The Toronto Blue Jays have produced three straight winning seasons for the first time in almost a decade.
Unfortunately for the Jays they just happen to play in the best division in all of baseball. Not only do they have to contend with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, but now the once-perennial doormat Tampa Bay Rays have emerged as a powerhouse in the East.
After John Gibbons was fired last June, former skipper Cito Gaston, who guided the franchise to its two World Series titles in 1992-93, was brought in to change the dynamic of the clubhouse. It worked, as Gaston led the team to a 51-37 finish and their 86-76 overall mark was good enough for fourth place in the powerful AL East.
Roy Halladay continues to anchor a pitching staff that led the majors with a 3.94 earned run average. A big part of that staff is gone, though, as 18-game winner A.J. Burnett bolted for a big money contract from the Yankees.
Actually, this year after Halladay there is just not much there. However, his time could be coming to a close as well, as he has just two years remaining on a cheap contract.
With the team not expected to contend this season, now may be the time general manager J.P. Ricciardi pulls the trigger and starts to go in a different direction.
By all accounts young pitching is on the way. It is just not ready yet and the team is not sure it will be ready by the time Halladay is able to become a free agent.
Offensively, the team will again be led by outfielders Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, while the organization is hoping two of its top prospects — Travis Snider and Adam Lind — are ready to contribute on a full-time basis.
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