is just a hitting machine. I’m sure that if he were called up today, we could drop him in the middle of the batting order and he would be great (not that it will happen).

Vlad, son of Impaler, seems to have the appropriate flair for the dramatic. He hit a walk-off home run in a preseason game in Montreal, the city where his father was a legend and where he was born.

Vlad Jr has the power of his father, with a better eye at the plate. I’ve had people tell me that he’s going to be a better player than his old man, but I think that is presuming a lot. His dad was one of the best players I’ve ever seen.

The only real question is when will he come up to Toronto?

For when, well he’s just 19 and there is no real reason to start his clock early, unless we are in a playoff race and somehow, we can manage to rid ourselves of Kendrys Morales. Or if they end of trading Josh Donaldson, they might call him up to appease us fans.

But, I’m thinking next year, likely a month or so into the season, to work the system as best they can.

Q: How did the roof at Rogers Centre collapse? Or at least get a hole in it? That seems intensely weird.

A: The CN Tower is right beside Rogers Centre. Freezing rain covered the top of the tower in thick ice. As it warmed the ice slid off the tower in sheets. They were keeping people away from the area, worried that someone would be decapitated. Some of the sheets of ice fell onto and through the roof.

The ‘funny’ part was, we had a couple of games cancelled in Cleveland just before that and the official Blue Jays twitter account, fairly smugly, stated that it was guaranteed that they would play. Pride is one of those 7 Deadly Sins.

It is just the second time in Rogers Centre history that they’ve cancelled a game.

Q: I just watched four cars in a row turn the wrong way on a one-lane, one-way street around Lake of the Isles here in Minneapolis. I was close enough to the last car that I could see it had a Red Sox bumper sticker on it. Can you feel my pain in this situation at all or not?

A: I went to Boston once.

I should have left that as the full answer, but what I’m imagining is the Red Sox fan would tell you that you are wrong, despite all signs to the contrary, that he is going the right way. And then, if pulled over, he would act all indignant that he was pulled over and act like because he’s a Red Sox fan he should be allowed to go the wrong way.

Q: What question should I have asked you but didn’t, and what would be your answer?

A: You should have asked “Can you trade us a mid-30’s, extremely slow, DH type, double play machine?” And I would have said “Why yes, we will trade him to you for whatever is in your pocket right now”.

Beyond that? When will Josh Donaldson be back in the lineup? Unfortunately, you won’t get to see him. I think the hope is that he will be back sometime next weekend. Sorry, I know you really wanted to see him.

Or ‘who is Lourdes Gurriel Jr?’ Well, at least for the next little while, he is the Blue Jays second baseman. He was signed as a free agent, after defecting from Cuba back in 2016, signing a 7-year, $22 million contract. And he is the brother of Astros infielder Yuleiski Gurriel. He was called up from the minors when the team figured out that giving Gift Ngoepe playing time was stupid. Lourdes has taken the second base job from Devon Travis, who was sent down because the team needed a rested relief arm, and he wasn’t hitting and he has options. Lourdes has been hitting the ball hard (mostly into gloves but he’s had more luck the last couple of days, and brought some needed energy to the team.

Thanks again to Tom for answering our questions about the Jays! You can follow more of Dakers’ writing over at Bluebird Banter and on Twitter at @BluebirdBanter.