The Toronto Blue Jays; What could have been

Oh the woes of being a slightly above average team in the stacked AL East.

The pitching has been mediocre (albeit surprisingly servicable given the departure of Roy Halladay), the 2009 breakouts known as Adam Lind and Aaron Hill limped to the All-Star Break (Hill with an abysmal .189 average and .272 OBP, Lind with an equally atrocious .214/.271), and despite a few surprising standouts in Jose Bautista and John Buck (and Alex Gonzalez before his trade to the Braves for Yunel Escobar), it has been another disappointing season for the Toronto Blue Jays. They’ve struggling to stay above .500, which is on some level impressive given the competition of the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox.

But as futile as it seems to hope that one day the Jays will once again play October baseball anytime soon, I can’t help but think about what could have been this season, had certain moves had not been made and three particular players still played for our great city.

Let’s start at the hot corner. Scott Rolen asked for a trade out of Toronto for personal reasons, and in return the Jays got the “high upside” Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 26 home runs for the Cincinatti Reds in 2008. Encarnacion has been virtually useless defensively, and his work ethic’s been questioned, something that was never a problem with Rolen, the consummate professional.

At the All-Star Break this season, these were their respective lines:

Rolen: 79 GP, .290 AVG, .361 OBP, 17 HR, 57 RBI, 43 R

Encarnacion: 42 GP, .221 AVG, .304 OBP, 10 HR, 24 RBI, 20 R

Not to mention Rolen’s gold glove defense on the other side of the ball. It’s a crying shame the Jays lost this guy.

Then there’s Alex Rios.

Yes, he had his struggles last season, and that infamous run-in with a fan after his unsightly five strikeout night didn’t help his reputation in Toronto. But even in a down year, the incredibly gifted, five tool talent finished the season with 17 home runs and 24 stolen bases, and that’s after playing terribly for 41 games with the White Sox (.199/.229, yikes)

Through 89 games with the Sox this season, Rios has 16 home runs, 55 RBI, 23 SB, 60 runs, and a .306 average. And honestly, is it really that surprisingly? Sure, maybe he’s playing a bit above his head, but everyone in this city, including Blue Jays management, knew he was capable of something like this.

Rios is on pace for 28 long balls, 96 RBI, and 40 steals. That’s Alfonso Soriano in his prime territory. And JP put him on waivers.

And finally, there’s Roy Halladay. What can be said about Roy that hasn’t been said a million times before? He’s been predictably brilliant for his new club, the Philadelphia Phillies, with 10 wins, a 2.40 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 131 strikeouts (although to be honest, I was expecting even more out of Halladay pitching in the NL East; that’s how good this guy is).

So I can’t help but wonder, what if Hill and Lind played like they did last season? What if we still had Rios, Rolen, and Halladay? I present to you, the Toronto Blue Jays Dream Team;

C – John Buck (2010 pace): .284 AVG, 26 HR, 87 RBI, 59 R

1B – Lyle Overbay (2009 stats): .265 AVG, 16 HR, 64 RBI, 57 R

2B – Aaron Hill (2009 stats): .286 AVG, 36 HR, 108 RBI, 103 R

SS – Alex Gonzalez (2010 pace): .268 AVG, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 86 R

3B – Scott Rolen (2010 pace): .287 AVG, 30 HR, 103 RBI, 77 R

LF – Jose Bautista (2010 pace): .238 AVG, 43 HR, 108 RBI, 99 R

CF – Vernon Wells (2010 pace): .272 AVG, 32 HR, 86 RBI, 79 R

RF – Alex Rios (2010 pace): .306 AVG, 28 HR, 90 RBI, 40 SB, 105 R

DH – Adam Lind (2009 stats): .305 AVG, 35 HR, 114 RBI, 93 R

SP1 – Roy Halladay (2010 pace): 17 W, 2.40 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 222 K’s

SP2 – Shaun Marcum (2010 pace): 13 W, 3.37 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 151 K’s

SP3 – Ricky Romero (2010 pace): 11 W, 3.52 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 197 K’s

SP4 – Brett Cecil (2010 pace): 13 W, 3.99 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 114 K’s

SP5 – Brandon Morrow (2010 pace): 10 W, 4.71 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 199 K’s

Combined with the usually steady (and at one time just a few years ago, the best in baseball) bullpen, this team would be a World Series contender, even in the American League East.

It’s a lot of if’s, but quite frankly, it’s not so farfetched that it could have happened. If the Jays hadn’t traded Rolen and dropped Rios, and management decided to make a playoff push in 2010 spearheaded by Roy Halladay and the final year of his contract (or at least until the trade deadline, if the Jays were out of contention), this dream team could have been realized.

Regardless, as a die hard baseball fan it has been a pleasure to watch these All-Star players play for Toronto, and to know that at one time it was at least possible for the Blue Jays to emerge from the East for the first time in 17 years.

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