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Oh Happy Jays
Peter Gammons
April 05, 1989
THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS HAVE MADE PEACE, WHICH MEANS GRIEF FOR THE REST OF THIS TROUBLED DIVISION
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April 05, 1989

Oh Happy Jays

THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS HAVE MADE PEACE, WHICH MEANS GRIEF FOR THE REST OF THIS TROUBLED DIVISION

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Vital Statistics

TEAM
In order of '88 finish; games out of first in parentheses

KEY WEAKNESS IN '88

WHAT'S NEEDED '89

CHANCE OF IMPROVEMENT

Boston Red Sox

Lack of power. The Red Sox hit only 124 HRs, 11th in the league, despite playing in cozy Fenway Park.

If the Sox hit the league's average number of HRs (136), they would get two more wins.

50%. New 1B Nick Esasky (37 HRs in his last 737 at bats) could make the difference.

Detroit Tigers (1)

The Tigers' regular starting nine had fewer at bats (3.620) than any other nine in the league.

A full season from SS Alan Trammell, among others. In '88, Detroit was .563 with Trammell, .471 without him.

25%. Like everyone else, ballplayers become more injury-prone with age.

Milwaukee Brewers (2)

The Brewers had the league's lowest slugging averages at 1B (.353) and LF (.350).

Normal AL slugging averages at 1B (.431) and LF (.404) would give the Brewers five more wins.

65%. 1B Greg Brock (.310) will improve; LF Glenn Braggs (.423) should outslug departed Jeffrey Leonard (.352).

Toronto Blue Jays (2)

Toronto's pitchers allowed 51 HRs to batters leading off an inning—by far the most in the league.

Pitchers Mike Flanagan (13 leadoff HRs), Dave Stieb (6) and Todd Stottlemyre (6) must be less generous.

80%. With Jim Clancy (10) gone and Stottlemyre more experienced, the leadoff HR total should drop.

New York Yankees (3�)

Weak hitting at the bottom of the order. The Yankees' hitting was among AL's worst at the No. 6, 7 and 9 spots.

More life from Gary Ward (.182 at No. 6), Mike Pagliarulo(.191 at 6 and 7) and Rafael Santana (.231 at 9).

50%. Pagliarulo (.233 career) should improve, but Santana and Ward are still iffy.

Cleveland Indians (11)

Bad fielding. The Indians had the league's second-worst average for turning hit balls into outs (.683).

Improve at SS and LF. SS Ron Washington made 16 errors in 54 games; LF Mel Hall had a .967 fielding average.

25%. LF Oddibe McDowell (.989 FA) will help. SS can't get worse, but 2B Jerry Browne (.958) is no Julio Franco (.982).

Baltimore Orioles (34�)

Poor outfield hitting, among other glaring weaknesses. The Orioles' outfield hit for a combined .235.

If the outfield hits the league average (.265), the O's would pick up six more wins.

75%. OFs Phil Bradley and Joe Orsulak had hot second halves, hitting .298 and .301. respectively, after July 1.

The American League East has come to this: "Everyone's picking us," says Toronto centerfielder Lloyd Moseby, "because we have the fewest problems." Says Detroit veteran pitcher Frank Tanana, "One can probably think of a half-dozen reasons why each team in this division can't win."

To put it another way: The division has six third-place teams and one last-place team. In fairness, the three teams with the talent to run away and win easily are the Blue Jays, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Boston Red Sox. But the Red Sox have Margo and don't have Bruce Hurst; the Brewers had seven pitchers hurt by the second week of March. That leaves...the Blue Jays?

1 TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Picking the Jays requires a long, hard swallow. Remember their collapse in the '85 playoffs and in the last week of the '87 season—not to mention the way they twittered among themselves last year? But the chirping had a different sound this spring. "There's been a 180-degree turnaround," says pitching ace Jimmy Key. "Everyone showed up to work, not talk," says outfielder Jesse Barfield.

Last year, George Bell refused to be a designated hitter and said, "Either [manager] Jimy Williams has to go or I have to go." Williams didn't go. Neither did Bell. Instead, Williams went to Bell's golf tournament in the Dominican Republic in the off-season and hashed things out with his star. This spring, Williams decided that the players should adopt a kangaroo court to mete out fines for poor execution of fundamentals. The court judge is Mike Flanagan. "He's the only guy who can tell George Bell and Lloyd Moseby that they're being fined for overthrowing a cutoff man and make them laugh while doing it," says Jay coach John McLaren. Rounding out the bench are associate justices Bell and Tom Henke, the reliever whose contract problems made him another angry Jay last season.

With the law taken care of, Williams restored order and returned Bell, Barfield and Moseby to the outfield, despite hot springs from Rob Ducey and Junior Felix. Bell has been so cheery that Toronto now worries only about his chronic bad knee. And it doesn't hurt Williams that both Moseby and Barfield are in the last year of their contracts (a key phrase throughout this division). This is also the year in which multi-talented third baseman Kelly Gruber figures to reach stardom, along with slugging first baseman Fred McGriff ("He's got 'Oh my god!' power," says Phillie manager Nick Leyva.)

When Jim Clancy departed for Houston, Williams was left with four lefthanded starters—Key, Flanagan, Jeff Musselman and John Cerutti—to go with righty Dave Stieb. Key's concern is that the four lefties are too much alike: "None of us wants to be the third starter in a three-game series." But the Blue Jay brass is convinced that righthander Todd Stottlemyre is this year's David Cone. That would put Cerutti back in the bullpen with Henke and Mark Eichhorn, the 28-year-old righthander who has been the spring's biggest surprise. Next to Bell's smile, of course.

2 MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn walked into his office recently and announced that he had a plan to solve the nation's drug and deficit problems. "Everyone is limited to 5,000 dollars in cash," Trebelhorn told coach Larry Haney. "If you're caught with more than 5,000 in cash, everything over goes to the deficit fund. Then..."

"Sounds good to me," said Haney, who got up and left.

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