In 1982 the Blue Jays became downright respectable. They won more games (78) and finished higher (tied for sixth) than they had in their previous five years of existence. Perhaps most encouraging of all, the Jays played 94 games with one-or two-run margins, winning half. The year before the number was 44 one-and two-runners.
One Toronto weakness that should be ameliorated is designated hitting. In the off-season the Blue Jays acquired two tested bats in Cliff Johnson from Oakland and Jorge Orta from L.A. via the Mets. The righthanded Johnson, 35, who has a history of hitting well in his first season with a club, will face lefthanded pitching. "I can't say I'm unaccustomed to the role," he says contentedly. The lefthanded-hitting Orta, 32, batted .262 or better for nine consecutive seasons until he slumped to .217 when the Dodgers used him only occasionally. "I need to play a couple of times a week for my timing," says Orta. He'll play more than that, hitting against righthanders. "If they have normal years, we'll be improved 100 percent at DH," says Manager Bobby Cox.
Equally welcome is Leftfielder Dave Collins, once a troubled Yankee without a set position, now a happy Blue Jay of vital importance. "There's a little more peace of mind here," says Collins, who will resume the duties he performed for the Reds in 1978-81 of starting outfielder and base-stealer. But if the attack is to be more than adequate, Centerfielder Lloyd Moseby, a prodigious talent and major disappointment—.229, .233 and .236 the last three years—must improve dramatically. "He has a great attitude," says Pat Gillick, vice-president for baseball operations, "but when he goes bad he gets tense and tries too hard."
"I don't think that's it," Moseby says. "No excuses. I've always given the one-oh-oh. It's going to happen, and when it does, there ain't going to be no small statistics." Three-oh-oh and three-oh homers would more than suffice.
Starters Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy and Luis Leal combined for 45 wins last year, and the rotation will be stronger with the addition of another former Yankee, Mike Morgan. "I had five different pitching coaches last year," he says, "and they kept trying to change me. Here, Al Widmar's just adding things, letting me grow." Morgan may grow even more if the Jays develop a short reliever to replace the departed Dale Murray. That's not too much to hope for: In Murray's shadow Joey McLaughlin and Roy Lee Jackson held opposing hitters to averages of .212 and .218, respectively, last year.
The mood was upbeat in spring training, as befits a team ready to do some beating up. Says Moseby, "It used to be that when the Blue Jays came to town, people said, Thank God.' No more. We've got some pros—Orta, Collins, C.J.—and we're going to win. That's the ultimate in respectability."