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3 toronto Blue Jays
Stephen Cannella
March 26, 2001
The new skipper comes from TV land. He may find his pitching hard to watch
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March 26, 2001

3 Toronto Blue Jays

The new skipper comes from TV land. He may find his pitching hard to watch

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[THE LINEUP]
projected roster with 2000 statistics

2000 record: 83-79 (third in AL East)
Manager: Buck Martinez (first season with Toronto)

BATTING ORDER

B-T

PVR

BA

HR

RBI

SB

LF

Shannon Stewart

R

58

.319

21

69

20

SS

Alex Gonzalez

R

168

.252

15

69

4

RF

Raul Mondesi

R

21

.271

24

67

22

1B

Carlos Delgado

L-R

15

.344

41

137

0

3B

Tony Batista

R

23

.263

41

114

5

DH

Brad Fullmer

L-R

71

.295

32

104

3

C

Darrin Fletcher

L-R

107

.320

20

58

1

CF

Jose Cruz Jr.

S-R

123

.242

31

76

15

2B

Homer Bush

R

234

.215

1

18

9

BENCH

IF

Jeff Frye*#

R

324

.307

1

16

5

OF

Brian Simmons?#

S-R

333

.230

4

17

4

IF

Ryan Freel?

R

384

.286

10

30

30

C

Alberto Castillo

R

398

.211

1

16

0

STARTERS

PVR

W

L

IPS

WHIP

ERA

RH

Esteban Loaiza

121

10

13

6.2

1.43

4.56

RH

Chris Carpenter

138

10

12

5.8

1.64

6.26

RH

Joey Hamilton

125

2

1

5.5

1.21

3.55

RH

Steve Parris#

195

12

17

5.8

1.55

4.81

RH

Roy Halladay

263

4

7

4.7

2.20

10.64

BULLPEN

PVR

W

L

S

WHIP

ERA

RH

Billy Koch

20

9

3

33

1.22

2.63

LH

Dan Plesac#

232

5

1

0

1.50

3.15

RH

Kelvim Escobar

237

10

15

2

1.51

5.35

LH

Lance Painter

274

2

0

0

1.37

4.72

RH

Paul Quantrill

297

2

5

1

1.49

4,52

RH

Kevin Beirne#

310

1

3

0

1.41

6.70

LH

Mike Sirotka#

160

15

10

0

1.38

3.79

#New acquisition
(R) Rokie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)
*Combined AL and NL stats
?1999 stats
?Triple A stats

Television is about preserving an illusion, and Buck Martinez is a TV guy. The new Toronto skipper spent the last 18 years as a Blue Jays' broadcaster, and it's clear that he intends to wear a little emotional makeup in the manager's office from time to time. "I've talked to the team about staying calm," he says. "You don't want to see the pilot walk out of the cockpit and ask, 'Jeez, what the hell is going on?' We may be going to hell in a handbasket, but I'll be cool about it."

Martinez is managing for the first time at any level—in fact, he's wearing a baseball uniform for the first time since his 17-year career as a player came to an end, in 1986. He's determined that nothing will ruin his joyride. "Buck is like a kid in a candy store," says first baseman and MVP-in-waiting Carlos Delgado. "He brings a lot of enthusiasm to the ballpark every day. And he's been around this team for a long time, so he knows us well."

Which means that Martinez should be aware that his club isn't the feel-good, after-school special he appears to be tuning into. To those who bemoan the disparity between the game's rich and poor, we present the Blue Jays, stout representatives of baseball's struggling middle-class. There are trappings of success—the Yankees, the Indians and the Red Sox are the only other American League teams to have won 80 games in each of the last three seasons—but it's like the shiny Lexus in the garage that was bought with a credit card: There's serious debt to pay. Toronto hasn't been to the postseason since 1993, which has created a steady decline in attendance and financial losses that were estimated to be approximately $20 million in 2000. That figure will likely increase this year thanks to a payroll that has grown from $56 million to more than $70 million.

The entire lineup returns intact—good news because it led the American League with a franchise-record 244 home runs and had four hitters crack the 30-homer barrier. Delgado finished among the league's top five in each of the Triple Crown categories. Leftfielder Shannon Stewart, one of the league's most dangerous leadoff hitters, continued his upward career arc. (His batting average and RBIs total have increased in each of the last three years.) So fearsome is Toronto's lineup that its projected number 8 hitter, centerfielder Jose Cruz Jr., out-homered 10 teams' cleanup spots.

"It seemed like we had to hit all those homers because we were always behind," says Delgado. "The most disappointing part of last year was that we didn't pitch well enough."

And that was with disgruntled but dangerous David Wells, who was sent to the White Sox in the disputed trade that brought sore-shouldered lefthander Mike Sirotka to Toronto. Sirotka didn't pick up a baseball until March 9 and is unlikely to join the rotation until June at the earliest, leaving the new manager without a starter who has won more than 12 games or pitched 200 innings in either of the last two seasons. Righthander Joey Hamilton made just six starts last season after 1999 rotator cuff surgery. How much he can contribute is a mystery. Equally mysterious are Roy Halladay, 23, and Chris Carpenter, 25, talented young righthanders around whom the Blue Jays have been trying to build a rotation since 1998. Last season, his second full year in the bigs, Halladay had the highest ERA (10.64) in history among pitchers who threw at least 50 innings. Carpenter, who fought elbow problems for most of 2000, had a 6.26 ERA and missed two starts in September after being hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of the White Sox' Jose Valentin.

During spring training Martinez and new pitching coach Mark Connor worked hard to resuscitate the pair. They tinkered with Halladay's delivery, and the youngster dusted off a knuckle-curve that he hasn't thrown in three years. ("It's nasty," says Stewart.) Connor also had Carpenter, who lost more than 10 pounds over the winter, working on a changeup. "I don't think it's a make or break year for these guys," Connor says, "but I do think it's time for them to pitch like they're capable of pitching."

It will be difficult for Martinez to maintain his sunny disposition if they don't. It's likely that the Jays will again be an entertaining show that draws just enough viewers to stay on the network schedule but not enough to earn that coveted Thursday-night slot. "We haven't pushed players this spring saying we gotta win, we gotta win," Martinez says. "We say we have to play the game correctly."

Now the players have to follow the script. Take One.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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