I've been asked the past few days how I would compare the Blue Jays' new and drastically improved line-up to that of the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays, who won back-to-back World Series.
Frankly, I won't. This team hasn't played a single game together yet and hasn't won anything. I'd be more likely to line them up against the 1991 Blue Jays and see where the chips fall.
The '91 squad added the likes of Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter and Devon White. They had a fine season under Cito Gaston and finished 91-71, good enough for first place in the AL East. Remember, there were no wild card teams back then and there were four less teams (Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Tampa Bay), and Milwaukee was still in the American League. They ultimately lost to Minnesota in five games in the ALCS.
The Blue Jays rotation in '91 was built around Jimmy Key, Juan Guzman, David Wells and Todd Stottlemyre. Dave Stieb was injured and couldn't offer much support, while knuckleballer Tom Candiotti was a deadline trade addition in an attempt to push the Jays over the top.
The bullpen was anchored by Tom Henke and Duane Ward. Greg Myers caught the most games, with Pat Borders and Randy Knorr backing him up. The infield featured John Olerud, Roberto Alomar, Manny Lee and Kelly Gruber.
The main three outfielders were Carter, White and Candy Maldonado. They had a loaded bench and could use a variety of different DHs, including Mookie Wilson, Derek Bell, Pat Tabler, Dave Parker, Rance Mulliniks, Mark Whiten, Glenallen Hill and Kenny Williams, though Whiten and Hill were swapped in the Candiotti deal.
Looking back on it now, the reason the Blue Jays didn't win it all in 1991 is they didn't have Dave Stieb for the bulk of the season. After going 18-6 in 1990, he was only able to pitch in nine games in 1990 due to various back and shoulder woes.
Though this 2013 edition of the Blue Jays looks at the very least to be a wild card contender, you can't just hand them anything. Ricky Romero and Josh Johnson have to bounce back and have full healthy seasons. Sergio Santos has to bounce back off his shoulder woes to augment Casey Janssen in the pen, who in turn has to prove he can really close on a team that's in contention.
The everyday lineup looks strong and the team is deeper than it has been in years. But Jose Bautista has to rebound from his wrist surgery and Colby Rasmus has to prove his second half collapse at the plate isn't going to turn into a long term problem. The Jays also have to decide if they are going to stick with J.P Arencibia as their number one catcher or are going to go with Travis D'Arnaud.
Don't get me wrong; I'm more excited about the Blue Jays than I have been in 20 years. Still, the 1991 Blue Jays had a stronger rotation and a better 1-2 punch in the pen and they didn't win it all until the following season when they added Jack Morris and Dave Winfield. So don't go overboard on this team just yet.
The Blue Jays still don't have a manager signed, sealed and delivered, although over the weekend ESPN's Buster Olney made it sound like the organization is leaning heavily towards former Washington and Cleveland Skipper Manny Acta.
Acta, a 43-year-old native of the San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, would appear to be the perfect fit for the Jays' Hispanic-laden roster. He also has a philosophy of talking to and instructing his players in a calm and ordered fashion. Much like John Farrell, he doesn't believe in screaming at players or punishing them for mistakes. He's also new school, in that he uses saber metrics in making lineup, matchup and strategic decisions.
His overall managerial record over six years in the majors isn't all that great at 372-518 and his win percentage at .418 is the third-worst ever amongst skippers who've managed as many games as he has. Acta did get Cleveland as high as second place in the AL Central, but in each of the last two seasons his clubs have tailed off badly in the second half.
Beyond that, though, he hasn't' really had top notch talent to manage over his six years in the bigs. This year would present him with the first chance to prove he could manage a contending club.
My only real concern about Acta is the way closer Chris Perez went after him when he was fired. Perez said Acta was too quiet and laid back; that he gave one speech at the beginning of the season and another one at the end.
Perez, personally and for the Indians as a team, felt the club needed a more fiery presence.
In addition to nailing down a manager, likely in the next day or so, I think the Jays could still use one more veteran starter and one more power hitting left hand bat.
I doubt if any more than one of these guys will actually make it to free agency but as of this moment, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw will all be on the open market after the 2014 season.