No time for excuses- The Blue Jays Can Hedge Their Bets By Doubling-Down On These Players
Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase
As magical as Thursday’s off day must have been for Blue Jays players, I hate a calendar date with no game(s) scheduled. Once you are done ruminating over the previous night’s results and have nothing to preview to get your mind off a loss to the Evil Empire Staters, then you’re left to your own devices. In my case, never a good thing.
I cannot shake the image of Charlie Montoyo sitting across a card table from Kevin Cash, Aaron Boone and Brandon Hyde, trying to bluff his way through a call bet and winning a playoff spot. Mind you Montoyo just may have the perfect poker face – watching him hover on the dugout steps you could never guess the score, the situation or the risks involved. But if you squint REAL hard, you may see the wheels spinning beneath his cap and above his face covering.
Injuries, inexperience, invisible baseball gremlins scrambling about the field trying to repair the damage inflicted by bad base running, defensive laissez-faire, and his own questionable decisions. Montoyo can look down at his cards and develop excuses for why Toronto may stumble down the stretch and out of a playoff spot. Recap the cards he has not been dealt in September. I believe he should analyze the potential suits and combinations he could put together to win the pot and advance to the World Series of COVID Baseball table.
THE ACE IN THE HOLE.
Even if you have only watched a handful of Blue Jays games in 2020, you know that Toronto’s MVP is Cavan Biggio. Dare I say AL MVP Cavan Biggio. Bo Bichette has more talent and flash. Vlad Jr. has more potential. Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel have the eye-popping power. Cavan Biggio is simply the most reliable and most valuable player on the roster. Charlie can face any matchup challenge presented by any opponent and solve the problem by utilizing Biggio properly.
Teo is hurt-move Biggio to right field. Need to hide Villar’s defensive liabilities in a game you anticipate to be a pitcher’s duel? Start Biggio in the outfield or at third base, then slide him back to 2B and insert Jonathan Davis or Santiago Espinal for defensive purposes. Need a batter to work a count and get on base, then use his unfailing instincts to advance into scoring position and score an important run. Montoyo has been dealt the most cherished card in the deck. You build your fortunes around that card and live to play another series.
TIME FOR PANIK.
With Brandon Drury finally put out of his Toronto misery, Joe Panik seems to be the focus of the most vitriolic attacks from the fandom-until Jays supporters remember Derek Fisher is still on the roster. Is Joe Panik the All-Star player of 2015 or the Gold Glove winner of 2016? No he most certainly is not. But Panik has shown a steady rise in production over the past 20 games and has been viewed as jack-of-all trades by the Giants, Mets and now Blue Jays. You expect Panik to excel defensively at 2B, but people overlook the fact he was the best defensive shortstop in the collegiate ranks during his time at St. John’s.
The more I witness Panik manning the hot corner, the better I feel about Travis Shaw having to spend the bulk of his time at first after the Tellez season-ending injury. Most important of all is the fact that Joe Panik has been a valuable contributor to a World Series championship team and has had clutch at-bats in the post-season (game-winning 2-run homer in deciding game of 2014 Division Series). Panik is not a face card or second ace, but he is of the same suit as Biggio and his versatility, presence and reliability adds to the confidence Montoyo can have when attempting to raise the stakes.
DRAWING THE FINAL CARD
To save time, send your angry Tweets to @bballobsessions and profanity-laced tirades to email@example.com. Do not blame my fellow Couchers for this next statement: Tanner Roark will be given the assignment of pitching the deciding game of the Toronto Wild Card Series game. You read it here first. To further increase the stakes for Montoyo to make this decision, Tanner Roark will be the winning pitcher in a Game 3.
On the surface, this statement of dubious fact has absolutely no basis to support it through analytics or 2020 performance. Roark’s fastball command would cause Steve Blass and Rick Ankiel to snicker. Over his last 7 starts, Roark’s ERA sits well-above 6. But the Blue Jays have won 5 of those 7 games. There is a reason Tanner Roark was a rotation staple for playoff contending Washington Nationals teams that featured Max Scherzer and Steven Strasburg and arsonistic bullpens. Tanner Roark knows how to pitch through adversity and put his team into the position to win games. Roark’s tirade against pitch counts and analytical pitching staff manipulations was all the convincing I would need to push my chips in on starting Roark in a deciding game. Just as the likes of Edinson Volquez, Chris Young and Yordano Ventura channeled their inner Joe Hardy to vanquish Toronto in 2015, Tanner Roark will be the unlikely folk hero of the Blue Jays 2020 playoff adventures.
THE WILD CARD
Since an expanded playoff field in a reduced 60-game schedule will dictate less than traditional approaches to winning, no doubt Charlie Montoyo will seek a wild card option to win the pot and advance. He will only need to seek his own reflection to find the wild card he needs. I am no fan of Charlie Montoyo as a major league manager. If I was one of the AL East rival managers, I would immediately know any Montoyo gambit would be a bluff.
Career baseball man, acknowledged talent evaluator-all true statements. But in a major league dugout, the Blue Jays have a Charlie Brown instead of a Cash, Boone or Hyde to take them to the playoffs. One can look to Montoyo’s first month at the helm in 2019 to find serious questions about his in-game strategies and handling of a pitching staff. In my deck, Montoyo is a joker, a card to be discarded before playing a high stakes game. In a tarot deck, The Jester can prove to be a useful wild card to fill in gaps for game winning combinations. Or be the card with the weakest value.
The Blue Jays will not win because of Charlie Montoyo. But if Montoyo plays his cards right and shows better understanding of how to use his Biggios, Paniks, and Roarks (and even Shamaguchis and Rays), you may just be reading about how the Toronto Blue Jays turned a seemingly undervalued hand into a jackpot.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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