Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stepping Up

Image via Daylife

This 2012 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays has a way of keeping you on your toes, doesn't it?

There's been plenty of virtual ink spilled over the past several days about the return of  a certain rosy-cheeked carnivore from the deserts of Nevada, and the underwhelming-yet-still-fascinating trade the club made on Friday to dovetail with the prodigal son's return.  Especially this time of year, it's easy to spend so much time picking through the entrails of roster moves and transactions, or speculating about the next deal we'd like to see, that we forget to sit back and just enjoy baseball too.

The game is easier to enjoy, of course, when your favourite team is hanging 28 runs on the Red Sox in their own ridiculous ballpark over a three game sweep.  But it's also particularly fulfilling when the players we so desperately want to see fulfill their enormous potential begin to do so before our very eyes -- when the call-ups for which we have pined show signs of that elusive breakthrough, or the acquisitions we believed would pay dividends begin to do so.  Such is the case with what now constitutes two-thirds of the team's starting outfield:  Travis Snider and Colby Rasmus.

As the Jays put the finishing touches on a comprehensive beatdown of the Beantowners this afternoon, I remarked on Twitter that the travails of this season, from the rash of injuries to the Ricky Romero regression, will have been worth it to me if we could look back in the offseason and say that this was the year that Snider and Rasmus cemented their places as outfield stalwarts for years to come.  There was no shortage of question marks about the roster entering the regular season, but the performance of those two players were top-of-mind for me and I'm sure for many others.

But with Snider opening the year in the minors again, and Rasmus struggling in the early going, the bandwagon was emptying quickly.  Now, before everyone hauls out the small-sample-size-stick and begins beating me about the head with it, I know that Snider's 1.112 OPS comes from only the three games in Boston.  But my heavens, it's hard not to like what I see already.  A spectacular diving catch in the ninth inning to help preserve Saturday's victory. A rocket to the deepest part of Fenway Park today, off a left-hander against whom he'd had zero previous career success.  A ringing double off the Green Monster as a further display of the power to all fields that had scouts, fans and front offices drooling for years.  Snider's a little older now, and how I hope he's found whatever it is that great ballplayers have that allows them to maintain their elite form for years.

Because there's little I'd like more than to see a healthy, productive Blue Jays outfield of Snider, Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus for the next three or four years at least, the way it's supposed to be.  Rasmus, as we've seen, has turned things around dramatically from the lost and laconic castoff from St. Louis from the late part of 2011 and the early part of this season.  While his production has tailed off in the past month -- his OPS has dropped from a season high of .828 on June 25 to .781 entering today's game -- he continues to hit the ball extremely hard, and his .213 BABIP over the same period would seem to indicate there are better results to come.

More revealing, though, is just how big the gap appears to be between Rasmus as a major leaguer and the recently recalled Anthony Gose.  It may have been presumptuous to think that Gose would immediatly rake in the bigs given his somewhat mixed minor league track record.  Again, the small sample size police are free to start their sirens here regarding not only Gose's time in the majors but the Rasmus resurgence as well.  Regardless, it's hard not to compare how the two at least look at the plate and see that one belongs and one -- well, let's just say not yet.  Gose may yet force the issue in centerfield, but I'm very happy to see that Snider is being given a greater opportunity.  If he needs an example of a couple players who've taken advantage of such opportunities, he only has to look to the outfielders to his left.

1 comment:

Darrell Jacques said...

Good job my friend. There are plenty of Jays fans that hope Travis works out. It was good to see he was one of only two lefties in the line-up yesterday to face Lester. His defence is an upgrade to what Rajai has provided.