A.L. East previews: Blue Jays

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A.L. East previews: Blue Jays

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

It's been almost a generation since the Toronto Blue Jays were relevant in the American League East. The Jays, bumping up against the division's glass ceiling, haven't been to the postseason since winning their second of two straight World Series titles in 1993.

But there, finally, may be some reason for optimism. The Jays have a new management team in place -- second-year GM Alex Anthopoulos and rookie manager John Farrell -- some flexibility in their payroll and a promising stockpile of young players.

With four winning seasons in the last five, the Jays are, if nothing else, competitive again.

Three things that have to go right:

1) Jose Bautista must come close to his power numbers from 2010, when he led all major leaguers with 54 homers.
The Jays' lineup otherwise lacks much punch, making it essential that Bautista once again carry the production load.

2) The Jays must invest the more than 80 million they saved on Vernon Wells' salary wisely.
The deal happened too late this offseason to impact the Jays' winter moves, but that's probably a good thing since the Jays aren't ready to contend -- yet.

3) Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow must be more consistent and develop into front-line starters.
Romero has won 27 games over the last two seasons, but can be inconsistent.

Three things that can't go wrong:

1) Bautista can't be yanked back-and-forth between third base and the outfield, as he was last year.
He needs to play one position and remain there.

2) Aaron Hill can't be as inconsistent as he's been.
The 2009 season (36 homers, 108 RBI) looked like his breakout year before he regressed and hit only .205 with just 68 RBI last year.

3) Travis Snider and Adam Lind can't be stalled in their development.
With Wells gone, the Jays lineup is in need of more run producers to give their lineup depth.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.FollowSean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”