Blue Jays Rogers Centre- Credit: DaveMe Images

The Blue Jays & the Benefits of Being in 1st Place

The Toronto Blue Jays are leading the AL East and, if things continue, they will soon see the benefits of being in first place


Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase


 


The Toronto Blue Jays sit in the top spot in the American League East on Saturday morning. At 9-5, they sit a full game ahead of the Yankees and two games ahead of the Red Sox and Rays. If the season ended today, we’d be celebrating the best team in the AL. However, the season is only 14 games old and with 148 games remaining, there is so much that can change, so we don’t celebrate yet. But, just because we don’t hang any banners, doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to be happy about the Blue Jays occupying top spot in their division. There are several reason why a good start will benefit this club.

 

One of the big reasons being in first place this early is apparent when you consider the first couple months of the 2021 season. Watching the club be competitive in most games only to lose them late was a gut punch to many of us. But, for some fans, it was even more difficult to watch the club fall behind in the standings and not address the needs that were becoming more and more obvious by the day. Rather than bringing in bullpen help in May, they waited. And, while they had their reasons (which can be debated), it resulted in a deficit being created in the standings that proved to be too big to overcome and the Blue Jays finished one game out of a playoff spot.

 

Now, the argument can be made that the club knew they were good, but did not know if they were playoff material at that point. 2020 saw them make the playoffs, but that was under the special circumstances of expanded playoffs. 2021 had no such offering, so perhaps the team can be forgiven for not being sure if they should push more chips in. The old adage of a season taking 40-50 games to reveal what a team has could be applied. Whether you agree with the thinking, or not, if this is how the club thought, the logic makes sense.

 

However, this season is different. They know they’re a playoff team. They know they have huge end of season expectations on them. That means that the wait and see approach is not as easy a pill to swallow this time around. So, games in April do mean much more than they may have last year. Again, whether you agree with their thinking last year or not, it is more likely that more people are on the same page this time around. Winning is expected, even in April. Even in the second week of the season.

 

It is difficult to make up those games in September and if they win now, they don’t have that pressure 4 or 5 months from now. Being in the driver’s seat now means there are benefits in September. Think about how much rest a guy like Hyun Jin Ryu may be able to enjoy with a comfortable lead in September. That’s just one example, of course. Think about the advantage of tinkering to adjust your rotation, etc before playoffs start. These are advantages gained in April. This is not to say that winning games in April means they’ll have a massive cushion in a division that is expected to be a dog fight, but it arguably makes things a tad easier.

 

Speaking of easier, having a grasp of the division lead means less pressure now to make a move out of desperation. For example, with Ryu on the IL after a couple of bad starts, one couldn’t blame the Blue Jays for taking a look around the league and seeing if they can plug that hole. While the extent of Ryu’s issues would weigh heavily in this, we have seen teams in the past go out and plug holes when needed. Think of Atlanta last year, who managed to make deals all summer to fill gaps when they needed it; they didn’t wait for the Trade Deadline, they did what they needed to do to fight for the division lead. Teams that have to fight for their spot in the standings could be inclined to force deals or overpay in deals that come up.

 

Take Frankie Montas, for example. At The Athletic ($), Jim Bowden had this to say: “The Blue Jays are built to not only win the division but also the World Series, which is why I expect the front office to continue to put the pedal to the metal to improve the team. The Jays, like the Dodgers, could offer a legitimate tandem of pitching prospects, perhaps southpaw Ricky Tiedemann and right-hander Irv Carter. Now is the time for the Jays’ front office to shine.” Whether they are interested in trading for Montas or not doesn’t really matter for the purposes of this discussion. The point is that Toronto can look for these deals, if they choose, but because they’re in first place, they are not forced to.

 

Of course, it would be silly to suggest that any team is desperate to make a trade in April, but in any trade, regardless of the date, the Blue Jays being in first place means they do not have to overpay for any additions. They have a bit more comfort in that regard. As well, if they look for deals early in the season, they avoid getting into bidding wars that come about as deadlines approach. All of this is to say that being in first place means less pressure in trade talks.

 

Finally, another benefit of being in first place is watching other teams not be. The Yankees and Red Sox (even the Rays, who are have become super annoying in their pesky winning ways) being behind the Blue Jays is always good entertainment. If you want to see fans go crazy, tune in to the respective Twitter threads for these teams. Sure, it’s petty. Sure, it’s childish, but I do enjoy when those teams lose and fall behind Toronto. How high on the list of ‘1st place benefits’ this is may vary from person to person, but it is up there for me.

 

Seeing the Toronto Blue Jays at the top of the AL East is ALWAYS fun. Some might think that it is early and so much can change that it isn’t even worth being excited about. And, that is a fair argument. But, there are some clear benefits of being in first place in April…benefits that could help them along the way to a championship.

 

 

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.