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View From the Other Side: Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter, on the Blue Jays

Rebuilding is all the rage, and Toronto is on board, clearing out the old and bringing in masher Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
A new hope: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leads a new wave of talent into Toronto.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

After taking two of three from the Blue Jays up in Toronto last weekend, our Tim Horton’s-toting friends have scooted south to set up a rematch, this time a four-game set, at Sox Park.

With the season just one-quarter over, Toronto is somewhat helplessly buried in the AL East, sitting in fourth place at 17-25, 9 12 games behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays. Although the run differential-based SRS places the Blue Jays as a stronger team than the White Sox, right now there are just three teams in baseball with a worse record than Toronto’s.

Repeating our practice of one year ago, Tom Dakers over at Bluebird Banter sent me over some questions to hip his Blue Jays readers to our White Sox, and he’s answered some of my queries right here. (One note: Tom answered my questions while feeling the sting of a lose-from-ahead Toronto Raptors defeat in Game 1 of the NBA’s Eastern finals last night, so there may be the effects of a pint or two seeping into his responses.)

Thanks in advance for the knowledge, Tom!

South Side Sox: OK, everyone is positively losing their minds over Vlad Jr. Gimme an update: first impressions, projections for his rookie season, concerns?

Tom Dakers: First impressions? Boy, the ball comes off his bat hard. He hit two home runs in Tuesday’s game that added up to nearly 900 feet. His home runs left the bat at 111.3 and 113.7 mph. Last week he fouled a ball into the stands at 114 mph. He’s scary. If I played third base, I’d be playing well back of the bag, if you consider hiding behind the left field wall “playing behind the bag.”

Defensively, he’s looked better than I expected. He’s got pretty decent reflexes and a tremendous arm (inherited from his dad). He is big and, at some point, he’ll have to move off third base, but for the next two or three years I think we’ll be maybe not happy, but very OK with his defense.

Teams are pitching him carefully; he’s not getting much in the strike zone and he was a little anxious when he first came up. But he has been squaring up pitches over the last few days.

I think you discussed this with us last year, but what are the Blue Jays? Are they rebuilding? Half-and-half? Just waiting for Vlad and Bo to bring them to the promised land?

This year it is full rebuild. I’m expecting that they will be trading off veterans at the deadline. Justin Smoak (if he remembers how to hit) is sure to be gone. Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman will be shopped. I’m thinking everyone over 25 will be shopped. I’m expecting that the team that finishes the season well be a fair bit different than the team you’ll see this week.

The front office has said that they will be looking for players in Vlad’s age range, who can grow along with Vlad and Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette. It might be hard for them to succeed in finding those players, considering most of the players they would be interested in moving (gee what is the technical term, oh right) suck.

How the hell do you maintain hope in the East with such a daunting big three (OK, Yankees and Red Sox, but the Rays are going gangbusters this year and seem set for a long while)?

Heck of a question. And if I figure out how to maintain hope, I’ll answer it.

Honestly, I really think they should occasionally move a couple of teams from one division to another, but that’s not going to happen. Since it isn’t, I guess I could hope for a just and fair baseball god who can occasionally unleash a plague on those teams.

What’s the deal with Randal Grichuk? Is he really that grumpy, or was his tweet about Tim Anderson’s bat flip just ill-advised? I mean, when you have Aubrey Huff riding your harrumphing coattails, that’s not good company.

I don’t know. Grichuk did come to us from the Cardinals and they have historically had more than their share of the fun police types. But Randal should remember he’s on the team that is the poster child for bat flips. I mean, I have a [José Bautista] tee shirt and everything.

We have a manager from Puerto Rico who seems to be emphasising fun. We have Marcus Stroman whose brand is to have fun. If you can’t have fun playing a kid’s game, you are doing it wrong. As David Price said, “If you don’t like it, pitch better.”

Looking past Vlad, who is deservedly sucking all the oxygen out of the ballpark, who are some players on the club we as White Sox fans are in danger of overlooking, guys you consider part of the next great Blue Jays team?

For pitchers, do you mind of a I pick a guy who is in Double-A and might be a year or two away from the majors? Nate Pearson missed almost all of last season with injuries, but he’s healthy now and he’s been unhittable. He has a 0.64 ERA with 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings and just one walk per nine innings. The Jays are using a very strange method of limiting his innings. He throws five innings in one start and then two innings in the next, and repeat. It is weird and I’m not sure I like it, but it is what they are doing. Pearson has hit 104 mph on the radar, and he has a good curve and changeup.

Since Bo Bichette is out with a broken hand, lets talk about Cavan Biggio, son of Craig (we must lead the league in sons of former MLB greats. Why did my dad have to be a bricklayer?) who had a breakout season last year, hitting .262/.405/.415 with 26 home runs in AA. I had worries that his OBP was a byproduct of just taking pitches and not really caused by having a good eye at the plate. This season he is hitting .321/.460/.532 in Triple-A and I’m having trouble figuring why we haven’t seen him in Toronto yet, considering that we have multiple players hitting worse than .200 and that Cavan can play almost any position on the diamond.

Anything I missed that we need to know about the Blue Jays?

Other than we are playing terrible baseball now (and by now I mean this season and the last two)? We can’t hit, pitch or field, and unfortunately there isn’t too much more to the game than that.

Actually, our bullpen, as overworked as it has been, has been the lone bright spot for the team. And if our starters don’t figure out how to throw five innings, I can’t imagine that will continue.

All you really need to know is we are all Vlad, all the time. We are the 24-hour, all-Vlad station. We’ll even sell you tee shirts!