It was all well and good to cling to the illusion of contention while the team was winning an unexpected number of games in the first two months. It's all well and good to dream of a slugging offense lasting all year (illusion) or a young pitching staff coming into their own and demanding respect right through to September (reality, but not enough).
But we all knew the June schedule would be a killer and so it has proven to be. And while, last Sunday, we might still have rationalized that we'd come through "Four Weeks of Hell" 10-14 which wasn't entirely embarrassing and what with four easy games against the hapless Indians coming up the team could regain it's footing and be able to look forward to 16 mostly cushy games out of the break.
Needless to say, the last three nights have thrown a big bucket of cold water on those notions. Now to be clear, one obviously shouldn't draw huge conclusions from a small sample like three games but the thing about these three games is that this was supposed to be the course correction where they proved to us that the last four weeks was about strength of schedule, not wheels coming off. It begins to appear that the latter may well be the case.
The Blue Jays collective OPS in June is a mind-numbing .667 - Lyle Overbay's mediocre .757 in June is actually third best on the team behind only Wells and Buck. Beside Hill and Lind's continued struggles, Bautista has been just awful in June, as has Gonzalez and Lewis has also come down closer to his more rational talent level. Good young pitching isn't going to overcome that.
And the thing is, while one may expect Lind and Hill to eventually maybe figure things out, and one can hope that Snider will not be a shell of his former self when he comes back - there's not much hope elsewhere. I believe in Wells, and it's reasonable to think an uptick in Overbay (he's been much better since early May) might offset whatever decline you get from Buck. But gonzo has gone back to being pretty much what he always was, and Bautista has likely already turned back into a pumpkin (albeit not as bad as he was before he started that Half-Season of Heaven) - this isn't a group, overall, that's likely to be a feared offense on a sustained basis, hot streaks aside.
Yes, I think, still, that they will have a pretty good July and beat, for the most part, the teams they are supposed to beat. Romero, Marcum, and Morrow will continue to wow us and Cecil will, I think, find his balance (A lot of the prospects will have us buzzing too, which is completely off topic but still). But ultimately, while the Jays might have a lot of folks wishful thinking with 55 or more wins by the trade deadline, that's gonna be the high point of the season.
I think they will still finish with a win total in the low-to-mid 80's but that's not going to be enough by 10 games or more.
To that end, and I think Anthopoulos surely knows this, the Jays should be neck deep in the trade market as SELLERS. On the block:
John Buck - has been all that and a bag of chips on offense - and so has JP Arencibia in Vegas, and JPA has reportedly much better defense. Sell high on Buck and get the future started;
Lyle Overbay - this will be a tough sell as the market has few buyers here and a lot of possibly available options. seek ye out a team who's having defensive woes at 1B;
Alex Gonzalez - A no-brainer, if you can move him, do it. Bring on Mike Mccoy and lets see if he can be the bridge to Adeiny;
Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista - the latter might get more return, the former is of less need here. EE is not going to get any buyers unless the Jays are willing to eat virtually all of the 2.5 or so remaining on his deal, but the team ought to be exploring how he'd work at another defensive position or something at this point. if Overbay were dealt quickly, Lind at 1B and EE at DH would be a sound experiment.
On the other hand, some foolish team might overpay for Bautista in a classic example of "buying high" - if not, keep him for now until you decide what to do with 3B in 2011 (Emaus is my bet but Jeff Blair writes that isn't what the team things - though I refuse to believe it);
Scott Downs - should get a nice return;
Jason Frasor - may have killed all his value;
Kevin Gregg - I still don't believe, but I fear rival GMs don't either;
Brian Tallet - could succeed in some NL parks, but not helping his value;
Shaun Marcum - I've written on this before...do it only if VERY well compensated, but listen;
With the exception of Marcum, I wouldn't be unhappy if ALL those guys were gone by August 1.
Let's get the shop set up and quit chasing rainbows. Any rational person knew is was going to end - HOW it ended really isn't important.
It's all about the future baby, maybe as early as 2011. But the future is NOT now.